The Project Gutenberg eBook of Out of Death's Shadow; Or, A Case Without a Precedent

This ebook is for the use of anyone anywhere in the United States and most other parts of the world at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this ebook or online at If you are not located in the United States, you will have to check the laws of the country where you are located before using this eBook.

Title: Out of Death's Shadow; Or, A Case Without a Precedent

Author: Nicholas Carter

Release date: January 9, 2020 [eBook #61135]
Most recently updated: July 11, 2020

Language: English

Credits: Produced by David Edwards, Karin Spence and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at


Out of Death's Shadow





Author of "Nick Carter's Fall," "Captain Sparkle, Pirate," "The Boulevard Mutes," etc.



79-89 Seventh Avenue, New York

Copyright, 1905


Out of Death's Shadow

All rights reserved, including that of translation into foreign languages, including the Scandinavian.

Printed in the U. S. A.




On the shady veranda of an old-fashioned Southern house, on the outskirts of St. Louis, two men in the prime of life were enjoying their cigars one fine morning.

One, the younger, with a fair, full face and honest, gray eyes, after a long period of silence, said:

"To-morrow will decide her fate, Nick. You have worked up a strong case against her, but I am afraid of the jury."

"The jury is all right. We have seen to that, John. Conviction is certain. It has been an easy case for me."

The woman to whose trial reference had been made had killed her husband, but the deed had not been witnessed, and it was due to Nick Carter's efforts that a complete case for the prosecution had been made out.

"Murder is a secret of such awful weight," said Nick, "that there are few men, to say nothing of women, who are able successfully to carry it."

"It will out some time or other, eh?"

"In the majority of cases, yes. Of course, there are[6] instances where the crime of taking human life has remained an unsolved and seemingly insoluble mystery, but such instances have, in my opinion, resulted either through a chain of accidents, impossible to foresee, or through the negligence or inefficiency of the officers of the law, whose duty it was to use all possible skill and diligence in arriving at the facts. In this woman's case we have, I think, exercised all necessary skill and diligence. To-morrow the end will come, and the next day I shall be on my way to New York."

"You have been here but a week, Nick, and yet I feel as if I had known you a lifetime. When you introduced yourself as an old friend of my mother, I knew in a moment that I had myself found a friend, and one after my own heart."

The young fellow's earnestness and feeling warmed the cockles of the great detective's heart. He liked John Dashwood and he took no pains to conceal the fact. A portly, well-groomed man of sixty, with a self-satisfied smile on his keen, smoothly shaven face, who had come out of the house and approached unperceived, now broke in with the remark:

"I'll bet it's a secret you are discussing."

"What makes you think so?" asked John Dashwood quickly.

"The expression of your face. There is certainly something about the position of your lips, your eyes are slightly narrowed, your head is bowed in a suspicious manner, your——"


"Might we not have been exchanging simple confidences?" put in Nick, with a smile.

"Possibly. But confidences are secrets, you know."

The speaker leaned against the railing in front of the two friends and regarded them benignly.

"We were not discussing secrets," said Dashwood, as he threw back his head, though his manner was pleasant enough.

"No? Then you should have been, for all of us have our secrets."

Dashwood shook his head. "You must except me, Mr. Leonard," he said.

"What? A man without a secret? Come, now, Dashwood, you must be joking. I don't assume, of course, that any secret you may have hidden in your breast is of a shady nature, but to say that your mind is an open book, that during your twenty-six years of life—twenty-six or twenty-seven, which is it?"


"That during your twenty-six years of life you have never had any experience which, for honorable reasons, you have thought best to keep to yourself, or have never been the recipient of another's secret, equally honorable, but not proper for publication, is to stamp you as an exceptional man."

Dashwood laughed.

"I am an exceptional man, then, for really I haven't any secrets. But as for Mr. Carter, here," turning and nodding in his friend's direction, "he is nothing less than[8] a walking mystery. He has to be, you know, for he is a detective."

Mr. Leonard looked keenly at Nick Carter.

"How is it?" he asked, in a bantering tone. "Are you as Dashwood says, or is he mistaken, and are you to be placed with him in the category of unfledged innocents? Come now, out with the truth. Are you a man with a corroding secret, or are you not?"

"There are some matters of no concern to the general public," replied Nick, rather coldly, "which I have found advisable to keep to myself. But"—with a smile—"they are honest ones, I assure you."

"Would your enemies think so if they knew them?" queried Leonard provokingly.

"My enemies give me little concern."

"Neither do mine, for I have none," said John Dashwood proudly.

Gabriel Leonard lifted his eyebrows. Then he spoke rather cynically. "You are both to be congratulated. Dashwood, especially. A man without a secret and with not an enemy in the world! Your condition, I suppose, must be attributed to the very lucky circumstances that have hitherto surrounded your existence."

Dashwood nodded. "I have been lucky, I know, and the greatest piece of luck that ever came in my way, Mr. Leonard, was when I made your daughter my wife."

As he spoke, pride and satisfaction, strong and deep, were expressed in his honest countenance.

"Letty ought to have heard that pretty speech," said[9] Leonard lightly, though in his heart he was vastly pleased with his son-in-law's appreciation of the treasure he had won.

Nick accompanied his friend up-town that morning and left him at a large building on Market Street, a few blocks from the Union Depot, with the understanding that they should dine together in the afternoon. John Dashwood was the manager of a manufacturing company of which Gabriel Leonard was the president. His parents were dead and he lived with his father-in-law, who was a widower.

The friends took dinner in an Olive Street restaurant. Dashwood's brow was clouded throughout the meal.

"What's the matter, John?" Nick asked. "Anything wrong in the office?"

"I hope not; but a good bit of money has come in lately, and the books do not show what they ought to show."

"Did you find any pronounced irregularities?"

"I have found something that excites my suspicions, but I can't make sure that there has been crooked work until I have gone over the books thoroughly and compared vouchers, and so forth. I shall work at them to-night, for I know I sha'n't sleep a wink until I have matters straightened out. It's lucky Letty is away on a visit to Chicago, or she would be terribly worried over the muddle."

Nick looked grave.

"John," he said earnestly, "there may be more in this[10] than you have any idea of. What do you say? May I come round to-night and give you the benefit of my experience?"

"Yes. I shall be glad to have you. Come at, say, nine o'clock."

"All right."

It was six o'clock when they parted. At nine Nick went up the elevator to the floor upon which was located the office of the manufacturing company. He knocked at the door, but there was no answer. He waited a moment and knocked again. Still no answer. By means of the keyhole he saw that there was no light in the office. Dashwood, then, was not there. Something must have happened, something out of the ordinary, to cause this punctiliously honorable young man to slight an appointment with a friend. The detective instantly attributed Dashwood's absence to an alarming discovery made while examining the books and accounts of the firm. Perhaps he had gone home. In a saloon below, next door to the entrance, was a phone. Nick used it to call up Gabriel Leonard's residence. The housekeeper answered. Neither Mr. Dashwood nor Mr. Leonard was at home. Didn't know where either might be found. Had Mr. Carter gone out to the fair-grounds?

Nick left the phone troubled in mind. Leonard's absence from home was indication that business of pressing importance had demanded his attention, for his rule, so the detective had been informed by Dashwood, was to remain at home every evening. He cared nothing for[11] theaters or social divertisements, belonged to no club or secret order. The business of each day over, he betook himself to his suburban residence, there to find comfort and rest in his pipe and newspapers.

Nick went up to the counter and engaged in conversation with the barkeeper.

"How's business this evening?"

"Rotten. Everybody is at the fair."

"Gives you opportunity to get a breath of fresh air as compensation, though."

"Yes, that's so. I stood at the door from eight until eight-forty-five without a break."

"Studying the people who passed?"

"In a way."

"All sorts and conditions in town during the fair. Good chance for a novelist to make copy."

"That's right. Now, I saw something to-night that might give one of these fiction fellows a cue. A fact here and there is all they want. Imagination does the rest."

"What did you see, if it is a fair question?"

"I saw a woman act in two scenes."


"No, she had company, but she was the star. Great woman that. I know her name, but I've never spoken to her. Wish I did know her. I'd ask her what her little play to-night might mean."

"Say," said Nick, with an eagerness that was not assumed, but which was purposely allowed vent, "you are[12] exciting my curiosity. What was her play? But first let's smoke, unless you prefer liquid refreshment."

"No, a cigar suits me."

After each man had lighted his weed, the barkeeper began his story:

"I had been at the door not more than five minutes when my lady comes up and starts for the elevator. Her lips were shut tight, and she looked as if she had it in for some one and was going to call for a settlement. She was gone about three minutes, and then reappeared, in company with Luke Filbon, the bookkeeper and cashier of the manufacturing company. Filbon, who is a young geezer with not enough sense to last him overnight, appeared to be dippy with fright. They did not see me, for I was standing off the sidewalk, and so I got the full benefit of the scene without putting up a bean. The way that woman's tongue lashed young Filbon was a caution to sinners. 'You shouldn't have waited so long,' she said. 'You should have taken it out when you left the office this afternoon. You are a poor, weak, pitiful fool. I want nothing more to do with you. If I had not more spunk than you have I'd cut my throat. Go. You've ruined everything. You have destroyed my chance, and you have destroyed your own. You're fit for nothing but to wear stripes. Get out of my sight.'

"'I'll go home, get my revolver, and blow out my brains, that's what I'll do,' Filbon said. 'I thought you loved me, but it was the money you wanted, not me.'


"'I wanted both, you fool,' she retorted. 'But go. I don't care to talk further with you. I have no use for such timid cattle.'

"'You will be sorry when you read the papers to-morrow morning,' he said, and then away he went, leaving her standing on the sidewalk just outside the entrance to the elevator. For a few minutes she stood there. Then I heard her say: 'It's risky, but it has got to be done, for that old fool may, after all, fail to come to time.' Bad habit that, talking to oneself, but I reckon she was so worked up that she didn't realize what she was saying. I don't know, of course, what she had made up her mind to do, and maybe she had no chance to carry it out, for just at that moment the elevator descended—it seemed the cage was at one of the upper floors all this time—and John Dashwood came out. The woman spoke to him first. I heard her plainly. 'You had better look after Luke Filbon,' she said, 'for he's liable to make a fool of himself to-night.'

"'Where is he?' Dashwood asked sharply.

"'Gone home,' she said.

"Dashwood thanked her, and then went down the street aways and took a car, the car that goes to Broadway. The woman watched him get on the car, and then hurried around the corner."

The barkeeper paused.

"Is that all?" Nick asked.

"Not quite. Ten minutes passed, and a Laclede Avenue car stops at the corner and off gets Gabriel Leonard.[14] He comes to the elevator entrance and goes up in the cage. Five minutes goes by, and down he comes, muttering something about there being the devil to pay. Off he goes on a car bound for Broadway. Gone to see Filbon."

"What makes you think so?"

"I am a deducer," answered the barkeeper, with a knowing air. "Luke Filbon lives on one of the little streets west of Broadway, near the southern limits of the city. The Broadway car lands within a couple of blocks of his home. That's where Dashwood went to-night, and it's ten to one that Leonard followed him."

There was a city directory in the saloon, and when Nick had found Filbon's address, he said quickly: "Your story has interested me. I think I will go out there myself. I know both Dashwood and Leonard, and I am curious to learn what is at the bottom of to-night's business. Now, as to the woman. You said you know her name. What is it?"

"Madam Ree. She is a palmist, who has recently opened a joint on Chestnut Street."

Madam Ree! Nick drew a deep breath. Madam Ree was the assumed name of Cora Reesey, who, as the accomplice of James Dorrant, had figured so conspicuously in a San Francisco case which, a short while before, had occupied the attention and had exhibited the wonderful skill of the great detective.[A]


This woman, handsome, fascinating, unscrupulous, with wits sharpened by the contest with Nick Carter, whose bitter enemy she had announced herself to be, because she had been thwarted in her attempt to win a fortune in diamonds, was now in St. Louis and mixed up in a mysterious affair in which Nick's friend, John Dashwood, was in some way connected. What did it all mean?



At the time of Nick Carter's meeting with Cora Reesey she was but a novice in crime, but the detective was convinced by a study of her character that she needed only experience to make her a dangerous foe. Foiled in her scheme to enrich herself at the expense of Roland Garrett, a fortunate member of San Francisco's society, she had turned upon Nick Carter, the author of her defeat, and had venomously announced her intention to get even. Perhaps it had been her plan to try conclusions with the great detective in the city of New York, his headquarters, and, perhaps, the stay in St. Louis was meant to be but temporary and for the purpose of putting her in funds.

After arranging a disguise which completely concealed his identity, Nick boarded a car bound for Broadway, transferred to that long thoroughfare which runs parallel with and through the river district, and near the hour of eleven found himself in front of the door of Luke Filbon's house. It was a small, one-story, brick structure, located but a short distance from the river and near a large grain-elevator. The house was in darkness, and all was silent within. Nick pressed the button by the side of the door, and soon was heard a weak, querulous voice from within.


"Who's there?"

"Some one to see Mr. Filbon on important business. Is he at home?"

"No, and he won't come to-night, I'm thinking. He said he had work to do at the office that would likely keep him until after midnight. I am his mother. I suppose you know."

"I took it for granted that you were. Has any one been here to see him this evening?"

"Yes. John Dashwood was here about an hour ago."

"No one else?"

"No. What's the matter? Luke isn't in any trouble, is he?"

There was maternal anxiety in the tone of the voice. Nick believed that evasion would be charity.

"I hope not," he said. "Good night," and he walked quickly away from the door before further and probably embarrassing questions could be asked.

The patrolman on the beat was found. He had seen two men go from Broadway toward the Filbon house between nine and ten o'clock. They were not together, but were fifteen minutes apart. He had not been near enough to observe them closely, but was satisfied from their build—they were both large men—that neither was Filbon, who was small and thin.

Perplexed and dissatisfied, the detective went to the river end of the street. There was a rotten wharf extending toward the big grain-elevator. It was short,[18] and for a portion of its length the planking had been torn out.

The night was clear, with a half-moon, and Nick picked his way about the wharf, in the hope that he might find a clue to the night's mysterious proceedings. There was a possibility that Luke Filbon, determined on suicide, had given up the idea of going home to secure the revolver—to take which action he would have to tell a story that would deceive his mother, and that would be no easy task—and instead had thrown himself into the Mississippi.

Nick, with his bull's-eye, investigated the water space under the wharf without much hope of making a discovery. If death by drowning had been Filbon's purpose, he would, in all probability, have jumped from the edge of the wharf into the river, and the swift current would have carried him far down-stream.

The water, muddy and but slightly disturbed, carried nothing upon its surface that was out of the ordinary. Nick moved to a point where he could get an outlook on the short section of bank beyond the water. He was rewarded by the sight of a human figure huddled up on the sloping bank of the levee a few feet from the water's edge. The figure was that of a man, with head bowed, elbows on knees, and face in hands. As the light of the bull's-eye was flashed upon him the man lifted his head with a start, but made no effort to arise. Nick believed that a way to get under the wharf would be found at the street abutment. Hastening over the planks, he soon[19] discovered an opening, and quickly descended. The man was still there. He had not moved. Walking over to him, the detective saw a small, thin man of about twenty-five, with a haggard face and bloodshot eyes.

"What do you want?" he asked, in a surly tone. "I am minding my own business here."

"I want your confidence," said Nick kindly. "I am not your enemy. I may prove to be the best friend you ever had."

The young man gazed stupidly at the detective, then lowered his head and said, in a voice broken with emotion: "No; I have no friends."

"That remains to be seen, Mr. Luke Filbon."

"My God! Do you know me?"

There was the ring of abject despair in the utterance.

"Yes, I know you now, if I did not know you before."

For a few moments there was silence. Then Nick asked: "What do you fear?"

"If I ever see daylight, I fear the anger and vengeance of one man."

"Gabriel Leonard?"

"Yes. How did you know?"

"By putting two and two together."

"Who are you?"

There was both fear and curiosity in the expression of Filbon's face.

"I am a friend of John Dashwood, and he is one man among a thousand. That ought to satisfy you."

Filbon groaned.


"Yes, yes," he huskily replied. "I can guess who you are. You are Nick Carter, and that means——"

"It means," was the detective's quick interruption, "that you must tell the truth and that you need not fear me. I have talked with your mother, and I pity her son. Come, confide in me, for I believe you have been hounded into your present position."

"I—I can't tell you."

Great drops of perspiration showed themselves on Filbon's brow. Nick lighted a cigar.

"Let me help you a little," he said easily. "You have been led into crime by a woman, and you are afraid that if you betray her your life will be attempted. Am I right?"

"You are not far wrong," said the young man wearily.

"Now, if you can aid me in tightening the cords about this woman, will not that furnish protection for yourself? For how can you be harmed if the person you fear is in prison?"

Filbon shook his head, and then compressed his lips. He was now sorry that he had admitted anything, and he cursed his want of backbone. And he thought, bitterly: "If I hadn't been a mean, spiritless wretch, I would never have got into this mess."

Nick knew the nature he had to deal with. He said quietly: "Listen to me a moment, and maybe you will find it advisable to change your mind. You are the bookkeeper and cashier of the manufacturing company of which Gabriel Leonard is president and John Dash[21]wood is manager. You have been stealing from the company. The crime would never have been committed but for the evil prompting of a wicked woman, who, protesting love for you, would have cast you aside the moment she received the money she urged you to steal. To-night John Dashwood surprised your guilty secret. You had hidden the stolen money in the office, and you went there to get it, in pursuance of this woman's order. You did not get it, or, if you did, it was taken from you. Dashwood allowed you to go. His heart overflows with charity and—and I presume he knows your mother. As you left the elevator you saw the woman. You told her that the scheme had failed. She reproached you, cast you off. You then announced your intention to go home, get a revolver, and blow out your brains. What induced you to reconsider that determination?"

Luke Filbon had listened to this clear exposition of his case in sheer amazement. "No need to keep silent longer," he said, in a husky voice. "I'll tell you all."

But he did not at once begin his story.

For some time he sat without speaking, his eyes on the water. What thoughts passed through his mind the detective never guessed until his account with Filbon had been closed.

"This woman," he began, in a steady voice, "came to St. Louis a short time ago. I met her on the evening following her arrival here. It was at a Parisian beauty show, which has since been interdicted by the police. She was the star of the outfit, and my admiration seemed[22] to please her. We had opportunity for a quiet confab, and she invited me to call upon her next day. I was fool enough to do so; and before I had been with her an hour she knew all about my affairs. I have never associated much with women of her class, and she exercised her powers of fascination so well that the next visit I promised to do all she wished me to do. I was infatuated, and when she painted in glowing colors a life abroad without work, a life that should be one long round of pleasure, I stood ready to furnish the means if such a thing were possible. She said we would require twenty thousand dollars, and proposed that I should steal that amount from the company. I could not see my way to the performance of such a thing. I told her that, though I was the cashier, there was never more than a few thousands in the safe on any one day, and that every afternoon, before the banks closed, the money in the safe was banked.

"She had thought of that, she said, and could suggest a way out of the difficulty. I could every day hold out something, say a few hundred dollars, as a rule, and more when the receipts should be unusually large, and cover up the shortage by falsifying the books. In this way the twenty thousand dollars could be withdrawn within thirty days. The plan seemed feasible, for I was fully trusted by Dashwood, and before the expiration of thirty days I had drawn out of the safe and secreted in the office twenty thousand dollars in bank-notes."

"Of course, you did not take the numbers?"


"But I did. There was no reason for it. Force of habit, I suppose, made me put them down."

"Did you keep the list?"

"Yes, and I have it with me. But it is of no importance, as you must see before I have finished my story. Yesterday afternoon I saw Madam Ree—that's her name, and she took up the palmist business when the beauty show shut up shop—and told her the twenty thousand would be ready to-night. Her eyes sparkled with pleasure, and she was never more gracious. All the details of our contemplated trip to Europe were gone over, and when I left her she promised to meet me across the street from the office at seven-thirty o'clock to-night.

"At seven-fifteen I went to the office, and was surprised to see John Dashwood there, and at work on the books. This was suspicious, and I was all of a tremble lest he should discover one or more of my false entries. His first words told me that the game was up.

"'Sit down,' he said sternly. 'I shall have something to say to you before long.'

"I waited in an agony of dread for nearly half an hour. Then Dashwood turned and faced me. 'You have been taking the firm's money, Filbon,' he said sorrowfully. 'Why have you done so? And what has become of it?' I was so taken aback, so overwhelmed by the gravity of my position, that I could only stammer a few inarticulate words.

"'Come,' he said, 'where is the money?'


"In an instant my brain cleared up.

"I knew what I must do.

"I would give him the money, then go home, get my pistol, and blow out my brains. Taking the notes from their hiding-place, I handed them to Dashwood, without a word.

"'Very well,' he said kindly. 'Now, go home, get a good sleep, and come around in the morning and we'll talk over this matter.'

"So saying, he turned his back on me, opened the safe, put the notes in a box, and then relocked the safe. Before he looked up again I was gone. Down-stairs I met Madam Ree. She had become impatient over my delay, and was beside herself with rage. When I told her what had happened she lost all control of herself. While she upbraided me, the scales fell from my eyes. I saw that I had been tricked, that the woman cared nothing for me, had been using me as a tool to enrich herself. I left her resolved to end my life. I went down the street, intending to take the first car for Broadway that came along. But the thought of showing my telltale face to any of the passengers so distressed me that I gave up the idea of riding and determined to walk the distance. I went down to Washington Street and from Washington Street to Seventh, and so on out to my home. But I did not enter the house. I knew I could not meet my mother's eye"—here great sobs shook his frame—"I knew I could not invent a story that would be likely to allay her suspicions. No, if I wished to die, I[25] must try some other way. I came down here to think over the matter. That's all."

"Did you see any one on the wharf or in its vicinity as you came down?"


"How long have you been here?"

"I had been here about half an hour before you came."

Nick regarded the young man thoughtfully. "You have made a serious mistake," he said slowly, but not unkindly, "but there's hope for you. Your nature is not a vicious one. I can't give you positive assurance, but my opinion is that you will not be prosecuted for what you have done."

"You don't know Gabriel Leonard," was the reply, given in a hopeless tone. "He is hard, hard as nails. I know him. And there is my mother. Even if I escape prosecution, I must lose my place. She will discover the truth. I could not lie to her."

"You should have thought of your mother before," said the detective coldly.

"I know it, I know it, and I'm lost, lost! Go away. Leave me to myself for a minute. Let me consider. Oh, my poor brain!"

The spectacle of Filbon's anguish was not a pleasant one, and Nick moved a few paces away. But he kept his eyes on Filbon, who, rocking his body and sobbing violently, seemed to be in the lowest depths of despair. Suddenly, with a wild laugh, he straightened up. "I have settled it," he almost shouted. "It's all right now."


Nick rushed forward, seized him by the arm, and let the lantern's light fall full upon his face. What he saw filled him with dismay.

"What have you done?" he demanded harshly.

"Got the stuff at a drug-store coming down here," was the answer, given with chattering teeth. "Fooled you, didn't I? Ha! ha!"—the laugh quickly ceased, the face grew ashen, the form stiffened, there was a sharp rattle in the throat, and Nick, dropping his bull's-eye, caught the body as it was falling forward. Luke Filbon, weak instrument of a woman's wicked cupidity, was dead.

A small phial on the ground by the side of the body told the story of the fatal agency. It had contained prussic acid, one of the deadliest and quickest-acting poisons known to the pharmacopœia. It had been procured that evening at a Broadway drug-store, for the label was there, and there were the death's head and cross-bones below the word "Poison." By what representations had he obtained the poison? A visit to the drug-store would furnish the explanation.

The detective was about to leave the spot, when a sudden thought caused him to stay his steps. In Filbon's pocket was the list of bank-notes which he had stolen and replaced. The peculiar happenings of the night contained mysterious suggestions. The list, apparently without value, might become useful. No harm in obtaining possession of it. It was found and placed in Nick's pocketbook. Now the detective hurried away to find[27] a patrolman, state what had been discovered, and have the nearest police-station notified.

When this duty had been performed, Nick went to the drug-store where the prussic acid had been purchased. He had left the phial where he had found it, for it bore evidence that would, at the coroner's inquest, in connection with an analysis of the contents of the dead man's stomach, absolutely determine the cause of death.

It was an all-night drug-store, and the one clerk readily gave the information desired. He had known Filbon as a customer for many years, and the poison had been sold upon the representation that it was to be used for the asthma, with which Filbon's mother was afflicted. "Diluted with water, it is often used by asthmatics," said the clerk, "as it gives quick relief." When informed that the poison had been used for quite a different purpose, the clerk was horrified.

Nick Carter could do no more that night. He sought his room in Jefferson Avenue, but was an early riser. At nine o'clock next morning he called at the office of the manufacturing company. It was closed. He went away, returning at ten o'clock. In response to his knock, the door was opened by Gabriel Leonard. His face was pale, and there were dark circles about his eyes. He did not greet the detective with his usual heartiness.

"Where is Dashwood?" was Nick's first question.

"I don't know," was the answer, in a half-angry manner.

"Didn't Dashwood go home last night?"


"No. I haven't seen him since early yesterday afternoon."

Leonard passed a trembling hand over his forehead, met Nick's frowning gaze for an instant, and then his eyes sought the floor.



Nick Carter, while a visitor at the house of Gabriel Leonard, had a fair opportunity for studying the man. The result did not leave a favorable impression. Leonard's cynicism, his occasional exhibition of a plastic conscience, his at times brutal way of putting things, repelled friendship. Still he might be like many business men engaged in large enterprises, case-hardened in respect of the nicer notions of morality, and yet possessed of no really vicious instincts. But Nick, in looking at Leonard now, was not certain whether his former deductions had not been too favorable. The manufacturer was uneasy in mind, had shifted his gaze as if he were afraid to look an honest man squarely in the face. What did this strange absence of John Dashwood mean? And had Leonard any connection with it?

Nick closed the door, and deliberately took a seat. Leonard, still at ease, paced the floor.

"I suppose you made an unfortunate discovery last night," said Nick tentatively.

"I"—giving the detective one sharp glance and then letting his eyes fall again—"I made a discovery, certainly. But how did you learn of it?"

"From Luke Filbon, whose death, by suicide, is the feature of the local news in this morning's papers."


"You saw him before he died?" asked Leonard eagerly.


"Then perhaps he told you where he had secreted the stolen money?"

The detective stared at the manufacturer.

"Am I to infer," he said, rather sharply, "that you did not find the money in the safe, where it had been placed by John Dashwood?"

"The money was not in the safe," said Leonard.

Tone and manner indicated that he was speaking the truth. This was an astonishing statement. A terrible suspicion entered the mind of the detective.

"No money in the safe," he said, looking fixedly at the manufacturer, who had pulled himself together and had his head raised almost defiantly, "and how do you account for its absence?"

"Ask me something easy."

"Was the safe locked when you came in this morning?"


"And was the safe locked when you visited the office last night?"

Leonard started violently.

"How do you know I was here last night?" he asked, in a voice which shook slightly, in spite of his efforts at control.

"I know, and that's enough. As you were here, in[31] your own office, as you had a right to be, why should you try to conceal that fact?"

"I haven't been trying to conceal it." His manner was now offensive. "I would ask you to moderate your tone a little. What right have you to pry into my personal affairs? I admit your friendship for John Dashwood, but it must not carry you to the length of insulting me."

Nick smiled inwardly. He was succeeding in drawing Leonard out. When the manufacturer's period of agitation should have passed, when affairs in some measure should have settled into a normal condition and he should again become the cool, self-contained man of business, the effort to obtain information might prove difficult.

"I spoke as a detective," replied Nick smoothly, "and with no intention of insulting you. This is a grave matter. Luke Filbon is dead. John Dashwood has disappeared. I shall not leave St. Louis until the mystery of last night's work has been cleared up. I expect to have your assistance. Of course, you will give it?"

"Of course, of course," returned Leonard, in a mollified tone, though his uneasiness had not disappeared.

"Then please answer such questions as I shall put to you. To begin, did you open the safe when you were here last night?"

"No, I did not," said Leonard, quickly and positively.

"But, of course, you discovered that the money—twenty thousand dollars—had been stolen?"

"Not the amount—I did not know the amount—the[32] books were open on the desk—some entries were marked—and a few minutes' inspection showed me that I had been robbed."

"What did you do when you made the discovery, Mr. Leonard?" asked Nick quietly.

"I started for Filbon's house."

"Did you go there?"

"No. I passed the house, saw no light, and, having in mind the nervous condition of Mrs. Filbon—she is old and frail—I determined to let the matter go over until to-day."

"Did you return home by car?"

"No. I was excited over the discovery, and I wanted to quiet my nerves. I walked home."

"It was a long walk for you."

"It was."

"Your place is near Forest Park, southwest of the Filbon place. Why did you go east, toward the river, instead of west, toward the King's Highway, which would have taken you near your home?"

"What do you mean?" Leonard's surprise was genuine.

But was not fear mingled with the surprise? Nick's penetrating gaze tried to answer the question.

"I have been informed that a man of your build passed Filbon's house last night going not toward Broadway, but away from it."

Such had been the account given by the patrolman.

Leonard appeared relieved by the statement. "The man may have resembled me in build," he said. "Prob[33]ably there are thousands in this city who do, but, all the same, I was not the man."

"How do you account for Dashwood's absence?" said Nick, after a pause.

Leonard did not answer for a moment. He stroked his chin and frowned. When he spoke it was with a curious hesitancy.

"I hate to say it," he said, with a furtive glance at the detective's face, "but I can account for it only in one way. Dashwood has taken the money and made off with it."

"It's not so," said Nick, with a warmth that caused Leonard's cheeks to flush. "He is no thief. You—you cannot mean this, Mr. Leonard."

"Better men than he have fallen from grace," was the dogged response. "He might have been speculating and——"

"Not another word," interrupted Nick. "I won't hear it."

Leonard shrugged his heavy shoulders.

"Friendship is a fine thing," he said, with a half-sneer. "It knows no medium. It's all or nothing. Well," with a patronizing smile that made Nick grit his teeth, "I can't blame you for sticking up for John. He is a fine fellow, a very fine fellow, and if he has taken a wrong step I shall be deeply grieved."

A police officer entered before another word could be said. He had a summons for Leonard to appear at the coroner's inquest in the matter of Luke Filbon's death.[34] "One o'clock," said the manufacturer, glancing at the paper. "I will have time to go home and get an early lunch. I will see you again, Mr. Carter."

Nick took the suggestion that he should leave, but once on the sidewalk he hastened to the nearest telegraph-station and wired Chick, his brave and shrewd assistant, to come at once. This done, the detective went to the apartments of Madame Ree, on Chestnut Street. The sign had been taken down and the rooms were closed. From the janitress Nick learned that Madame Ree had left St. Louis, giving no hint as to her destination.

"When did she leave?"

"Last night. She gave up her rooms about eight o'clock."

"Who hauled her luggage? Do you know?"

"She didn't have any luggage."

"What? Didn't she sleep in this building?"


"Where did she lodge?"

"I don't know."

"While she was here did she have many visitors?"

"No. Business was poor. That's why she gave it up, I guess."

"Do you know Gabriel Leonard, the manufacturer?"

"Can't say as I do. I have been in the city but a few months."

Nick described Leonard, and asked if such a man had ever visited Madame Ree. The janitress' face brightened.


"Yes. A man of that look and build was here several times."

"Did Madame Ree ever speak to you about him?"

"Yes. I was going by her reception-room the other day, when he came out. His face was as long as the moral law. As he went down the stairs, Madame Ree turned to me and winked. 'That's an old fool,' she said contemptuously, 'and I've got him on a string. He's going to make me rich.' I tried to pump her, but she wouldn't say anything more."

"What did she say when she left yesterday?"

"Not very much. She said she was tired of St. Louis and that she was about to leave it for good. The next morning would see her on the way to another city."

"Was she in good spirits?"

"Indeed she was. She was as happy as a lark."

The janitress permitted Nick to see the rooms which Madame Ree had vacated, but there was nothing to denote that she had ever occupied them.

In a brown study, Nick left the place and walked from Chestnut Street to Market. Presently his eye brightened and his lips tightened. Ideas, at first confused, were taking definite shape. There was a riddle to solve, and his acute brain had evolved what might prove to be a start toward the solution. With a determined mien, he ascended the elevator of the factory building and was soon before the door of the office.

The corridor was clear, there was no one about. With[36] his picklock he opened the door, passed in, shut the door, and then proceeded to take a close survey of the office. Between the two front windows was a large roller-top desk. Against one of the narrow sides of the room was the safe. Opposite, against the other narrow side, was a small desk, used by Dashwood. By the side of the safe was a door opening into the president's private apartment. It was partly open, and Nick went in. Nothing there except a desk, a closet, and a few chairs. After a thorough inspection, the detective returned to the main office. Here the clean floor and the absence of dust denoted that the janitor had performed his usual work that morning. There was a waste-basket for each desk. The one by the small desk was empty; the other, by the large desk, contained a few torn scraps of paper. Nick took them up one by one, saw that they were all from envelopes and printed circulars and catchpenny advertisements, and threw them back into the basket.

The great detective now took a position near the door and fronting the large desk, and tried to put himself in the place of Gabriel Leonard, at the time of his visit to the office the night before, a visit which had resulted in the discovery of Filbon's dishonesty.

"He came up for an important purpose," ran the detective's thought, "for he sticks so close at home evenings that nothing short of important business could have called him out. Was it a suspicion of Filbon's crookedness? Or was it a purely personal matter having no relation to the books of the company? Impossible,[37] at this moment, to say, unless—unless the remarks of Madame Ree, overheard by the saloon man down-stairs, had reference to Gabriel Leonard. She said: 'It's risky, but it has got to be done, for that old fool may after all fail to come.'

"She then started for the elevator to do that which she had declared had got to be done.

"What was that?

"Evidently to assault, perhaps kill John Dashwood and secure the twenty thousand dollars, which he had forced Luke Filbon to give up. The sudden appearance of Dashwood, coming down the elevator, prevented the carrying out of this murderous scheme. Dashwood took a car; she did not do so. Where she went, what she did, are matters which may be considered later on. What is requisite now to know is: Are she and Leonard the possessors of some secret; is Leonard in her power, and did she mean Leonard when she said 'the old fool may after all fail to come to time'?

"The story told by the janitress shows that she and Leonard are acquainted, and it shows also that she has some hold on the manufacturer. Her words spoken to the janitress imply as much, the demeanor of Leonard, when he left her room a few days ago, supports the implication. Therefore, in attempting to probe the mystery of last night's doings, I must consider Madame Ree. She is mixed up in this strange affair, as well as Gabriel Leonard and John Dashwood, but as she has probably left the city in accordance with her announcement, there[38] is not much chance of obtaining any information through her agency.

"If Gabriel Leonard came up here last night," Nick's reflections ran on, "having no suspicion that he had been robbed by Filbon, and for the purpose of acting in accordance with some arrangement made with Madame Ree, it probably had relation to a matter of money. He may have wanted to obtain the money in the safe, money received after banking-hours. Perhaps the sum may have been a respectable one. He says the books were open upon the desk—and that means that the desk was open, showing that Dashwood had left in a hurry—and that from certain marked entries he discovered that Filbon had been robbing him. In that respect he may have spoken the truth. I am inclined to think he did. But he says further that he did not open the safe. He may not have done so, he may have found something which put the idea of opening the safe out of his head. Leonard was terribly upset this morning. There was something weighty on his mind, the nature of which he did not see fit to reveal to me. I obtained only a part of his story. The suppressed part holds a secret that may prove to be of terrible significance. If John Dashwood does not turn up to-day, the work upon which I have entered must include a rigid investigation of the case of Mr. Leonard.

"Now for his movements last night. He came here to get something, money, let me say. He saw the open desk and the books upon it. Did he see anything else?[39] He says he did not learn from the marked entries how much money Filbon had stolen, yet he did not exhibit either surprise or concern when I told him that the amount was twenty thousand dollars. Now, twenty thousand dollars is not a small amount of money. Leonard is not so well off, in a pecuniary sense, as to be able to consider twenty thousand a bagatelle. His unconcern, not assumed, for I was watching him closely, is evidence to me that he knew the amount Filbon had filched. And if he knew it the knowledge must have come to him when he visited the office last night. How did he learn it? Not from going over the books, for he did not remain, according to the barkeeper's story, more than five minutes in the office. When he came down he was greatly agitated, and the barkeeper heard him mutter something about there being the devil to pay. What must I infer from this remark, from his state of mind?

"One thing, and one thing only: He had learned, without opening the safe, that Filbon had returned the money, and that John Dashwood had gone off with it. And why did Dashwood take the money with him? I can imagine a good reason, but first I must endeavor to discover what it was that gave Leonard his information. A note from Dashwood, of course, and that note was on the desk, probably lying upon one of the books. What became of it? Did Leonard tear it up, or did he put it in his pocket? The fact that he has lied to me shows that he wishes to conceal his knowledge of the note's contents. What would be the action of a man,[40] agitated, confused, beset by troubles, some of which I think I can divine, others of which I can only guess at, upon reading the note which John Dashwood, under last night's conditions, would write?

"Common sense would not prevail, for common sense would suggest the pocketing of the note and its destruction, if destruction should be deemed necessary, afterward, and in a spot where the fragments would not be found. My judgment is that he tore it into bits here in this room. But the bits did not go into the waste-basket, for I have examined it. They were not likely thrown on the floor. Where could they have been thrown?"

Nick's eyes were glued on the large roller-top desk. The open floor space in the middle had not a speck upon it. The back showed the wall-paper and baseboard. The drawer sides of the desk concealed the wall back of them. Nick stepped to the desk and rolled it away from the wall. If the janitor had done his full duty that morning he would find nothing. But the janitor had been amiss, for, partly on the rim of the baseboard and partly on the floor, on one side back of one of the sets of drawers, were torn bits of paper.

The detective quickly gathered the bits, placed them in his pocketbook, and then left the office. Before attempting to make a sequential arrangement of the bits, upon which writing had been observed, Nick went to the office of the chief of police in the Four Courts, on Clark Avenue. He had not given his name to the patrolman on[41] the night before, when announcing his discovery of the suicide of Luke Filbon, but had simply said that he was a friend of the chief and would report to that official in the morning. The patrolman was a new hand, and the quiet, authoritative manner of the great detective had its effect. Besides, he was excited over the announcement Nick had made, and was off for the nearest signal-box as soon as Nick had finished his statement.

When the detective entered the office he found the chief in earnest conversation with the chief of detectives, and he was heartily greeted by each of them. In a few words Nick stated that, while looking for John Dashwood, he had come upon Luke Filbon, just before the taking of the dose of poison.

"Now," he said, "I do not wish to appear as a witness at the inquest, for reasons which any detective officer will appreciate. My presence in St. Louis is known to but few people. I do not wish to announce the fact to the whole city. Leonard will give the reason for the suicide, the bottle of poison and the autopsy report will show the cause of the death. My evidence would be simply cumulative."

"Leonard has been here," said the chief, "and has told us about the robbery. We can get along without you, Nick."

"Thank you, chief. And—did Leonard say anything about Dashwood?"

"He said he was missing, but he hoped he would show up before night. We were discussing the Dash[42]wood matter when you came in. I don't like the looks of things. Dashwood is a sober, honest, clear-headed man of business. He would never leave town without notifying somebody, Leonard or Mrs. Dashwood."

"Mrs. Dashwood is out of town."

"Leonard, then. And, as he did not notify Leonard, I believe there has been foul play."

Nick was of the same opinion, but for hours he had hoped that something—preferably the appearance of Dashwood himself—might cause him to change it.

"Dashwood is my friend—I shall speak of him as alive, for I will not believe him dead until I see his dead body—and I shall remain here until the mystery of his disappearance has been solved."

"I am glad to hear you say that," said the chief, with pronounced satisfaction. "Take the case, and we will assist you."

A long consultation followed. When it was over Nick went to his room and proceeded without loss of time to put together the pieces of paper he had picked up in Leonard's office. The work was laborious, but it was at last completed. The paper was, as Nick had surmised, a note from Dashwood, written the evening before, and it told a story which stamped Gabriel Leonard as a liar. This is what the note said:

"Dear Mr. Leonard: This evening I discovered that Luke Filbon, by falsifying the books, was enabled to steal twenty thousand dollars from the company. Filbon came in just as I had finished my examination of the[43] books, and not only confessed, but restored the money, which he had secreted in his desk. Before he left, I allowed him to go on his promise to return in the morning for an understanding—I placed the money, all in notes, in the safe, but immediately afterward withdrew them, fearing that Filbon might return and repossess them. I might have changed the combination of the safe, but that would have taken time, and my nerves are not in good condition. Besides, I want to see Filbon again as soon as possible. I don't think I did right in letting him go. Of course, you will see me in the morning, but in the possible event that I may be kept up all night, and, therefore, not reach home, and to make sure that you may understand matters when you come to the office, I have written this note.

"John Dashwood."

There was a cloud on Nick's brow when he had finished reading what Dashwood had written. He now feared the worst.

"Why did Gabriel Leonard keep silent regarding this note?" he said to himself. "And why did he give a false account of his movements after he left the office? Because, in his breast, he holds a guilty secret. I am satisfied that it was Leonard whom the patrolman saw going from Filbon's house toward the river fifteen minutes after another man had gone in that same direction. Supposing that other man to have been John Dashwood, they might have met on the wharf, or near it. What happened when they did meet? If the river knows, the river may hold the secret forever. I must make another trip to that wharf. Last night was not a good time for an exhaustive investigation."


After lunch Nick took a car, rode out Broadway, alighted at the street on which Mrs. Filbon lived, and walked down to the wharf. There were a few people near the approaches. They were discussing the suicide, and one of them dropped a remark which caused Nick to stop in his walk.

"Strange that his boat should have been stolen on the night of his death, isn't it?"

"Looks queer, for a fact," said another man. "The verdict will be suicide, of course, but I'm leery on that theory. Maybe the man that stole the boat poisoned Filbon first, gave him the stuff in a drink of whisky, and then planted the bottle by Filbon's side."

"Who would do that?" asked the first speaker. "The man that notified the policeman?"

"Sure. And then he went back and swiped the boat."

"But why would he notify the policeman?"

"Why? To make sure that the bottle of poison would be found before anything might cause it to be removed."

The people soon dispersed. Nick followed the man who had spoken about the boat.

"I have heard of the suicide," he said, as he reached the man's side, "and I am curious to know what this boat business means."

"It means murder, according to my way of thinking," said the man, who had an intelligent, honest countenance, and was in workman's clothes.

"I did not know that Filbon owned a boat."

"He has had it for more than a year. It's a yawl, and[45] he used to keep it in the open part of the wharf. I saw it yesterday before dark. This morning it was gone."

Further conversation failed to elicit anything of importance. Nick left the man and went out upon the wharf. There was nothing there but a few empty barrels, pieces of rotting lumber, and staves. But every part of it was given a searching inspection. Before an overturned barrel, the top hoop of which was broken, so that a section half a foot in length stood straight out with its jagged edge, the detective remained for some moments. The circular impression directly behind it was of a nature to show Nick's experienced eyes that the barrel had been overturned but a short time before. Perhaps the overturning had occurred during the night.

Nick rolled it aside, keeping his eyes upon the planks. At the first movement something was disclosed which made the detective draw a sharp breath. The something was a lady's brooch of gold, green-enameled, made in the form of a lizard. The barrel had not rested upon it, but it had been concealed by the barrel's curve. It was a valuable discovery, but it was not in the line of anything Nick had hoped to find. He knew to whom it belonged, for he had seen it upon the breast of the owner in San Francisco a year before. That person was Cora Reesey, otherwise Madame Ree, who had been Luke Filbon's evil genius, and who was the avowed enemy of the great detective.



The finding of Madame Ree's brooch in a locality in which John Dashwood had last been seen introduced an element into the case that deepened the mystery surrounding Dashwood's fate. She, as well as Gabriel Leonard, had been on the wharf the preceding night. And there was the disappearance of the boat. Had she stolen it, or had it been stolen by Gabriel Leonard? And if murder had been done, who was the murderer?

Before attempting to answer these questions, Nick purposed making certain investigations, and having still others made for him. When he returned to town the inquest was over. It had been short, as there were but few witnesses, and these had given testimony directly in point. Gabriel Leonard had testified that Filbon had robbed him, and that John Dashwood must have discovered the robbery and confronted Filbon with the proofs, for on his visit to the office the night before witness had found Filbon's desk open, the books spread out, and the false entries marked. The autopsy revealed the fact that death had resulted from the taking of prussic acid. The phial was introduced in evidence, and the druggist who sold the poison testified that Filbon was the purchaser.

Meeting the chief of police, Nick told the story of the[47] missing boat, and asked that men be detailed to make inquiries along the river, north and south. Boats were already patrolling the river looking for floating bodies. Having disposed of this matter, Nick found a car, and in half an hour was at Gabriel Leonard's house, near Forest Park. He had counted on finding no persons at the place but the servants, and was well pleased when the housekeeper informed him that Mr. Leonard would not likely be at home before eight o'clock, more than four hours away.

"He will probably return with Mrs. Dashwood," she said, "for early this morning he sent a telegram so that she take the ten-thirty-five train from Chicago, which will arrive here at seven-twenty-four. Is there any news of Mr. Dashwood?" she added, her motherly face betraying keen anxiety.

"No. But we must hope for the best. How does Mr. Leonard take his son-in-law's disappearance?"

Nick had seated himself in an easy chair on the veranda, and the housekeeper had followed suit.

"He left so early this morning that I didn't have much chance to talk with him. He was very pale, and greatly disturbed in mind. He scarcely touched his breakfast."

"Loss of sleep probably accounted somewhat for his appearance," suggested Nick Carter.

"I don't believe he slept at all," said the housekeeper.

"Did he come in late?" This question was asked without eagerness, in order that the good woman might not suspect that she was being pumped.


"I don't know what time it was, but it was after three o'clock, and not long before daylight."

"What kept him up, I wonder?" said Nick, as if to himself, and not for the benefit of the housekeeper. "Must have been worrying over the Filbon matter. Yes, yes, of course, unless," looking up at the woman as if the thought was of but little importance, yet had been suggested by ordinary curiosity, "unless he told you it was something else."

"I asked him where he had been all night," replied the housekeeper, wholly unsuspicious of the detective's design, "and he said that he had been trying to find Luke Filbon, who had robbed him of a large sum of money."

"Did he seem surprised to learn that John Dashwood had not come home?"

"No. He said that John would probably turn up all right."

"And yet he went off to wire Mrs. Dashwood. That shows, does it not, that he must have feared that harm had come to his son-in-law, and that he concealed his feelings in order not to alarm you? That was the act of a considerate man."

There was no hint of sarcasm in tone of voice or expression of face. The housekeeper took the remarks as Nick had meant them to be taken.

"Yes, that must be it," she said, with a sorrowful shake of the head, "for he knows that I think the world of John Dashwood. A finer man never lived."

Nick nodded his head in approval. Then he said: "I[49] want to write a letter, so that when I go back to town it may go out with the next mail. I have used Mr. Leonard's desk before. Will you permit me to use it again?"

"Certainly, Mr. Carter. You know the way to his rooms. Go right up and help yourself to whatever you may find there."

The detective mounted the stairs to the second story, and entered Gabriel Leonard's den, as he called it, which was one of a suite of three rooms. But he did not go to the writing-desk, but passed on to the bedroom.

Everything was in order from bed to closet. The housemaid had been there, and had done her work well. Nick found nothing in the room itself to arouse his interest. But in the large closet he paused several minutes. At Leonard's office in town that day the detective, who never allowed the slightest thing to escape his notice, had observed that, though it was of the same color, cut, and texture, the suit of clothes the manufacturer was wearing was not the same one worn the day before. In the closet the suit of yesterday was found. Nick saw nothing out of the way in the appearance of the coat and vest, but the trousers were stained with clayey mud. In the hip pocket a discolored handkerchief was sticking out. Nick examined it, to find a number of large, dark-red stains.

They were not blood-stains, but the stains of some mineral substance. A curious light came into the detective's eyes as he examined them. Replacing the handkerchief in the trousers pocket, he left the closet and[50] went into the den. The writing-desk now engaged his attention. The pigeonholes contained letters and bills. These were examined, to be replaced with a shake of the head. All the drawers except one were unlocked. Nothing in the way of evidence was discovered. With his picklock appliance, he speedily unlocked the last drawer. Large envelopes filled with documents met his eye. As he inspected them one by one, his astonishment became so pronounced that he found it hard to repress an exclamation. In one envelope were two letters. The first read as follows:

"San Francisco, May 15, 1904.

"Gabriel Leonard: My last letter, written over six months ago, remains unanswered. Does that mean that you defy me? I should be sorry to believe that you decline to recognize my claim. Perhaps you are not fully aware of the nature of the proofs which are in my hands. Let me inform you that in the case I have against you there is nothing lacking. I have not only photographs, original documents, and court transcripts, but a number of letters which you wrote before you had in contemplation the offense which you afterward committed. I write thus guardedly of my proofs in order that the truth may not be guessed at by any third party into whose hands this letter might chance to fall. This is my last appeal to you. If, on receipt of this, you do not at once notify me by telegraph or letter that you are willing to treat with me on a cash basis, I shall come to St. Louis and either invoke the aid of the law there or—but I will not threaten. You know how you stand, and what you deserve. If I were in your position, I[51] would give every dollar I possessed in the world rather than let the public know what manner of man I am. You have deceived the good people of St. Louis for many years. If you hope to deceive them to the end, come to my terms. Otherwise, a grand smash, the State's prison, infamy, and a dishonored grave.

"Cora Reesey."

"That must have stirred Leonard up a little," said Nick to himself. "Yes, it did, for here is a copy of the answer he wrote:

"St. Louis, May, 20, 1904.

"Cora Reesey.

"Madame: You seem determined to crush me. You are not willing to wait for my death—which cannot be far away, for I have had serious heart trouble lately, and the doctors give me no encouragement—but wish to strike the blow at once. But for my daughter, I should say, strike and be hanged to you. But her interest must be considered, and, therefore, I say, come to St. Louis and I'll try to make a satisfactory settlement with you. I am certain that a personal conference will be better than a discussion of the matter by letters. I dare not say with a pen what I would say to you orally. If you conclude to come, advise me in advance, so I may meet you on the arrival of the train. Yours,

"G. Leonard."

In another envelope was a statement showing that Leonard had some weeks before pledged all his stock in the manufacturing company.

The last envelope contained fifty one-hundred-dollar notes on St. Louis, Chicago, and Kansis City banks.


In Nick's pocket was the list of the notes which Luke Filbon had stolen. The detective drew it out, and, when comparison had been made, he saw that all the numbers of the notes found in Leonard's desk were to be found on the list prepared by Filbon. The conclusion was irresistible. Gabriel Leonard had received the stolen money from John Dashwood. He had retained five thousand, and had given fifteen thousand to Cora Reesey, alias Madame Ree.

Cool reflection told the detective that there might be a flaw in this theory, for it would involve murder, the murder of John Dashwood. And why should Gabriel Leonard murder John Dashwood to obtain twenty thousand dollars, when the twenty thousand dollars was his own money, which he could obtain by the mere asking for it? There was something yet to be unearthed. The mystery was deepening. A crime had been committed, and Gabriel Leonard was implicated; how seriously, the future might disclose.

The stains on the trousers indicated that Leonard had been in the mud of the river's shore, but he might have been there, he might have gone off in the boat, and still be innocent of the death of John Dashwood. But the stains on the handkerchief? Here was a problem of a different nature. It suggested something that increased the detective's gravity; something that seemed to connect itself with the statement that Leonard had pledged all his stock in the manufacturing company, and, therefore, might be practically bankrupt.


After he had replaced the envelopes, with their contents, in the drawer and locked it, Nick went down-stairs. There was no one in the hall. Under the stairs was the telephone. Nick went to it and called up the office of the chief of police. At the conclusion of a talk that lasted over a minute, he hung up the receiver and walked out to the veranda. He hoped the housekeeper would not come out, for he wanted to postpone a certain explanation until circumstances should force him to make it. As luck would have it, he was not disturbed until more than half an hour had elapsed. Then arrived the chief of police and the chief of detectives.

Nick spoke a few words when they came up, and then led the way to Leonard's rooms. There the evidence which Nick had discovered was shown to the local officers. The trousers, with the clayey mud and the handkerchief, together with the envelopes found in the drawer of the desk, were taken possession of by the chief of police. As the officers were going down-stairs, the housekeeper came into the hall.

"A matter of business," said Nick, in an offhand manner. "Mr. Leonard will understand."

"But I don't understand," spoke the good woman.

"I can't explain now," said the detective gently. "All I can say is that we are acting in the interests of Mrs. John Dashwood."

Sorely perplexed, the housekeeper saw the three agents of the law walk away.

One hour later, at the suggestion of the great detective,[54] the river in front of the wharf was dragged. Nick, expecting yet fearing that something would be found that would substantiate a theory that pointed to foul play, watched the diggers with painful, and yet with eager interest. The space upon which the work was being performed was not large, and before darkness set in the something was brought up from the muck of the river. It was a section of two-inch water-pipe about two feet in length, and heavy rust showed when the mud had been removed. Rust and something else, something that spoke of a bloody deed. Adhering to the pipe, under partly detached wafers of rust, were human hairs, sticky with a substance that was not rust, but which Nick knew without analysis was coagulated blood. The chief of police was present when the iron pipe was brought up, and his superficial examination caused him to come to the same conclusion that had forced itself into the mind of Nick Carter.

"There has been murder done," was the chief's comment, "and this is the instrument of death. We must drag further for the body, though we may not be able to find it, on account of the swift current which has been running for several days."

"Yes, that should be done."

Nick would have been better satisfied could an expert's analysis of the stains and the evidence on the iron pipe have been obtained before the arrest of Gabriel Leonard, but there was danger in delay. Leonard must be arrested before he reached home and discovered the loss[55] of the incriminating articles. Two detectives, with Nick, were at the Union depot for an hour before the arrival of the Illinois Central train from Chicago. But Gabriel Leonard did not appear. Among the passengers who alighted from the train was a tall, handsome woman, with large, trustful, gray eyes. One of the detectives knew her, and pointed her out to Nick as the wife of John Dashwood. She was pale, but composed. There was nothing in her manner to indicate that she had been expecting to meet any one. And yet she must have come on from Chicago in response to the telegram sent in the morning by Gabriel Leonard. At Nick's request, the detective who knew her walked forward and accosted her just as she was entering the spacious waiting-room, on her way to the broad stairway leading to the street.

"Good evening, Mrs. Dashwood," he said. "Can I be of any assistance? Perhaps you are looking for Mr. Leonard?"

"No. I met him at Madison, a little over an hour ago. He won't be home until morning."

Nick Carter heard this statement with deep disappointment.

"Has Mr. Dashwood returned?" Mrs. Dashwood was now the questioner.

"I—I don't know. Perhaps you will find him at home," the detective hurriedly replied.

"I hope so," she said, with an attempt at cheerfulness. "My father said Mr. Dashwood was away on business,[56] and that all sorts of silly stories were afloat, and that I must not believe any of them. I am sure he knows, don't you think so?" she asked, with an appealing air.

"Yes. Of course, he is the best authority."

The detective saw her to a carriage, and then rejoined Nick.

Before fifteen minutes had elapsed the wires were hot with instructions to officers along the line of the railroad from East St. Louis northward, and in towns off the road, to arrest Gabriel Leonard, whose full description was given.

"That's all we can do to-night," said the chief to Nick. "Of course, Leonard won't turn up in the morning of his own accord."

"I don't think he will, and yet——" The detective did not finish the sentence, but sat apparently studying the pattern of the wall-paper back of the chief's desk.

"You don't put him as a fool, do you?" queried the chief.

"Anything but that. This is a most peculiar case, however, and surprises are likely to occur. About that analysis," he said, to give a new turn to the conversation, "will it be ready to-night?"

"Yes. I gave a hurry order."

In a short time the report, made by an analytical chemist and physician, was before them. The stains on the handkerchief taken from the pocket of Gabriel Leonard's trousers were found to be rust-stains, and the rust was reported as identical with the rust on the section of[57] water-pipe. Also, the hairs, brown and silky, upon the pipe were affirmed to be hairs from the head of a human being, while the substance which assisted in making the hairs adhere to the rust of the pipe was, beyond question, human blood.

"All this looks bad for Leonard," remarked the chief.

"Yes, it does."

"I think I can figure the thing out, Nick. Leonard is in a bad way. He is shy of money. Maybe he has been speculating, and has eaten up all his ready cash and all the money he could raise on his factory stock. On top of his pecuniary troubles comes this blackmailing demand of Madame Ree. I can't guess what the secret is, but it is a sure gamble that she has got a strangle-hold on Leonard. She demands money, and fixes last evening as the time for payment.

"Leonard, not having been able to scare up the wherewithal, comes to the office, in the hope that he may find enough money in the safe to stop the woman's mouth, for awhile, at least. He discovers that Filbon has robbed him, but has not run off with the money. John Dashwood has it. The amount is more than enough to square the madame's claim. He starts out to find Dashwood, being informed by the note left on the desk that Dashwood has gone to Luke Filbon's house. When near the house he sees Dashwood, who has been down to the river looking for Filbon, who, not being at home, may have made his way to the river for the purpose of ending his life.


"Now, what follows? Here is my idea of what followed: Leonard killed Dashwood to get the twenty thousand dollars, and threw the body into the river, which may not reveal its secret for a week. Why should he murder Dashwood? Because, Nick, Dashwood, upon the request being made, refused to give up the money. It is very probable that Dashwood knew that Madame Ree had been dogging Leonard. Let us assume that he had seen them together, had overheard some suspicious words. If he had known that they were acquainted, had suspected that a criminal secret existed between them, he must have formed some decided opinion respecting the woman's presence in front of the factory building that night. Therefore, he would refuse to hand over the money to Leonard. Angry words may have passed. Dashwood may have mentioned Madame Ree's name, and—men have become devils upon less provocation than Leonard may have received. It is certain that murder was not contemplated when Leonard went out to seek Dashwood. The crime was committed on the impulse of the moment, the weapon picked up on the wharf on which they were standing when the conversation took place. And it was Dashwood who was killed that night, for he has brown, silky hair. Now, what do you say to all this?"

"I say," said Nick solemnly, "that Gabriel Leonard never murdered John Dashwood."



The chief of police looked at Nick Carter, as if he could not believe the evidence of his ears. "Leonard did not kill Dashwood?" he exclaimed, in surprise and incredulity. "Then, in the name of wonder, who did?"

"I don't know," said Nick simply.

"Madame Ree?"


The chief shook his head. "That was no woman's work, Nick. The murderer was a man, and a strong man. But I'd like to hear what has induced you to come to the conclusion that Gabriel Leonard is innocent."

"I believe him to be innocent of the murder of Dashwood, but guilty of other crimes. Your assumption, chief, that circumstances may have arisen sufficiently strong to make Leonard murder the husband of his daughter does not appeal to me. I believe that Leonard would have defied Madame Ree, no matter what her hold on him may be, rather than commit a murder, particularly the murder of a man whom he respected, and who was dearly loved by Leonard's daughter, for whom Leonard would sacrifice much. But, however much he might sacrifice, whatever he might do within the law or without the law, he would never commit an act that[60] would plunge her into the depths of sorrow. It is—I hope you will pardon me, chief—preposterous to suppose it.

"We have evidence that he held in his hands the instrument with which murder was probably done. But that is not proof that he did the deed. He may have wrested it from the real murderer. Madame Ree was there, on the evidence of the brooch. She is a strong woman, a regular Amazon. I believe she would commit murder to obtain even a much less sum than twenty thousand dollars. She may have murderously assaulted Dashwood. She may have dealt the fatal blow, have prepared to deal another, to find her hand arrested by Leonard, just come upon the scene. Then what would likely follow? I am not maintaining that I am giving you a theory which I look upon as convincing; I am only putting a case that seems to me more reasonable than the one you have outlined.

"Let me assume for the moment that Madame Ree did kill John Dashwood, and that Gabriel Leonard witnessed the deed. Would he feel like giving her into custody? I don't think so. There was not only the chance that he would be deeply involved—perhaps the woman might prefer a countercharge, accuse him, in fact, of the murder—but there was also the fact that Dashwood was dead, and that no proceedings could bring him to life. Let us suppose, further, that Leonard, accepting the situation thus forced upon him, allowed the woman to keep fifteen out of the twenty thou[61]sand dollars taken from the dead man's person, on the promise of immediately leaving town never to return.

"Now let us suppose that, although the locality was out of the way and is not patrolled by the police, they feared, in their excitement, to return to town in the usual way. The boat was in plain sight. They took it, rowed down the river some distance, went ashore, and turned the boat adrift. The murder must have been committed not far from ten o'clock, probably an hour before I arrived on the wharf and half an hour before Filbon got there. Leonard reached home after three o'clock, so he must have had a three or four hours' walk. He could have covered ten or twelve miles in that time.

"As to Leonard's absence, or flight, that may be explained in this way: This morning he arose, after a few hours' sleep, if he slept at all, with his daughter occupying all his thoughts. She must come home, and to have her arrive by the first train leaving Chicago he must wire her at once. Filled with this idea, he hurried down-town, not thinking of the evidence he had left behind. If he thought of it while in town, he may have considered it wholly unlikely that he would be suspected, for who could possibly know of his dealings with Madame Ree? But the conversation I had with him in his office this forenoon may have excited his fears. Just before I left him he said he was going home for lunch. He did not do so. I think he was afraid to go home. But he stayed for the inquest.


"He may have feared that he was running desperate chances in remaining, but, at the same time, he must have felt that his absence would arouse suspicion, if no suspicion existed before, and that the start in daylight which he would have to make would not be sufficient to insure his escape. But as soon as he had given his testimony he left town. I know that this action of his, this fear of the result of possible discoveries at his house, leaves a presumption that he is deeper in the mire than I would have you believe him to be, yet I still stick to my belief that he did not kill John Dashwood. He has disappeared under very suspicious circumstances, but the cause is something unconnected with the death of his son-in-law."

"Have you formed an opinion as to what the cause is?" asked the chief.

"Not a decided opinion, but I have some ideas, which are not yet in shape for explanation. Probably by to-morrow I may speak of them. But we must find Leonard, if possible. There is a double secret in this case, and he holds the key."

Nick Carter had given a theory for the chief to ponder over, but, as he intimated, it was not one in which, as a whole, he fully believed. Strange ideas had come into his head during the afternoon and evening, and he longed for the presence of Chick, in order that he might have assistance in working them out.

The morning came, and Gabriel Leonard did not appear. A police officer had been stationed near the[63] manufacturer's house, with instructions to make the arrest should Leonard come home during the day.

The noon train of the B. & O. brought Chick. He was met at the depot by Nick, and together they proceeded to the great detective's rooms on Jefferson Avenue.

Once there and seated, Nick went over the case which involved the disappearance of John Dashwood, and the connection with it of Gabriel Leonard and Madame Ree.

Chick listened with eager attention.

"It seems a clear case against Leonard," he said.

"Yes, at first blush it does. It is too plain to suit me."

After giving the reasons, as stated to the chief of police, for disbelieving that Leonard had murdered John Dashwood, Nick said:

"Outside of the improbability, on account of relationship by marriage, and so forth, of Leonard's killing Dashwood, there is the further circumstance that he did not, upon his arrival home in the early morning, attempt to conceal the evidences of his crime. A man guilty of the murder of John Dashwood, no matter how satisfied he may have been in respect of his security from suspicion, would not have allowed the clay-stains to remain on the trousers, nor the telltale handkerchief to remain in his closet. And he would never have permitted these incriminating letters and notes to stay in his desk. No, my boy, Leonard is not the man. He[64] had not upon his head the guilt of his son-in-law's death when he went up-town early yesterday morning."

"But, Nick, ought he not to have feared, from what he knew of the night's happenings, that, though innocent, he might be suspected? And would not that suspicion have caused him to take the precaution to put out of the way evidence that would associate him with the crime?"

"Not at the time. He arose early to send off that telegram to his daughter. His conscience was clear of the guilt of Dashwood's murder, and when he left the house he had not arrived at a sober idea of the situation. And I can imagine another reason which could explain why he acted as he did, and we will immediately proceed to test the theory which it raises. Have you had your breakfast?"


"Then you must begin work at once. You must go down the river."

"In a boat?"

"No. Get a rig. I'll explain on our way to the livery-stable."

Nick saw Chick off, and then went to the chief's office. No trace of the missing boat had been found, and the chief was now of opinion that it had been scuttled and sunk. Nick coincided with this view.

"Oh," said the chief, "here is something for you, a letter. It came this morning, in my care. Looks like a woman's handwriting."


Nick tore open the envelope, which bore the East St. Louis postmark, and found a note which contained these words:

"Nick Carter: You are on a wrong scent. Give up the pursuit of Gabriel Leonard, wait two days, and the truth will come out. You well know I have no love for you, but in this case I am willing to act fairly. You are making a mountain out of a mole-hill. This is all. I have made arrangements to leave, and will be hundreds of miles away when you receive this. Be guided by my advice, and you will live to thank me. C. R."

Having read the note, Nick handed it to the chief.

"H'm. She is very mysterious, whoever she is, Nick. 'C. R.' Do you know what the initials mean?"

"Yes. They stand for Cora Reesey, alias Madame Ree."

"Then she is mixed up in this affair, sure enough. But do you believe what she says in the note?"

"I'll answer you in a moment. First, I would like to look at that blackmailing letter which she wrote to Leonard."

The chief opened a drawer, found the letter and gave it to Nick, who compared the writing with the writing on the note.

"A very good imitation," he said, after a few minutes, "and likely to deceive any one except an expert."

"Then Madame Ree did not write it?"

"No. It was written by Gabriel Leonard. Just what I might have expected."


"What is his little game? I confess I am puzzled."

"It is a waiting game, chief. There is more in this case than has appeared on the surface. By the way, have you heard from Mrs. Dashwood to-day?"


"Call up the house and ask her if she has heard either from her father or her husband. It is not likely that she has heard from her husband, but her father may have written."

Mrs. Dashwood responded to the call, and, in answer to questions, said that her father had written from Madison, and had stated that Mr. Dashwood would return home in a few days. Leonard himself might not be able, on account of pressing business, to return before his son-in-law arrived.

The chief passed his hand slowly over his forehead. "What are we up against?" he said, with a puzzled look at Nick. "I have it," he continued, as a thought struck him. "Leonard is keeping his daughter in the dark out of regard for her feelings. She will stay fooled until her father has either been arrested or has left the country."

Nick was toying with the note purporting to have come from Madame Ree, and did not reply.

When he did speak, it was not in relation to anything the chief had said. "Who among the business men of St. Louis would be likely to know the names and addresses of Leonard's closest friends?"

"Jasper Swayne, the insurance-broker. He was once[67] associated with Leonard in business, and has been intimate with him ever since Leonard came to town. His office is in Pine Street."

Nick got the number from the directory, and in a short time was seated in Swayne's office, talking with that gentleman. What he learned made him anxious to see Chick, who, however, would not probably report before evening.

At Olive and Broadway, Nick took a car. As there was a crowd inside, he rode on the platform. While the car was passing Twentieth Street he saw a man standing at the edge of the sidewalk, who, at sight of the detective, wheeled quickly and walked rapidly down Twentieth Street. The man was Carroll Slack, who had been a deputy in the San Francisco county jail at the time of the escape of James Dorrant. He had been in love with Madame Reesey before the events which had culminated in the death of Dorrant, and his presence in St. Louis at this time was, to Nick's mind, a suspicious circumstance. Although he had not been criminally implicated in the crimes which the great detective had unearthed while he was in the Pacific-coast metropolis, Nick had looked upon him as of weak moral fiber, one who could be easily led astray by a beautiful, designing woman.

The detective motioned to the conductor, the car stopped, and pursuit at once began. Slack kept up his rapid walk to Chestnut Street, then turned into it and went north. Nick reached the corner just in time to see Slack disappear through a small opening at the[68] farther end of a high board fence enclosing a large vacant lot, back of some business buildings fronting on Market Street, opposite the Union Depot.

There might be a trap in store, but Nick, in view of the importance of the pursuit, determined to risk the danger. He came to the opening just as Slack was entering the door of a wooden lean-to of one of the brick buildings. From his observation of the locality taken while passing the block many times, either on his way to the depot or the court buildings, Nick was satisfied that his quarry had gone into an unoccupied section of the block. The rooms, sandwiched between a cheap hotel and a ticket-scalper's office, had been the headquarters of a band of fakers, whose operations, not coming within the limits of the law, had been summarily discountenanced by the police.

There was the possibility, which, on account of the former deputy jailer's good record, had in it strong elements of reason, that Slack was really trying to evade Nick Carter, and that he hoped by darting through the vacant rooms to slip through to Market Street, and on into one of the near-by hotels or saloons, where backway exit to safety might be found.

Nick opened the door of the lean-to, and entered what had been intended for a kitchen. Probably the rooms had last been put to legitimate use by a restaurateur. There was no one in the room, and Nick, without a moment's pause, hurried toward another, the middle room beyond, the door of which was partly open. At the thresh[69]old he stopped and struck the door a resounding blow, which caused it to fly backward against the wall. Nothing of a suspicious nature met his gaze. The room, as far as he could see, was bare. While walking slowly in, so as to guard against possible surprise from some unexpected quarter, a heavy body struck him on the shoulders and back, and he was borne violently to the floor. Over the door was a wide shelf, and from that shelf a man had leaped. The suddenness, as well as the force of the assault, caught Nick without that tension of mind and muscle which is of such efficacy at critical times.

For a moment he lay flat upon his stomach, the while his adversary was reaching to grasp his windpipe. Then, with a mighty effort, Nick Carter called all his wonderful strength into play. With one hand planted on the floor, he turned sidewise, made a sudden twist, and flung Slack off. But the former deputy jailer was as quick in movements as a cat, and he rolled over and clutched Nick about the waist before the detective could make an offensive move. The two instantly became locked in a deadly embrace. Nick was the more powerful and scientific, but Slack was a strong man, and he fought as if for his life.

He soon gained an advantage, but it was not lasting. Nick, upon Slack's initial onslaught, had sprained his ankle, and the San Franciscan, in exerting all his energies to bring the detective's back to the floor, unintentionally pressed his legs against the injured member,[70] twisting it so that Nick, in the intensity of his pain, slightly relaxed his hold, and was rolled over in consequence.

The detective fell face upward, and upon the instant that he reached that position his hands went up and grasped Slack by the throat. As the grip tightened, Slack struck out blindly, but his hands soon grew nerveless, while his eyes began to start from their sockets. At the right moment Nick, with a supreme effort, raised himself and threw his enemy backward, and the next instant was sitting on the man's chest.

"Give up?" he asked.

"Yes," came in a labored, husky voice. "I'm a quitter, all right."



Not until the detective had tied Slack's hands, removed his weapons, a pistol and knife, and propped him against the wall, did he move away. After he had bathed his ankle with water found in the kitchen and satisfied himself that the sprain was not a bad one, Nick opened his batteries on his prisoner.

"Slack," he said, more in sorrow than in anger, "this is a strange part for you to play. What has come over you? In San Francisco you were an honest man, a defender of law and order."

"Every man for himself! that's my motto," replied Slack sullenly.

"That is dodging the question. What have I ever done to you, that you should jump me?"

"You have stuck your nose into my concerns, that's what you have done," was Slack's savage outburst.

Nick looked at the man curiously.

"I think I understand," he said quietly. "You are under the thumb of Cora Reesey, otherwise Madame Ree. She has taken you into her good graces again. You came here to meet her. You find her gone, and you get the notion into your head that I am responsible for her disappearance. Well, you are wrong. I have had no dealings of any kind with Madame Ree since[72] her arrival in St. Louis. I had no hand in sending her away, and I don't know where she is. It is very evident, though, that she has given you the icy mitt."

Slack's face was a study while Nick was speaking.

"Do you mean to say that you have neither driven her, nor given a tip to the chief of police which has caused her to be driven from St. Louis?"

"I am not a liar," returned Nick coldly. "What I say goes with those who know me."

"I beg your pardon," said Slack humbly. "I have been a fool. I thought you had mixed up in my affairs—for I'm going to marry Madame Ree—and I made up my mind to get even."

"When did you arrive in town?"

"Yesterday. Cora was expecting me; had written me to come. I found her gone. I learned from a police officer of my acquaintance that you were here, and I at once connected Cora's disappearance with your presence."

"You saw me quite by accident, didn't you?"

"Yes. I have been laying for you all day. I hired these rooms, and my plan was to lure you here, jump you, and keep you a prisoner until I had found Cora, who might deal with you as she liked."

"You were not holding out an alluring prospect for me, Slack," said Nick dryly.

"I was mad, crazy," said Slack penitently. His manner since his fight with the great detective had undergone a complete change. He was no longer aggressive,[73] vindictive. The good in his disposition was coming uppermost. Nick saw that he was in condition for full confession, but to obtain it he took the least offensive way.

"See here, Slack," said he, in a friendly tone, "you will have reason to congratulate yourself over this affair of to-day. And it is due to your good luck that you did not meet Madame Ree on your arrival. She wrote to you to come, not because she loves you, but for the reason that she wanted help in an unlawful undertaking. Money is her passion. You ought to know that."

Slack winced slightly. Nick went on: "She may have revealed to you what her plans were, and she may have held out a bait which you swallowed. Now, without having seen her, without having interfered with her in the slightest degree, I know what her plans were, and my knowledge has come through events associated with the disappearance of John Dashwood and the suicide of Luke Filbon. If you have read the newspapers, you know something concerning these matters."

"I have read the papers, and I know what the public knows."

"Very well. Now I'll tell you something which the public does not know." Then Nick proceeded to lay bare the blackmailing scheme which Cora Reesey, alias Madame Ree, had concocted with Gabriel Leonard as the victim.

"If she got fifteen thousand dollars from Leonard,"[74] said Slack, with a black frown, "she has skipped the country."

"She got it, all right. I am entirely satisfied on that point."

"Then I'm sure in the soup," was Slack's desponding utterance. "She wanted me to come and help her out, but she has corralled the money without my assistance, and now she has no use for me."

"It looks that way, doesn't it? If she really meant to deal squarely with you, she would have written a letter after she had closed the deal with Leonard."

"That's right. I see it all now. I'm a double-distilled jackass." Then his face hardened and his eyes gleamed cruelly. "I may meet her some day," he said, "and if I do, I'll"—he clenched his hands—"I'll make her wish she had never been born."

After a pause, he added: "I know enough now to send her to prison."

Nick, taking counsel with himself, stepped forward and cut the cords which bound Slack's hand. "Now you may talk with more ease," he said.

"Thank you." Slack opened and shut his hands several times to get the blood in proper circulation, and then resumed his story: "I know what her hold on Leonard is, and it's partly sham."

Nick's eyes glistened.

"You assisted her in preparing it, didn't you?"

"Yes; and if you'll go easy with me on the bughouse break I made to-day, I'll tell you all about it."


"It's a whack," said Nick instantly.

"Then here goes: The claim she pretends to have on Leonard embraces bigamy and embezzlement. She well knew, if Leonard refused to come to her terms and she published what she held in her hand as alleged facts, that, though Leonard's reputation might suffer, he could never be proceeded against criminally."

The word "bigamy" brought a shadow to Nick Carter's face, for his mind reverted instantly to the fair, gentle daughter of Leonard, Mrs. John Dashwood. The shadow lifted before Slack had finished his narrative.

"Leonard, whose real name is Reesey, went to California in the early fifties," said Slack, "and while there married an Italian woman, a widow with one child. Her name was Massona. Shortly after her marriage with Reesey, and before the birth of her daughter, her husband embezzled the funds of a mining company, of which he was secretary, and skipped the State. Instead of returning to his former home in Ohio, he went to St. Louis, assumed the name of Leonard, and engaged in business.

"Years passed, and, perhaps believing his Italian wife to be dead, he married again. When Cora Reesey, his daughter by the Italian wife, reached womanhood, she discovered by secret inquiry that her father was alive and in St. Louis. But she died before she could make practical use of her knowledge. While on her sickbed she confided what she had discovered to her cousin and intimate friend, Lucia Massona. This cousin is an ad[76]venturess, a woman of surpassing beauty and an evil heart. She resolved to profit by what she had learned, and when she left the up-country mining town where her cousin had lived and died she took the name of the dead one, and, as Cora Reesey, appeared in San Francisco.

"In that city she laid her plans for blackmailing Gabriel Leonard. I, in my senseless infatuation for her, promised and gave assistance in preparing the proofs. I soon discovered that she had no criminal case against Leonard, for her aunt, Mrs. Reesey, had died three days prior to her husband's second marriage. This fact did not disconcert her, for she believed that Leonard did not know whether his Italian wife was alive or dead when he contracted his St. Louis marriage, and that the spurious documents which she had prepared would be accepted as genuine. The embezzlement matter, of course, was outlawed. But the threat to publish the facts would be sufficient, she thought, to bring him to terms.

"Cora went on to St. Louis after correspondence with Leonard, with the understanding that I was to follow on receipt of a letter which she promised to write soon after arrival here. The letter reached me five days ago, and I came on without an instant's loss of time. That is the story, Mr. Carter."

Nick looked at his watch.

"Time I was going," he said, and moved toward the door.


"Am I free to go, too?" asked Slack, in a respectful tone.

"Certainly you are. Take care of yourself, keep out of mischief, is all the advice I have to give."

"But," looking at the detective shyly, "I may meet Cora; she may throw her grappling-hooks on me again, and I may put her wise about you and what you know."

"I'll trust you," said Nick, with a smile.

"Sure you are not afraid I may fall down?"

"Not in the least, Slack. Good-by."

Nick limped out of the building, and half an hour later was in his room on Jefferson Avenue. Chick, to his satisfaction, was there to meet him. His face shone with excitement and pleasure. "Great news, Nick," he said. "I've located Leonard."

"Where is he?" Nick's face was now as bright as Chick's.

"In a big brick building used as a private sanatorium, beyond the southern limits of the city."

"Doctor Holcomb runs this sanatorium, doesn't he?"

"Yes," regarding the great detective in astonishment. "How did you know?"

"I obtained a list of Leonard's friends to-day, and among them, as the closest and most intimate of all, is the name of Doctor Holcomb. He was a mining partner of Leonard in California many years ago. I have been anxious to see you, Chick, so that I might put you on, but you have already done the trick. You are a wonder, Chick."


The young detective blushed with pleasure.

"The building is set in the middle of spacious grounds, and is well guarded. Its appearance excited my curiosity, and I made a few cautious inquiries before venturing near the main gate. I was made up as a hobo, as you know, and I was giving the guard outside the gate a fill about experiences on the road, when a closed carriage drove up and two men alighted. One I took to be Doctor Holcomb; the other, from your description, I identified as Gabriel Leonard. They did not notice me, and I slipped out of sight while the guard was opening the gate."

"I wonder where Leonard and the doctor had been?" said Nick thoughtfully. "Perhaps Leonard had been hiding out of the city, and had got a note to his friend, the doctor, and the doctor went to bring him to safer quarters."

"That's it, Nick, I'll bet."

"Is this sanatorium near the river?"

"Yes; the grounds extend to the levee. And now, what's the program? Shall we notify the chief, get a force of men, go out there, surround the place, and catch our man?"

"No. Such a move might spoil all. Leonard at bay might commit suicide. I want his confession. And I want something else. I have in mind a plan which, I think, will bring us victory. About this outside man at the sanatorium, is he an American?"


"No, a Swede, with long, fair hair, and whiskers to match."

"Are his duties confined to the outside?"

"It's turn about with the attendants. I learned this when I struck the Swede for a dime. He refused, and told me to tackle the man whose turn for outside duty would come to-morrow."

"'I tank he ban easy,' he said."

"Then the Swede is not easy. Therefore, he cares for money. But how to reach him? We don't even know his name."

"I know it," said Chick. "Doctor Holcomb called him Detson."

"Ah! now I see daylight. Go down-stairs and borrow a directory, Chick."

When the directory was before him, Nick turned to the D's and found two Detsons, one a spinster dressmaker, called Hannah, the other a hospital attendant, called Christian.

"Hannah is probably the sister, and lives on Locust Street. My ankle troubles me, or I would go over there myself."

"I'll go; it's only a few blocks," said Chick. "What shall I say to her?"

"If she proves to be Christian's sister, ask her how often she sees her brother, and when. Christian may have regular hours for visiting his sister. Perhaps he comes every day. I hope he does. In explanation of[80] your questions, say a friend of yours wishes to see her brother on important business."

Chick was gone an hour. When he returned he was whistling.

"Christian is the brother, all right," he said to Nick, "and he will be at his sister's this evening. Hours from eight to ten o'clock."

"Good. And did you learn anything about Christian's affairs, and family history, and so forth? I did not ask you to go into any such matters, for I knew you would take advantage of circumstances and get all there was coming to you."

"Say, she is a peach, Nick," returned Chick, enthusiastically. "A pretty, plump, flaxen-haired angel. Her brother is the apple of her eye. He is saving up money to send for the old mother in Sweden, and she is helping all she can. I hadn't been with her ten minutes before she was telling me the story of her life."

"Then the way is easy, Chick. Christian will jump at the chance of securing a neat sum in a lump. But he must first be assured that he will be doing a creditable thing. If he is on the square, as he probably is, from your account, I think I can convince him that in assisting me he is not only benefiting himself, but is also doing a commendable act."

The two detectives then put their heads together, conversing together earnestly until dinner-time came. That evening Nick had a long and satisfactory talk with Christian Detson.


"Dey ban some man ho would yump at dat chance," he said, at the end of the conversation, "but ay look bayfore ay do any yumpin'. Ay tank ay see where ay ban land vurst."

Late in the afternoon of the next day Doctor Holcomb received a new patient, a young man of powerful physique, who gave no trouble, for his mania was not a violent one. The certificate which his conductors, two well-known business men of St. Louis, presented set forth that he was suffering from acute dementia. His face was drawn, his eyes were lusterless, and his mouth gave a clicking sound, but no words came, whenever he was spoken to.

"I don't think there is any hope for him," said Doctor Holcomb to the men who had brought the subject, "for dementia such as he is afflicted with is generally the last stage before death. He may live a year, he may die in a month."

"I would ask," said one of the men, Major Haines, a lawyer, "that you do not confine him. He is of good family, and we are willing to pay well for his care. As you must know, from your experience with such cases, he is perfectly harmless. But he cannot take care of himself. He needs the attention that is given to a child. You need not give him the run of the grounds, though you might do so with entire safety, but I shall be pleased if he is given the run of the building, locking him up, of course, every night."

"There is no objection to such an arrangement," said[82] the doctor. "The attendants about will see that he does not get into trouble."

And so the matter was arranged which installed James Winters as an inmate of Doctor Holcomb's sanatorium.

For an hour after his entrance the demented patient sat upon the floor of one of the corridors and played with his hands. Attendants passed him without a glance, for they were used to such sights. At noon he was taken into a small room intended for his future use and given some soup and potatoes. Apparently, he did not know how to put the food into his mouth, and had to be assisted, as a babe newly weaned would have been.

About the middle of the afternoon, while he was in a small corridor, which, opening out of a larger one, terminated at the side wall, an attendant marvelously like the Swede Chick had accosted outside the gate the day before came up and spoke to him in a low voice.

"How does it go, Chick? Have you made any discoveries?"

"I know where Leonard's room is, Nick. He has been out of it twice to-day; once to see the doctor, and once to enter Room M, a few doors beyond his own. And how are you making out?"

"My task is harder than yours, Chick. My disguise is good. I have got the lay of the wards and rooms, and my duties are understood, thanks to Detson; but I have to dodge the other attendants whenever I can, for there is the possibility that some sharp eyes may spot the im[83]posture. We must, if possible, finish our work here within twenty-four hours. I'd like to have the round-up take place to-day."

"Do you anticipate any trouble?"

"No; Doctor Holcomb enjoys a good reputation, and I am satisfied that he will not interfere with the course of justice. Leonard is an old-time friend of his, and he has, without doubt, been imposed upon. He does not know, of course, that Leonard is suspected of murder. He is harboring his friend, but with the idea, I believe, that Leonard is simply dodging his creditors."

The sound of steps along the long, wide corridor stopped Nick Carter's talk with his assistant. Leaving Chick, the detective went forward, and saw Doctor Holcomb in the act of ascending the stairs to the second story. Half-way up he stopped, frowned, and then turned back. At the foot of the stairs his eyes fell on the person of the bogus Swede.

"Detson," he called out sharply, "I wish you would keep in sight. I have forgotten my instrument-case. Go to the office, tell my assistant to give it to you, and when you get it bring it to Room M."

"Ay tank ay ban go queeck," said Nick, and away he hurried to the office. Soon, with the case in his hand, he went up the stairs, found the room, knocked at the door with an impatience which he had much difficulty in repressing. Doctor Holcomb opened the door, and the detective tried to peer into the room. To his disappointment, he was unable to see more than the foot of a bed,[84] upon which some person was lying. The doctor received the instrument-case, uttered a curt "Thank you," and quickly closed the door.

Nick would have remained by the door, but a moment after it closed Gabriel Leonard opened the door of a room opposite the head of the stairs and came toward him. His eyes were bloodshot, and there were marks of suffering on his face. The detective passed him half-way to the stairs, but Leonard did not look at the pseudo Detson. With his head bent, he walked quickly to Room M, and entered without knocking.

Nick hastened down-stairs, saw Chick, and, seizing an opportunity when the corridor was clear, whispered a few rapid words. Chick nodded his head in comprehension, and, leaving the great detective, slouched along the corridor, mounted the stairs, and walked toward Room M. Once there, he sat down with his back against the door. He had been in that position about fifteen minutes, when conversation inside caused him to prick up his ears. He waited with every sense alert, and his heart beating at an unusual rate for ten minutes more; then, rising to his feet, flew, rather than ran, until he reached Nick.

"Well," said the great detective quickly, his curiosity on edge.

"You were right, then, Nick," said Chick, in a gasp. "The mystery will be solved in Room M. I have heard them talk. The last words of Leonard were: 'The hour has come. Now, good-by to St. Louis.'"



Nick breathed heavily. The end was approaching. Chick's information told him that.

"We've got Leonard in a box," said Chick. "We can drop on him right now, if you say so."

"Now is not the time. We will wait until he comes out. Go up the stairs again, sit on the top step, and when Leonard enters his own room, let me know. If he does not go to his room, but comes down-stairs, follow him and inform me. I may be at the foot of the stairs when he leaves Room M. I shall try to be there. Now, go."

The approach of an attendant caused Nick to cut short his talk and walk slowly away.

Chick sat at the top of the stairs for nearly half an hour. Then Gabriel Leonard came out of Room M, and, with quick steps, hastened forward. He stopped near the stairs and stood for a few minutes looking, not at Chick, of whose existence he seemed to have no realization, but over and beyond him. Biting his lips nervously, he muttered: "I've got to go," and, turning, went to his room across the way. Chick noted with satisfaction that Leonard did not lock the door after entering the room. Nick stood at the foot of the stairs. Unobserved by Leonard, he had seen the manufacturer, and[86] knew that the time to strike had come. Up the stairs he went, and, walking over to Leonard's room, opened the door and stepped in. Chick followed, the door was closed quickly and the key turned in the lock.

Gabriel Leonard, sitting on his bed, glanced up when the two detectives entered, but without suspicion. But when the door was locked he sprang to his feet, a wild fear in his eyes.

"What does this mean?" he demanded harshly, though his lips trembled and his body was shaking.

"It is time the masks were discarded," replied the great detective soberly. "I am Nick Carter, and this is my assistant, Chick. We have been on your trail ever since the inquest. Now we have found you, what have you got to say for yourself? What do you know in reference to the disappearance of John Dashwood?"

The manufacturer's countenance was gray with terror when Nick began his speech, but at the close this expression had gone. He sighed, as if with relief, as the last word was spoken.

"I have laid myself open to suspicion," he said, as his wits began to return, "but the time for concealment has passed. I am now ready to tell the truth, and the whole truth, and"—his tone now became tinctured with acrimony—"when I shall have done so, I hope for some consideration at your hands."

"You shall receive what you are entitled to," returned Nick coldly. "I am not your enemy. I represent society, and I am the friend of John Dashwood."


Leonard's face brightened, in spite of the detective's words and tone. "Before I begin," he said, "I wish to ask one question. Did you, or the chief of police, or any of his officers, search my house the other day?"


"And found——"

"Found your correspondence with Madame Ree, five thousand dollars in notes, a portion of the money Filbon stole and which John Dashwood took away that night, and muddy trousers and a rust-stained handkerchief."

Leonard exhibited no surprise.

"I thought so," he said. "Then the whole story must be told."

"Yes," repeated Nick Carter, "the whole story must be told."

The manufacturer resumed his seat on the bed. Nick and Chick found chairs. Nick sat near the door, with his back to it. Chick sat on the other side of Leonard, and near the window.

"Well," began the manufacturer, "the whole trouble took a start when this woman, who called herself Cora Reesey, and my daughter, wrote her first letter from San Francisco. I was not afraid of the embezzlement matter, for I have paid up every cent I appropriated. I was young and reckless in my California days, but I repented when I grew older. But I did fear an arrest for bigamy, though God knows I thought I was a widower when I married my second wife here in St. Louis."


"And you were a widower," said Nick quietly. "I know it. Cora Reesey deceived you."

Gabriel Leonard's expression of astonishment at this statement was speedily succeeded by one of anguish. He licked his lips, and looked toward the wall with eyes contracted in pain.

"Deceived me, did she?" he muttered brokenly. "What a fool, what a fool I have been!"

Nick Carter's cool gaze recalled Leonard to the work of explanation which he had undertaken to do.

"Where was I? Oh, yes, I remember."

He spoke with his eyes on the floor. The slight buoyancy with which he had begun his story was gone. His words now came slowly and gravely.

"I wrote to the woman that it might be well for her to come to St. Louis. She acted upon the suggestion and came. At our first interview she demanded fifteen thousand dollars as the price of her silence. I did not have the money. My affairs, within one week, had become badly involved. Some speculative ventures had proved utter failures. But all attempts to induce the woman to wait were unavailing. She did not believe me when I told her that I was on the brink of ruin, and she threatened that if I did not have the money on a certain night, to go the next day to a newspaper office, tell her story, and produce her vouchers. The night set for the payment of the fifteen thousand dollars was the night of the disappearance of John Dashwood."

Leonard ceased speaking, went to the water-cooler in[89] a corner, drew a glass of water, drank it, and then returned to the bed.

"I went up-town that night," he continued, "without any definite thought of what I should do. In front of the office the thought struck me that perhaps there might be sufficient money in the safe—receipts after banking-hours—to stop the woman's mouth for a few days. I had promised to meet her at midnight at her rooms in an apartment-house on Manchester Avenue. She had said that she would give me all day for the work of digging up the money, and the day would end at twelve o'clock. I went to the office, and, after opening the door and striking a light, saw by the open desk and the open books that some one, probably Filbon, had been there that evening.

"Upon one of the books lay a folded note addressed to me. It was from John Dashwood, and it informed me that I had been robbed and that Dashwood, having recovered the stolen money, twenty thousand dollars, had placed it in his pocket for safe-keeping. Imagine my feelings, if you can. Twenty thousand dollars! I did not think of my creditors then, but of Cora Reesey. Here was money with which I could pay her, silence her mouth forever. I must find Dashwood. He had gone to seek Filbon, who would probably be found at home. Hurriedly I left the office, found a car and got to Filbon's house, to discover that the lights were out. I went around the house softly, listened carefully at[90] doors and windows, but could hear nothing. I might have aroused Mrs. Filbon, but I did not think it would be of any use. Besides, I did not wish to disturb her, unless it should be absolutely necessary to do so.

"Why I walked toward the water instead of toward Broadway and the car-line I do not know. A hard fate controlled my movements"—he sighed heavily—"and I went to meet—trouble. On reaching the wharf I saw, at the water end, a man and a woman. Their backs were toward me and they were talking, the woman angrily, the man calmly, but firmly. The woman was Cora Reesey. The man John Dashwood. 'I tell you, Gabriel Leonard will approve,' I heard her say. 'He is a bigamist, and he promised to pay me the money to-night. You will be doing him a favor by handing it over to me.'

"'Before I do anything of the kind I must have an authorization,' Dashwood said, 'and so you will have to wait until to-morrow. I don't know what Mr. Leonard will do then, but I know what I would do if I were in his place. I would put you in jail for blackmail. I would defy you to do your worst.'

"'You would, would you?' she hissed, and then I saw her arm shoot out. There was a knife in her hand, and she struck to kill, but, owing to Dashwood's quick movement aside, only cut the flesh on his arm. But the force of the rush sent her forward past him, and her dress caught on a projecting broken piece of hoop on a[91] barrel, and she stumbled and fell, bringing the barrel with her.

"I was hurrying forward," Leonard went on, his voice now showing some animation, "when I saw her arise with some heavy substance in her hand. It was a section of old iron pipe, which was within sight and reach when she fell. Before I could get to her she struck John Dashwood, who was looking not at her but at me at the time, a powerful blow on the head. I got to the scene to find Dashwood lying senseless on the planking, and Cora Reesey busily engaged in searching his pockets for the bank-notes.

"At my approach she lifted her head. The notes were in her hand.

"'So it is you,' she said coolly. 'Very well, then, for I here make acknowledgment that I have received the money agreed upon as my price for keeping silent regarding certain events in your past life.'

"Without answering her, I bent over Dashwood and placed my ear against his heart. It was beating faintly. He might live. But I did not voice my hope to her. Instead, I said: 'You have killed him.' 'I don't care,' was her cold, heartless reply. 'And I am safe,' she added quickly, 'for you will not betray me. You dare not open your mouth against me, for if you do I will tell my story and denounce you as the murderer.'

"Again imagine my feelings. I could not do as I wished, for I was in this terrible woman's power. I said: 'Have no fear. I shall keep my lips closed.' 'Good,' was[92] her response; 'and for your discretion I will give you five thousand dollars. Fifteen thousand will suffice for me.' She counted out the money and handed it to me. I took the notes and put them in my pocket. Next she gave me the documents which she had obtained in California. These I examined by the aid of matches, and, finding them to be as represented, I tore them up and threw the pieces in the river. When the woman had gone, my first impulse was to hunt up a policeman, have the nearest station notified, and John Dashwood removed to the receiving hospital. But as I stood on the wharf my eyes fell on Luke Filbon's boat. I wished to escape, if possible, the notoriety with which I must be invested if the assault became public property; of the danger to which I might be subjected if John Dashwood died. The sight of the boat suggested a way to avoid publicity. I could take Dashwood down the river to my friend Doctor Holcomb's sanatorium. There he would be properly treated, and, while under treatment, I would be given time for arranging my affairs, preparatory to leaving St. Louis."

"And Dashwood?" asked Nick, as Leonard paused for a moment. "Is the danger-point passed?"

"Yes. The operation which restored his reason was performed this afternoon. He will live, he will have his mind. If you wish to see him, come with me."

Leonard arose. Nick removed his facial disguise, unlocked the door, and the three men passed out. They[93] entered Room M, to find Doctor Holcomb in the act of cleaning his instruments.

The room was large, and beyond the bed was a large operating-table. Upon it, his head propped by pillows, haggard and thin, but with the light of reason in his eyes, lay John Dashwood.



"Hello, Nick," was Dashwood's cheerful greeting, as his eyes fell on the face of his friend, the great detective. "I'm glad to see you, awfully glad, for I reckon I've been through the valley of the shadow."

Nick took Dashwood's hand and pressed it gently. But their conversation was short, as excitement at that time was to be avoided.

"He will be as good as new in a few weeks," said Doctor Holcomb, when Nick, Chick, and Leonard were outside the door, and after the reason of Nick's appearance in disguise had in a measure been explained. "He came here with a fractured skull, and to-day, the conditions being favorable, I removed a piece of bone which was pressing on the brain, and which would, if permitted to remain, have affected his memory."

Doctor Holcomb returned to his patient, and Leonard, followed by the two detectives, went back to his room. The door was again closed and locked.

"You brought Dashwood here, Mr. Leonard," said Nick, when they were all seated, "and turned him over to Doctor Holcomb. What sort of story did you tell the doctor?"

"I said that Dashwood was the victim of a murderous assault, that I was present and tried to prevent it, and[95] that, for good family reasons, I did not want the facts to get to the public. The doctor knows me of old, and he asked no embarrassing questions."

"Now, as to your after-actions, some of which were peculiar. I desire a full explanation."

"They can easily be explained. I went home, the doctor's carriage taking me to within a few blocks of my house. I was utterly exhausted, but I could neither sleep nor think coherently. My main anxiety was my daughter. It was essential that she should be at home. I arose early, with my mind on no other subject, swallowed a hasty breakfast, and hurried up-town to a telegraph office. After I had sent the telegram, I went to the office in the factory building to try to compose my thoughts, to figure out what I ought to do. I soon convinced myself that the occurrences on the wharf were unknown to the police, but I was worried somewhat when, on looking over the morning papers, I learned of the suicide of Luke Filbon. His body had been found on the wharf an hour or more after the time of the assault on Dashwood. Had he witnessed it? Had he left behind any statement?

"I was considering this matter when you, Mr. Carter, came in. I did not tell you the truth. I could not, and now you know why I could not. After you had gone, I studied over what you had said, and the fear that you were working on the Dashwood case was allied with another fear that you suspected me, and that your suspicions might induce you to make a visit to my house,[96] for the purpose of investigation. When I returned home the night before, I placed the five thousand dollars in notes in a drawer which I always kept locked. In the morning I changed my clothes. On leaving the house to send the telegram I gave no thought to the notes, the other articles in the drawer, or anything else, for at that time I believed I was safe from suspicion of any knowledge of what had happened on the wharf.

"Now, hours afterward, in my office, the fact was borne home to me that, if you did search my rooms, you would have cause for the gravest suspicion, for the muddy trousers and the handkerchief which was stained with rust from wiping my hands upon it after I had picked up and thrown into the river the section of pipe used as a weapon by Cora Reesey, would speak against me. And there were the notes and the correspondence. I thought of all these matters, and realized what a fool I had been in leaving the suspicious evidences behind.

"But I dared not go home, and I dared not attempt to leave town before the inquest, for I might be already under surveillance, and attempted flight would be looked upon as an admission of guilt. In an agony of mind impossible to describe, I stayed in town until after I had given in my testimony before the coroner. Then, in desperation, I resolved to flee. I must take chances of arrest. But I was not molested. I went to a remote section of the city, telephoned to Doctor Holcomb to call for me at a certain house next day—that was yesterday—and then resigned myself to circumstances. The[97] doctor came, and I explained my situation by saying that my business affairs were badly tangled, and that, for the benefit of all concerned, it was necessary for a few days that I should keep away from my creditors."

"Why did you write a note to me signed 'C. R.'?" asked Nick.

"Because I wanted to stave off a discovery of John Dashwood's retreat until the operation should have been performed."

"Have you allowed your daughter all these days to remain in ignorance of her husband's whereabouts and condition?"

"I have relieved her mind," said Leonard impatiently and nervously. "I met her train at Madison, while she was on her way from Chicago to St. Louis, and I there informed her that John was all right and would show up in a few days. Since then I have written to her, my words carrying the same assurance. She believes in me, Mr. Carter"—the look which he bestowed on Nick was pathetic—"and, if I have deceived her, it has been for her own good. To-day she shall know the truth, and to-morrow will find her at her husband's bedside."

"And you—you are going away, are you? Why, if I may ask?"

Nick's voice was not pleasant. It was sharp, severe.

"Because my business is a failure; because I am sick of St. Louis; because, with the few thousands I have secured, I may make a fresh start in some new section[98] of the country; because I dislike notoriety, and Dashwood's story will——"

"Will bring you into the lime-light, eh?"

"Yes, that's it."

Nick looked hard at Leonard.

"You are a queer man, Mr. Leonard," he said. "Shrewd in some respects, utterly lacking in shrewdness in others. Let me see, have you explained everything? There is the matter of Luke Filbon's boat. What did you do with it? Turn it adrift, or scuttle it?"

"I—I scuttled it," replied Leonard, with a start.

"So I reasoned. And why did you scuttle it?"

"Because I feared that it might show blood-stains from John Dashwood's wound. The scuttling was a necessary precaution in the justifiable game I was playing."

"Now, let me see if I understand the case," said Nick judicially. "Everything you have done has been mainly in the interest of Mrs. Dashwood, your daughter. Incidentally, you have remembered yourself, and you have taken some interest—a commendable interest, I will admit—in Dashwood. You shun notoriety, you want to preserve your good name, to let the dead past bury its dead; and, if in carrying out the plan you have mapped out, your creditors suffer, what of that? It is better so; better for the officers of the law, who will be spared work and bother; better for Gabriel Leonard, who, amid new scenes, with at least five thousand dollars in his pocket, may begin life over again."


"I do not intend to cheat my creditors," said Leonard, in uneasiness, touched with anger. "I intend to pay them to the last dollar. If I compel them to wait, they shall have full interest."

"Yes, I suppose so," remarked Nick quietly. "A very fine program; but I am compelled to inform you, Mr. Leonard, that you will not be able to carry it out."

"Not carry it out?" a new fear stealing into his face. "And why not?"

Nick Carter arose to his feet. "Because," he replied, in a voice that cut Leonard like a whip, "because your little game will not work. You have told a story which in many particulars is true. But a part of it is false, and there are some things which you have not touched upon. You have not prepared to leave St. Louis because your business affairs are in bad shape. You have not concealed John Dashwood solely for the purpose of staving off a little notoriety, which a yarn such as you have told to me would have rendered harmless. Your alarm over the discoveries made in your room was not occasioned by the probability that you would be suspected of the murder of John Dashwood, for, if arrested for that crime, you could have produced the body of the living man, and so confounded the officers. What were your reasons, then, for acting as you have done? I will tell you.

"You were afraid of something that now causes the blood to leave your cheeks, your lips to tremble, and your guilty heart to beat like a trip-hammer. You were[100] afraid to remain longer in St. Louis lest the river should speak; should give up its dead and brand you liar and murderer. Know now that the river has spoken—it spoke this morning before I came here. Know that the body of your victim has been found. Gabriel Leonard, I arrest you for the murder of Lucia Massona, alias Cora Reesey, alias Madame Ree."



Gabriel Leonard, his guilt proclaimed, uttered a cry of despair, and, burying his face in his hands, sobbed like a child. There was pity in the expression with which Nick Carter regarded the detected murderer. That the crime had extenuating features he was positive.

Leonard finally attained a fair degree of composure. He raised his head and looked at the great detective with what was intended for a smile, but which was a ghastly failure.

"You are a smart one," he said, with a little catch in his throat, "and I suppose, from a moral standpoint, you are to be congratulated upon what you have accomplished. But you would have better kept out of this case, for, though I killed that miserable wretch of a woman, she deserved death, and I was sorely tempted."

"How did it happen?" asked Nick.

"I might refuse to answer, now that I am under arrest," replied Leonard, "but I shall have but one story to tell if ever I am brought before the court for trial, and I am willing to tell it first to you. The woman struck John Dashwood, as I have previously stated. In fact, everything I told you up to the moment I arrived on the wharf to find her bending over Dashwood's pros[102]trate form is true. The story I told of the after-happenings on that wharf is not true.

"This is the truth: The woman gave me five thousand dollars, and the incriminating documents, and then taunted me with being a fool. She boldly declared that she was not my daughter—my supposed relationship had much to do with my acquiescence in her suggestions—and that she had played a fine trick on me. She said I was the easiest mark she had ever played with. She advised me to jump in the river and give the fishes a chance. We stood face to face. I had in my hand at the time the section of iron pipe with which she had cracked the skull of John Dashwood. I had picked it up for the purpose of throwing it into the river.

"Angered beyond endurance at her words and her expression, I struck her down. The blow killed her. When I realized what I had done, I threw the dead body into the river. I should have secured the fifteen thousand dollars in notes which she had thrust into her bosom, but I did not do so. I never thought of the money. My only thought was to remove the evidence of my crime. Then, when the waters of the Mississippi had closed over the body, I returned to John Dashwood. My movements from that time are known to you. Yes, I am a murderer, my daughter is disgraced, and I shall be hanged."

His forced composure vanished now. Giving way to his feelings, he shook like a reed. Suddenly his form[103] stiffened, he gave a gasping cry, and fell backward on the bed.

"Run for the doctor," said Nick quickly to Chick. "I will do what I can while you are gone."

Nick loosened Leonard's collar, and then procured a basin of water and bathed the stricken man's face. He was thus engaged when Doctor Holcomb arrived.

One look at Leonard, and he shook his head.

"Too late," was his comment. "He has been a sufferer from heart-disease for years. I have repeatedly warned him to avoid excitement. To-day's occurrences have brought on a fatal attack."

The doctor's words proved true. Leonard never recovered consciousness, and in half an hour he was dead.

For the purpose of carrying out a plan having for its object the happiness of Leonard's daughter, the wife of John Dashwood, Nick Carter took Doctor Holcomb into his confidence. To the proprietor of the sanatorium he told the whole story of the dead manufacturer's crime, and the circumstances connected therewith.

"Now, doctor," said the detective, "you have been Leonard's friend, and you will agree with me, I know, that no good can result from a publication in the newspapers of the fact that he committed murder. The woman is dead. Leonard is dead. Society has received its meed of protection. The living must be considered. It would break Letty Dashwood's heart if she were to learn what you and I know. Dashwood himself must be kept in ignorance of his father-in-law's crime. Let[104] John and his good wife live on in the belief that Leonard was what the moneyed world will believe him to have been, a man unfortunate in business, but not dishonest, not a criminal."

"You are right, Mr. Carter," said Doctor Holcomb. "The truth must be suppressed as a matter of charity. You may depend on me. But—can you stop the gossip that may come from an investigation of the woman's death?"

"I hope to be able to do so. The body was found a few miles below the city in a state that will likely prevent discovery of identity. The face was denuded of its flesh, and nearly all the clothing had been torn from the body. I was at the morgue when the body was brought in—I had been expecting that the find would be made—and, but for certain distinguishing marks which I was careful to notice when I met the woman in San Francisco, I should not have known whose body it was. She was almost a stranger in St. Louis, and I do not think there will be any identification."

As he spoke, Nick thought of Carroll Slack, but not with uneasiness, for on his way to the morgue that morning he had met Slack, who, with suit-case in hand, was hurrying to the railway-depot to take the train for San Francisco.

As for the chief of police, there was no fear that he would attempt to spoil the program. He might suspect the truth, but without evidence, without witnesses, he could do nothing.


Events turned out as Nick wished. The body of the woman found in the river was not identified, and the coroner's jury returned a verdict of death at the hands of some person or persons unknown.

There was a happy meeting at Doctor Holcomb's sanatorium the day following the death of Gabriel Leonard. But the delight on the part of Mrs. Dashwood was soon mingled with sorrow, for, though she had found her husband, just saved from the jaws of death, she had lost her father, whose tender solicitude for her welfare had been one of the joys of her life.

To Nick Carter John Dashwood explained his presence on the wharf that fatal night.

"Filbon's absence from home," he said, "alarmed me. Of course, there was the possibility that he had fled the city, fearing that Mr. Leonard, upon discovering the robbery, would have him arrested and punished. But there was, also, the possibility that Filbon, weak-natured as he was, had committed suicide. After a talk with his mother, in which I made light of my call, saying it was on a matter of business requiring attention early next morning, and of which I had forgotten to speak when I parted with Filbon, I went to the wharf, fearing that he had thrown himself into the river, yet hoping I should find him somewhere in the vicinity, his rash design not yet accomplished. I did not find him, but I met Madame Ree."

A few days after this conversation Nick and Chick left St. Louis for New York.


In his comfortable den the great detective went over the case for the benefit of Patsy and Ten-Ichi. They were intensely interested in the recital of events, dating from the night of the disappearance of John Dashwood.

"When did you spot the truth?" asked Patsy.

"When I found Cora Reesey's brooch on the wharf, I began to have a dim idea of what had happened. But I did not unbosom myself to the chief of police, for the reason that I hadn't a particle of evidence to support the theory that the woman had been murdered and not the man. Thereafter, however, I worked with that theory in mind. It seemed plausible. In fact, it was the only theory which could explain many circumstances. The disappearance of Filbon's boat was evidence to my mind that a living body had been taken away, and not a dead one. There would be no need to row away with a dead body; the deep, slowly moving Mississippi could take care of that. Then, as I thought of the possibility of somebody—Leonard, probably—taking away a wounded man in a boat, my mind reverted to the assurance Leonard had given his daughter that Dashwood would soon turn up all right. If he had killed Dashwood, or knew that Dashwood had been killed by somebody else, he would not have acted as he did.

"The finding of the rusty iron pipe settled the matter for me. Upon that pipe, adhering to the partly detached flakes or wafers of rust, were human hairs of the color and fineness of the hairs on the head of John Dashwood. But they were also of the color and fineness of the hairs[107] on the head of Cora Reesey. I might have been confused over the hairs had I not noticed one very long one, much longer than any that was ever upon the head of Dashwood. It was a woman's hair, and it was stuck to the rust with coagulated blood.

"Now, convinced that Leonard had killed the woman, and had carried away Dashwood, who had been wounded by the woman—and I readily conjectured in what manner and under what circumstances the wound had been received—I instituted the search for Leonard, which resulted in the discovery at the sanatorium. I might not have succeeded but for Chick's assistance. Chick is a good one. He never missed a trick."

Chick, who had been in a brown study, looked up, a question in his eyes.

"Nick," said he, "we cleaned pretty well in St. Louis, but we left a mystery behind, all the same."

"It is a matter of money, isn't it?" queried Nick, with a look of understanding.

"Sure. Gabe Leonard saw Cora Reesey put fifteen thousand dollars in bank-notes in her bosom that night on the wharf. Now, when her dead body reached the morgue the money was gone. The coroner, having no idea of the identity of the corpse, and knowing nothing of any relations of a business nature or otherwise between a certain Madame Ree, a palmist, and Gabriel Leonard, manufacturer, did not look for missing money when he searched what was left of the woman's cloth[108]ing. He found nothing of value. Even the rings on her fingers were gone."

"Yes, I know that."

"Well, what do you think? Did the fishes and the crabs eat the rings and the notes, or——"

"Or was the body robbed before it reached the morgue? It was robbed, beyond the shadow of a doubt."

"Then the Leonard-Dashwood-Reesey case cannot be considered closed until the mystery of that robbery shall have been solved. I have an idea that some day you will bump up against the robber."

Nick laughed. "All sorts of things happen in this curious world," he said.



"No," continued Nick, "I am ready to take a short rest. The Leonard-Dashwood case is ended. The missing bank-notes are a small matter. Some common thief, a river roustabout, may have robbed the body."

"I don't think so. I have no reason for my belief, so I must have an occult hunch, for I am eaten up with the idea that you are going to hear something regarding those notes before you are many months older."

The telephone rang before Nick could reply to Chick's last remark. The great detective placed the receiver at his ear.

"That you, Nick?"

"Yes, inspector."

"You're wanted in Washington. Come down to the office at once, if you can, and I'll explain."

"All right, inspector. I'll be with you inside of half an hour."

Nick was as good as his word, and, after the usual friendly greetings, the inspector began:

"Jackson Feversham, of Washington, is an old friend of mine, and naturally he first puts himself in communication with me, although he wants you. He wasn't certain that you were in the city, though he might have easily ascertained whether or not you were by wiring[110] your residence. If you were not in town, Chick, Patsy, or Ten-Ichi would have answered. But I see you are impatient. You want me to come to the point. Here it is: A murder, which is shrouded in mystery, has been committed in the national capital; the detectives there are at sea, and the call is for Nick Carter, the man of no failures."

"The Playfair case, isn't it?"

"Yes, I suppose you read the newspaper account this morning. Then you know as much about the affair as I do."

"Let me see if I can recite the facts as given in the press despatch," said Nick. "James Playfair, a retired merchant, widower, and childless, was found dead last night beyond the Mt. Vernon Ferry, at the foot of Seventh Street. He had been out for a moonlight excursion down the river, but instead of returning to his home on Maryland Avenue, nearly a mile beyond the capitol, he saw all his fellow excursionists depart and then walked down by the river shore. The body was found near one of the old, disused wharfs, now nothing but rows of unsightly piles. The only evidence of violence were finger-marks about the throat. The police theory is that he was choked to death. Motive, robbery; for everything of value—purse, pocketbook, watch, and rings, etc.—was stolen. No one was seen in his company after he left the Mt. Vernon wharf. He had no known enemies, and he had lived an upright life."

"You have stated the case correctly, Nick," said the[111] inspector. "Of course, there may be facts, clues, suspicions, which the reporters were unable to cover."

"I understand. Detectives are not in the habit of exposing their hands at the beginning of an investigation. There is a time for broad publicity as there is also a time for secrecy. What did your friend Feversham say in addition to what you have told me?"

"Nothing. He wants you, and that means that the mystery is a deep one. Playfair was Feversham's close friend. They were like brothers, and Feversham will spend a fortune, if necessary, to bring the murderer to justice. Can you start to-night?"

"Yes, and Chick and Patsy will go with me."

The next day Nick Carter and his two assistants were in Washington. Apprised of their coming, Jackson Feversham was at the B. & O. depot to meet them. Nick took to the man at once. He was past middle age, small, wiry, alert, with good humor and keen intelligence written on a thin, smoothly shaven face and sparkling from bright, black eyes. There was a striking resemblance in face, figure, and expression to the late Lawrence Barrett, the popular tragedian and man of letters.

Private quarters on E Street—the great detective was disposed to shun the publicity of the hotels—were secured, and late in the afternoon, when the conversation could be carried on with ease and freedom, Feversham told his story.

"The newspapers have given nearly all the facts that are in possession of the officers. I will now disclose to[112] you what has not been published and also give you my own ideas concerning the murder: James Playfair had an appointment with me for eleven o'clock that fatal night. We were to make the final arrangements for a fishing-trip to the Chesapeake. The excursion boat was scheduled to return at ten o'clock, for the river ride was to be a short one, having been gotten up for the benefit of some foreign visitors. I saw him off on the boat, and his last words were: 'I am going on this excursion as a matter of duty'—he was a member of the committee which had arranged the affair—'and when I return I shall hurry to your rooms.' These words, when taken in connection with my intimate knowledge of his private affairs, carry with them the conviction that he left the boat to keep an appointment."

"Then that appointment must have been made after you parted with him and before the boat left the wharf," said Nick.

"I think so, otherwise his parting words to me would have been different. He went off alone. Several persons saw him leave the wharf to go down toward the river shore. The person with whom he had the appointment, therefore, must have had powerful reasons of his own for not accompanying him. The matter is very suspicious, very mysterious, as you must perceive."

Nick nodded his head. Then he said: "Was Playfair a man of slight, or powerful physique? In other words, would he have been able to have held his own with a man of ordinary strength?"


"Yes. He was of abstemious habits, remarkably well preserved, and hardy of constitution, and, in his prime, one of the best all-around athletes in the city."

"Then the man who murdered him must have been of more than ordinary muscular power. That is, if Playfair were strangled."

"How could he have met his death otherwise?" replied Feversham, regarding the detective in surprise. "The finger-marks on the throat determine the manner of death. The inquest is set for this evening. If there is other evidence you will learn it then."

"Have you anything more to tell, Mr. Feversham? I have been informed that Playfair had no enemies and that he led a very quiet life."

"That is true, Mr. Carter."

"Do you think he had anything on his mind lately?"

"No. He was as cheerful as usual when I last saw him alive. If he had been oppressed by any worry I should have known it."

"How long had he been a widower?"

"Ten years."

"No children, I believe?"

"No children of his own. His wife had a son by a former husband."

Nick pricked up his ears. "Where is that son?" he asked quietly.

"I do not know. He was a wild sort of a chap and left home before his mother's death. I know that he was a source of great annoyance to Playfair, who spent[114] many thousands of dollars in paying Arthur's gambling debts."

"Did Playfair ever mention his stepson's name?"

"It never passed his lips. For twelve years—ever since the young man left home—he was as dead to his stepfather."

"What is the fellow's full name?"

"Arthur Mannion; and if he is alive he should be about thirty years of age."

As Nick had no more questions to ask, Jackson Feversham went on: "Playfair was always considered an easy mark for both the society and the professional beggar. He had a soft heart and could rarely resist an appeal for money, no matter whether it came from a charity committee from his own walk in life or from the dirtiest, most whisky-sodden hobo that ever perambulated the streets. Therefore, my opinion is that some crime-hardened grafter accosted him just as the boat was about to leave. The fellow, of course, must have been well dressed, of fair intelligence, and prepossessing appearance, who, after handing out the opening chapter of hard luck and woe, proposed the appointment by the river shore for the conclusion of the tale. Murder must have been intended in the first place, and murder was done."

"Have any of the residents of the locality been interviewed?"

"I believe so."

"And no one was seen about the shore that night?"


"No. Even Playfair, as I have said, was not seen after he left the wharf."

"This shows that the people thereabouts were not out of doors that night. But, perhaps, the ground was not thoroughly gone over. Chick, suppose you go down there at once and interview everybody—white, black, child, and adult."

"All right, Nick," and Chick was off.

"And now," said Nick, "for the beginning of the work. I shall require a list of the property stolen from the body. Have the officers been furnished with this?"


"Then my first visit must be to headquarters. While I am away, Patsy, you will mingle with the people and pick up crumbs, if there are any."

The secret service men, as well as the local police, of the capital had taken hold of the case, and from the superintendent Nick obtained a list of the valuables stolen, as far as the same could be ascertained. He was also put into possession of an item which imbued with new and strange interest the remarks made by Chick at the opening of this chapter.

"About a hundred yards from the spot where the body was found," said the superintendent, "a crumpled one-hundred-dollar bank-note was picked up. It may have been the property of the dead man, or it may have belonged to the murderer, who dropped it while replenishing his pocketbook after the robbery."

Nick looked at the note. It was upon a Chicago bank,[116] and the number corresponded with a number on a list of bank-notes which he had carried away from St. Louis. Every number on the list was burned into his memory, for they were the notes stolen from the body of Cora Reesey.

It was plain, therefore, that if this bank-note which the detective held in his hand was not filched from the pocket of James Playfair, but had been stowed away in the pocket of the murderer, then the murderer was the St. Louis robber.

And who was he?

Nick had the glimmer of an idea, but that was all.



Having possessed himself of all the facts the local detectives were able to give, Nick Carter had dinner and then went to his rooms to await reports from Chick and Patsy.

Chick was the first to present himself.

"I suppose you have heard about the finding of the bank-note?" began Chick. "Well, there is this in addition: I found a negro—a wharf porter—who says that on the afternoon preceding the murder he had that note in his hands."

"Who gave it to him?"

"A dark-faced man of about thirty. The man wanted the negro to go into a grocery near the wharf and get the note changed. In explanation he said he owed the grocer a bill and wasn't ready to pay it. Otherwise he would go himself. The negro went to the store, but the grocer was short of small bills and so the note did not change hands."

"How does the negro know it is the same note?"

"By the number. He was afraid it was counterfeit and scrutinized it carefully."

"Had the negro ever seen the dark-faced man before?"

"No. He was a stranger."


"How was he dressed?"

"In a business suit of speckled brown. Derby hat. He wore a black mustache and had a diamond in his shirt-front. That's all the description the negro could give."

"Did you make any other discoveries?"

"Yes, one more, and an important one, Nick. There's a man on L Street, near the river, who knows something. The negro saw him talking with the dark-faced fellow some fifteen minutes before the note-changing proposition was broached. The negro has just returned from a day's absence from town, and that's why his story has not yet reached the ears of the Washington sleuths."

"What is the name of the man who lives on L Street?"

"Prosper Craven. He is a man of family: used to keep the grocery and has some money, though he is far from rich."

"What is his reputation? Did you learn?"

"His reputation is good. But he is a silent, reserved man and does not mingle much among his neighbors."

"I must see him at once. Meanwhile, wire Chief Wittman at San Francisco, asking him if he knows anything of one Arthur Mannion, giving description."

"What's your idea?"

"I'll tell you later. It is in the hatching process. It may be a chicken, it may be a duck."

Chick grinned. "I'll wait serenely," he said, "for I know that the result won't show that you are a goose."

Prosper Craven lived in a small brick house near the[119] car-line. He was a sad-faced man of fifty years, with light-blue eyes, which blinked continually, as if the sight were defective. His nose was long and sharp, his mouth wide and his chin narrow and non-aggressive. Nick sized him up when he came to the door as secretive, obstinate, and weak in judgment. Not a man of force. He might err through weakness, but his aspirations were in the line of good. Corner him and it would be hard to tell what he would do.

After stating that he had important business to transact, the detective was invited into the house.

"Mr. Craven," Nick began, "a murder has been committed and every good citizen is expected to furnish information, if he have any, that will assist the officers in the search for the murderer. On the afternoon preceding the death of James Playfair you conversed with a dark-faced young man near this house. What is that young man's name?"

A troubled look came into Craven's face. He tapped the floor nervously with his foot.

"You don't suspect him, do you?" he asked, in affected surprise.

"You have not answered my question," returned Nick sharply. "What is the man's name?"

A pause, and then the answer: "Arthur Mannion."

"I thought so." Craven showed astonishment. His eyes blinked with unusual rapidity. "Now," continued Nick, in a tone which made the ex-grocer shiver, "what[120] do you know of Mannion? What was your business with him?"

Craven's sallow face flushed. "I shall have to consult my attorney before answering your questions," he said, slowly and painfully. "I shall be guided entirely by his advice. He may advise me not to tell you anything."

"Not if what you know has any bearing on the murder?"

Craven did not reply. His expression was enigmatical.

"Don't you know." said Nick, "that Mannion is the stepson of James Playfair?"

"I know that, certainly; but that fact has no bearing on the matter about which you have interrogated me."

Nick Carter vented his dissatisfaction at the man's words and attitude by these strongly spoken remarks: "See here, Mr. Craven, you are acting very queerly. You are concealing something at a time when it is necessary, for the proper solution of this mysterious murder, that every act and circumstance that may have the slightest bearing upon the matter, as connected either with the words or movements of any suspected party, or those of other parties having relation, remote or otherwise, with Playfair's affairs, should be made known. You are a stranger to me, and yet, from your countenance, I think I have derived a sufficient knowledge of your character to say that I do not believe your concealment of any facts which you may have discovered arises from an unworthy motive. On the contrary, I am satisfied that[121] you are acting from what you consider the best of motives. But this is a case in which personal feelings, a regard for the feelings of others"—with a keen glance at Craven's face, which flushed slightly under the scrutiny—"should give way before the graver public interest and the stern demands of justice."

"I thank you for your good opinion, sir," returned Craven, with emotion, "but my position is so peculiar, there are so many things to be taken into account, that, at this moment, I cannot see my way clear to a full explanation. My attorney must be the judge as to what I shall say."

"Very well," said Nick coolly. "I can say no more than that in refusing to explain you will be taking a rather risky course."

"I am ready to take the consequences."

Craven's eyes, blinking, strayed from the detective's countenance to the ceiling. His mouth twitched slightly and he crossed and recrossed his legs nervously.

There was a short silence. Nick, not yet prepared to give up the quest for information, finally said:

"Mr. Craven, as a man of the world, as an honest man, as a detective anxious to serve the cause of justice, I believe it will be best, in spite of what you have said, that we come to a thorough understanding. I have the reputation of being a man of honor. In my possession are secrets sufficient, were they once made public property, to upheave society from San Francisco to Skowhegan. A layman, like yourself, is not a proper judge, in[122] my opinion, of what is relevant and what irrelevant in matters pertaining to cases which may be tried in court. And, in any case, I cannot proceed with celerity if I am to be hampered at the outset by what I conceive to be unwise concealment of facts. Justice strongly suggests that you tell me everything. Let me be the judge of what is material and what immaterial to the issues, resting assured all the while that no confidence which does not touch pointedly upon this case shall ever be violated."

"I will think over the matter," said Craven slowly, "and give you my decision later. Will that suffice?"

Nick conned the obstinate face, and then said: "It will have to, I suppose."

When the detective left the house it was with the determination to have Craven's movements watched while his reticence continued.

At the inquest, that evening, the surgeon who conducted the autopsy was first examined. He had found all the organs in a healthy condition, and his opinion was that death had resulted from strangulation.

For reasons which the chief of the secret service men approved, Nick Carter did not give Craven's name to the coroner. The inquest, it was certain, could not, with positiveness, name the murderer, and, therefore, the main purpose of the official proceeding was carried out and in a satisfactory way. The verdict was that a murder had been committed and that death had resulted from strangulation.


One of the employees at the railway-station—Hayman by name—nodded his head as the verdict was read, and these words fell from his lips:

"That's right, and I am onto the man."

"What's that?" The speaker was Nick Carter.

Hayman looked up, recognized the great detective—they were old acquaintances—and at once said: "I've got an idea, that's all."

"Then we will walk to a quiet place and you shall tell me about it," returned Nick firmly; and taking Hayman by the arm he led the man to the sidewalk.

In the second story of a building a few doors below the morgue, Nick found a place suitable for a private conversation. It was one of a suite of rooms occupied by a lawyer of the detective's acquaintance. The lawyer luckily was in the main office at the time, doing night work on an important civil case on trial, and he cheerfully ushered them into the consultation office, where they would be secure from interruption.

After Nick and Hayman had lighted cigars, the railway man spoke:

"I wish now that I had informed the coroner of what I know."

"Why didn't you inform him?"

"Because I was afraid I might suffer Playfair's fate. I have a family. I am anything but rich, and a man has to consider such things, you know."

"Oh! yes," said Nick, with a faint touch of scorn.

"On the night of the murder I was occupied in the rail[124]way office up to half-past eleven in making out my weekly statement. When I had finished I thought I would walk down to the roundhouse and see if everything there was all right, for one of the wipers was sick and the other would not come on duty until midnight. I was close by the door and was about to turn the knob, when I heard the sound of voices. Two men were speaking. One was an American; the other's voice betrayed a slight accent which I could not place.

"'Two hours to wait,' said the American, 'before the train pulls out.'

"There was a short pause, and then the other spoke: 'There's that Craven business. What if the fellow squeals?'

"'He won't dare to,' said the American, 'for he has too much fear of me. Besides, it was he who suggested that I come to Washington and interview the old man.'

"The voices ceased, and, though I waited some five minutes, nothing more was said. Then I stole softly away, and, reentering the office, telephoned the police officials that I had a couple of tramps for the boys. Fifteen minutes later the patrol-wagon arrived with three policemen. I piloted them to the roundhouse, but the two men were gone."

"Did you tell the officers what you had heard while listening at the roundhouse door?"

"No. I should, perhaps, have done so had I not been called to the office by a stranger, who desired to know[125] at what hour in the morning the first passenger-train started."

"Had you ever seen him before?"

"Now that I think of it, his voice was the same as that of the foreigner of the roundhouse. I must be thick-headed, for the fact did not strike me at the time. There is little more to tell. The patrol-wagon went off while I was talking to the stranger, and I thought no more of the matter until next morning, when I heard of the murder. Then I put two and two together and formed a certain conclusion."

"Describe this foreigner!"

"He was tall, dark-featured, and wore a heavy, black beard."

"Have you no idea as to his nationality?"

"I can't be positive on the point, but am inclined to think he is a Russian. He looked like one, all right."

A Russian! Nick recalled his experiences with the Russian thugs of San Francisco, and wondered if by any possibility this man of whom Hayman had spoken could have been one of the number. Dorrant, the leader, was dead, and so were Sergius and Nicholas Wykoff. There remained only Dimitri Goloff, whose connection with the band had been slight, and who had evinced a desire to lead an honest life. Had he suffered a relapse? Hayman's description fitted him as far as externals went. But did he not possess some peculiarly distinguishing characteristic? Yes, he did—in his voice. "Hayman,"[126] said Nick quickly, "what kind of a voice did this foreigner have? Was it light, or heavy; harsh, or clear?"

"It was heavy and harsh, like a fog-horn."

Goloff it was, then. Nick felt his pulse quicken. How lucky it was that he had overheard Hayman's remark at the inquisitorial hearing! "Yes," he said, in answer to the question that looked out of the railway man's eyes, "I know the man, and now if only you could give me a description of the other man it would make my work much easier. But, of course, you can't, so I will have to go ahead on the presumption that he is the man I most desire to meet."

Hayman smiled reassuringly. "I think I can help you out, Nick. True, I did not see the cuss, but another man did."

Nick's face brightened instantly.

"The next morning," said the railway man, "I asked Harrington, the wiper, who had laid off the fore part of the night, on account of not feeling well, if he had seen, before he went home, any persons hanging about the shops of the yard.

"'Yes, sir,' said he, 'I saw two men in front of the roundhouse when I came out at eleven o'clock.' Asked to describe them, he said that both were tall. One looked like a foreigner. The other, though dark-faced, was an American. He wore a black mustache, and his hat was a derby."

Nick expressed his satisfaction. "That settles it," he said. "Hayman, I am greatly obliged to you."


The great detective did not seek his bed that night until after he had had a watch placed on Craven's house and had enlisted the services of the Washington detectives in the search for Arthur Mannion.

It was Nick's opinion that Mannion had not left the city. The story told by Hayman furnished evidence that the graceless stepson of James Playfair had a confederate, and it would probably turn out that the two had murderously assaulted the old man. Perhaps one had held Playfair while the other had choked the victim to death.

The next morning brought a new surprise. Nick's first visitor, before the detective had made ready to go out, was Jacob Feversham. He was in a high state of excitement and his opening words were:

"I have made a strange discovery, Mr. Carter."

"Ah! And what is it?"

"James Playfair's house was robbed before the murder. I found this out last night while overhauling the things in his rooms. I am his executor, and I made an early investigation on account of the peculiar manner of his death. A week before he was murdered he had, in a drawer in his desk, over two thousand dollars. The money is gone, the lock of the drawer is broken."

"What makes you think the robbery was committed before the murder?"

"Because Playfair told me two days before his death that he must see a locksmith to have fixed a lock in his[128] desk which had been broken. Every other lock was intact."

"Did he not make any reference to the robbery?"

"No. Nothing more was said, and the impression left on my mind was that he had himself broken the lock."

"Might he not have taken the money out of the drawer before the robber appeared?"

"I don't think so. In fact, I am positive that he did not. I'll tell you something about Playfair, Mr. Carter. He was a very peculiar man. He, of course, kept the larger portion of his cash in bank, but it was his custom to keep constantly on hand in his house two or three thousand dollars. He paid out much money in charity, as I have already told you, and he preferred to hand out the cash to deserving applicants rather than go to the trouble of drawing checks. He never carried much money in his pockets, never more than fifty or sixty dollars. No, he was robbed, and for some reason he desired to screen the robber."

"Do you know of any person, vicious in morals, whom he would have been likely to screen?" asked Nick, with a queer look in his eyes.

"Yes, I do. It's that scoundrel of a stepson, Arthur Mannion."



Nick told Feversham what he had discovered bearing upon the case of Arthur Mannion, from which it became clear to Feversham that Mannion was the murderer. "But though I am convinced," said he, "that the stepson is the guilty man, I am puzzled over the motive. If Mannion robbed the house and secured two thousand dollars, why should he, a few days afterward, kill Playfair to obtain less than a hundred, or, say, two hundred, taking into consideration the watch and rings?"

"It is something of a puzzle," replied the detective, "but it is possible that I may arrive at a solution."

"If any one can do so, you are the man," said Feversham, with conviction. "And can I be of any help to you?"

"You will help me by telling me all that you know about this stepson."

"I know that he is a scamp," was the emphatic response, "and I can't conceive of a reason why Playfair should desire to shield him. Hold on a bit, there is a reason. The mother, Playfair's wife. My dead friend fairly idolized her, and, perhaps, his lenity in the matter of the house-robbery may be accounted for by his regard for the memory of his deceased wife."


"I think your explanation is a good one," said Nick. "In fact, I had thought of it myself."

"If I could only explain the motive of the murder I would be better satisfied, Mr. Carter, but I can't."

"Let me see if I can," rejoined Nick. "Mannion robbed the house, but his plunder did not consist wholly of money. He stole something else, something, I should say, of no value to any one but the original possessor. Do you know whether the robbed drawer was used as a receptacle of anything except money?"

"He kept letters there."

"All his letters?"

"Oh, no, for the drawer would not have held them. There was a package of old letters which he kept there. I saw it often during his lifetime."

"Was the package there when you examined the drawer last night?"

"No. There was nothing whatever in the drawer."

"Then there is a partial explanation of the motive of the murder. Those letters gave Mannion some sort of a hold, not a criminal one," Nick added quickly, as he saw Feversham's brow darken, "but a hold, in the nature of privacy, that was worth money to the robber."

"But why should murder have been done, Mr. Carter? If the hold, as you characterize it, was strong, would not Playfair have recognized and responded to it?"

"If I am not mistaken in my estimate of the man," replied Nick quietly, "I think he would not have responded. He knew Mannion for a double-dyed villain. He had[131] suffered himself to be preyed upon for years. One indignity had been followed by another, until at last, in the theft of the letters, patience had ceased to be a virtue.

"He was willing that Mannion should keep the money he had stolen; he might have schooled himself to stand the loss of the letters without attempting legal reprisal, but the innate integrity of the man precluded any idea of payment for the return of the letters. Mannion, let us suppose, counting upon making a fat thing out of the letters, asked the appointment by the river, upon the representation that he would return them. He knew that he could not induce Playfair to meet him in any other way. Playfair kept the appointment, but, instead of receiving the letters as a free act of restitution, was confronted with the demand for money as a condition of the surrender. Now, knowing James Playfair, as you did, Mr. Feversham, what in your opinion would he have said and done, when the real object of the night appointment was made known to him?"

"He would have given Arthur Mannion a piece of his mind and he would have followed it up by a positive, indignant refusal to pay one cent for the letters."

"Precisely," said Nick, with a smile of approval, "and that, according to my theory, is what Playfair did. What followed? The usual thing, when an honest, virtuously resentful citizen is brought face to face with a discomfited, murderous-minded villain. With bitter, ungovernable rage in his heart, Mannion sprang at Playfair's[132] throat. And he had assistance. Alone he would have had difficulty in overcoming such a man of science and muscle as James Playfair was. The Russian friend of his was close at hand. Attacked suddenly by two powerful men, Playfair was overcome. It may prove to be the fact that no other motive than revenge for Playfair's refusal to be held up influenced the murderer when he made his attack, and it may turn out that the motive was a mixed one, in which revenge cut the smallest figure. The case is just opening, and it is not the time to adopt any hold-fast theory?"

"Never mind the motive, Mr. Carter," said Feversham, almost fiercely. "We feel sure that Arthur Mannion is the assassin. Let us catch him and we can figure on motives afterward."

"Do you think it would be advisable to arrest Mannion now?" There was an odd ring in the detective's voice. Feversham gave him a sharp look, and then impatiently replied:

"Of course, I think it would be good policy. Don't you?"

"No. I would like to locate him, to keep him under surveillance until the time is ripe to strike; but to arrest him now might prove to be a serious mistake. We haven't evidence enough to hold him, and his first act would be to sue out a writ of habeas corpus. If he regained his liberty through the writ, as he probably would, he might do one of two things—defy us, or skip the country."


Feversham's hopes instantly fell to zero. He looked as if he had received a blow in the face.

"Then we have nothing really to go upon," he said, in an acutely disappointed tone.

"Oh, yes, we have," said Nick cheerily. "We have made a fine start, and I hope before many days to have ready a pit for Mr. Mannion to fall into. As the matter now stands, we believe him to be the murderer. It's a sure shot that he is. But what evidence have we for the consideration of a jury? The murder was not witnessed. Mannion would deny it; we can't prove it. The robbery is an important side issue, but what evidence is there to show that Mannion was the robber? There is none at hand. All we have are a few facts which, standing alone, would be of small value, and some circumstances of strong weight in the pursuit of an investigation, of doubtful relevancy in trying a case in court. But patience, Mr. Feversham. We are gaining ground every day."

The dead man's friend exhibited relief, and when he departed there was hope in his heart.

That forenoon Chief Wittman, from San Francisco answered Nick's wire in reference to Mannion in these words: "Mannion discharged San Quentin prison, forgery, four months ago. Was thick with Cora Reesey before woman left for St. Louis."

One statement in the telegram Nick at the time passed over lightly, for its significance then was not apparent. Illumination was to come later, but the association of[134] Mannion with Cora Reesey, the woman murdered in St. Louis, furnished food for thought. The discovery of the bank-note, taken in connection with Mannion's intimacy with the woman who had possession of it, and others, at the time she was killed, was presumptive evidence that he robbed the body. Goloff, the Russian, had been connected with the San Francisco case in which Cora Reesey had figured, and it was probable that Mannion had made the man's acquaintance in San Francisco, as it was also probable that the two men had come East together.

Patsy, who had started out early on a lone stunt, showed a bright, eager face to the great detective shortly before noon.

"It's lucky you fixed me this morning, Mr. Carter," he said, with an expression of profound satisfaction.

Nick smiled inwardly. He knew his skilful young assistant had found something.

"Why, Patsy?"

"Because, with the stuff in my pocket, I was able to make good at a critical time. With the bones you gave me I made change for a big, green fellow. You see, it was this way"—hurrying on before Nick could interrupt—"I was playing bootblack this morning on the sidewalk in front of Lafayette Square, when a nobby sport with a dark face and a black mustache walks out of the White House grounds and crosses over to me. 'Shine?' says I. 'Sure.' he chirps, and I goes ahead and does my work on his patent leathers. When I gets through[135] the top-lofty guinea flips a century rag in my face. Thought he'd faze me, maybe. But he didn't. I fazed him. I changed the bill, though it reduced me to cases."

"Well?" looking, at Patsy quizzically.

"I have the numbers of those Reesey-Leonard notes in my block, Mr. Carter," said Patsy, with an air of triumph, "and this note of mine belonged to that batch."

A variety of emotions were exhibited in Nick Carter's face during the moment that followed the young detective's statement. Joy was succeeded by disappointment, hope took disappointment's place, anxiety at last shadowed all.

"When did you make the discovery?" he asked, concealing his nervousness.

"The minute he plunked down the bill."

"Good, good. And when you had made the change, what did you do?"

Patsy regarded his superior in pained surprise. "Do? Why, what any detective with a spoonful of sense would have done. I shadowed the piker, Mr. Carter."

Nick's strong face became a sunbeam in a moment. "Of course, you did, Patsy. I might have known that without asking. Well, and did you hole him?"

"That's what I did. I know where he bunks, and I know that he has engaged a room for a month—engaged it two days ago."

"Where is the place?"

"L Street, a block beyond Craven's house."


"Nearer the river than Craven's?"


"What is it? A lodging-house?"

"Sure, and you can't miss it, for carpenters are repairing the front, which is all covered with scaffolding."

Chick appeared while this conversation was going on. He had been out on a scout, and he, too, had something of importance to report. "The Russian has not left town," he said. "I've seen him, and it's Goloff, sure. I passed him on the street, and he did not know me from a side of sole leather." As Nick's capable assistant had that morning chosen for his day's disguise the part of a young German, newly arrived, it was not likely that his identity had been suspected.

"There is some deep game on the hooks," was Chick's comment after he had been informed of Patsy's news. "There is something in Washington which is of powerful interest to this pair of knaves. And they are still playing in together, for I didn't let Goloff out of sight until I had seen him enter the house with the scaffolding on L Street. What is the game, I wonder? It must be a golden one, or they wouldn't be taking the risk of an arrest for murder."

"Let us look at matters from what I will assume to be their standpoint," said Nick. "They probably think they are running no risk. They must believe that the murder was not witnessed and that no clue was left behind which would point suspicion in their direction. The bank-note found near the river is a clue, it is true, but[137] Mannion, who lost the note, cannot regard it as such, for he does not know that I have the list of the notes which Cora Reesey possessed. No one knows the fact except you, Chick, Patsy, and the chief of the St. Louis police. And it is safe to assume that he is ignorant of the fact that the negro wharf porter memorized the number, when he was given the note to change, for I cautioned him against repeating his story to any one not an officer. The negro is an old resident, and his reputation is of the best. Therefore, the loss of the bank-note would mean to Mannion nothing more than the loss of an ordinary note."

"How about the railway roundhouse affair?" asked Chick.

"There is no reason to believe that either Mannion or Goloff suspect that their talk was overheard, although they may have feared that their presence there was known. Men are to be judged by their conduct. The after movements of the two criminals show to any reasoning person that they left the roundhouse in as calm a state of mind as when they entered it. So, believing themselves to be, if not absolutely safe from suspicion, yet safe enough to laugh at the idea of arrest, they have elected to remain here to complete the work which brought them from California. I was not surprised to learn from Patsy that Mannion has appeared in public. I would have been surprised had he stayed in hiding, for that act would have raised the presumption that he knew he had not covered all his tracks, and that there was a[138] clue which would prove fatal to his peace, if the detectives should come upon it."

"If he finds out, as he may, that you are on his track, Nick, he will get cold feet in a second."

"Maybe so, Chick," returned the great detective. "And, if so, the frigidity may strike his extremities this afternoon, for I am going to call upon him."

"What! As Nick Carter?"

"Oh, no; as Juba Johnsing, the negro who failed to change the note for him. I can make up so that he will never spot the difference. He saw the wharf porter but for a few moments, as you will remember, and probably paid little or no attention to him. I'll make the ripple Chick, and there's going to be fun."



In the afternoon Nick, disguised as a negro porter, went to L Street. Chick and Palsy had been instructed in the rôles they were to play. The house described by Patsy was found, but the carpenters and painters were not there, although the scaffolding was still in place. As the day was Saturday, Nick found an explanation for the absence of the workmen. According to union rules, every Saturday afternoon is a holiday. The sidewalk had not been cleared and there were boxes, bricks, broken boards, and odds and ends lying about. Just beyond the entrance to the stairway, and near the edge of the sidewalk, was a large hair mattress, the ticking which covered it being torn in many places.

Nick went up the stairs and stopped in front of a small, dingy office, presided over by a slatternly woman of middle age.

"Is Misto Mannion stayin' heah?" he asked, with an engaging smile.

"Room eighteen, this flo'." was the short answer.

"Ah'm gretly ableeged, Mistis. Ah'll fine hit, mahse'f. Don' yo' stir you' bones on mah 'count." As the woman made no effort to move, but simply stared at him, the false negro's courtesy seemed not to have been required.

Before the room, whose windows overlooked the back[140] yard, Nick stopped, for inside a man was singing softly to himself. The voice was a light tenor and was pleasing to the ear.

"The fellow is in happy spirits, apparently," thought the detective. "Hope I won't agitate him too much."

He knocked gently and presently the door opened and a tall, rather handsome young man, with dark face, red, womanish lips, cold blue eyes set close together, and a low forehead confronted him. Women might be deceived in respect to his character. Men of sense would not be likely to trust him. He was dressed in the height of fashion and seemed, entirely at his ease.

His eyes, in cool inquiry, sought the face of the black-faced caller, whose form trembled slightly.

"Well," he said curtly, "what can I do for you?"

"Ise—Ise de pusson yo' talked to tudder day down by de w'arf, sah," said Nick humbly. "Yo' gimme dat bank-bill fo' ter git changed, sah. Don' yo' 'member dat perceedin'?"

"Yes." A change, swift as lightning, swept over Mannion's countenance. He was no longer cool and nonchalant, but keen, alert, on his guard. "What about it?"

"Nuffin', sah, on'y I sho' don' desiah fo' ter git inter no trubble 'bout dat bill."

"Get into trouble? How can you get into any trouble? The bill was all right, and, anyhow, you didn't change it. You gave it back to me."

"Dat's truf, sah, but de coppers done foun' hit an' days er keepin' hit. Dat's wat eatin' mah heart out, sah.[141] Wat do de coppers want wid dat bill? Lucy Miranda—dat's mah ole woman—she say dat de bill is a hoodoo, an' dat I gotter hab dat young man wat gib hit ter me go git it an' take de hoodoo off."

Nick, looking at Mannion closely, thought he observed signs of perturbation.

"Have you spoken to any one about our transaction the other day?"

"No, sah. Ise bin erfraid ter speak, an' Lucy Miranda wouldn' tole de debble ef he was ter come in an' ast her."

Mannion drew a breath of relief. "I'll go down-town and get the bill," he said, "so don't bother your head about it any more. To tell the truth, I hadn't missed it, or I would have tried to find out what had become of it."

"De coppers foun' hit near de spot whar de killin' was done." said Nick, in an awed whisper.

Mannion regarded the false negro sharply, but any suspicion that might have entered his brain was dissipated at sight of the honest, disturbed countenance of the speaker.

Mannion did not say anything for a few moments. Then he asked this question, in what was meant to be a careless manner: "Have you heard any talk about the bill—that is, any talk in connection with the place where it was found?"

"Yes, sah, I hab," replied Nick hesitatingly, as he cast down his eyes and fumbled with his hat. "Ise heard a[142] heap o' talk. Some say dat de man wat drapped dat bill is sho' 'sponsible fo' de murder." Before Mannion could open his mouth Nick went on: "Yo' los' dat bill, sah, an' yo' sho' gotter fine dat killer else de coppers may git after yo', sah."

"Come inside," said Mannion, his face now as pale as death. Nick entered and the door was closed. "Now be seated and tell me every word you have heard. This—this is terrible"—meeting Nick's look of innocent inquiry—"that the man who found that bill, which I carelessly dropped, should be the murderer the officers are looking for."

The great detective had come to Mannion's room in pursuance of a definite plan, which he had not seen fit to divulge to any one. He might have told both Chick and Patsy, for they were to be trusted; but every detective is human, and Nick may be pardoned for desiring to give his assistants a surprise. Ever since he had looked upon the dead face of the murdered man, he had had a card up his sleeve. In examining the neck upon which the marks of cruel fingers were discernible, he had made two important discoveries—first, that the marks on the right side of the neck were heavier than those on the left side; second, that between the first and second marks, the first being that of the thumb, was a space of twice the width of each of the other spaces.

It is the business of a detective who hopes to make a success of his vocation to seize upon what to the layman would appear as the slightest trifles. Nick Carter's[143] eyes, trained to see every point that would aid him in the investigation of a criminal case, had let nothing escape him when he entered the morgue. Now, seated in front of Arthur Mannion, he knew that he was in the presence of the murderer of James Playfair.

The heavy finger-marks on the right side of Playfair's neck showed to the expert that the murderer was not only left-handed, but that the muscular power of the two hands and arms had been reversed from the ordinary. Once, while the talk was going on at the door, Mannion had shown that he was left-handed. Twice since entering the room he had made a similar exhibition. He had raised the window with his left hand, and with his left hand he dragged from a corner a heavy Morris chair.

But the most damning discovery was, that half of the forefinger of the left hand was missing. It was not a deformity, as Nick could plainly see. The finger had been amputated at the middle joint.

"Why don't you speak?" Mannion said irritably, for Nick, lost in his reflections, had not answered promptly the question that had been put to him.

"Oh, yo' wan' me ter say wat de udder pe'ple say. Dat hit, sah?"

"Yes, yes."

"Well, Ise heahed a heap o' gossip, an' all de talk is des one way. De killer had dat hoodoo bill."

"Is any one suspected?"

"Yes, sah—dat man Craven is speculated."


"Craven? Who is he?"

There was apparent unconcern in the way the question was asked. And there was something more. Nick Carter, shrewd student of human nature as he was, knew that he was now treading on dangerous ground. But he cared not. He had made his point, and in a few minutes he would prepare to close in.

"Don' yo' know, sah?" looking at Mannion in a surprised way.

"No, I don't. Never heard of the man before."

"Den it was yo' double, sah, dat was talkin' to him de day ob de killin'."

Arthur Mannion, with a glint in his blue eyes, which spoke of a sudden resolution, arose to his feet and went to the wash-basin. Taking a towel from the rack, he advanced toward the detective, who, divining what was coming, remained seated. One hand was in his coat pocket, the other rested on his knee. The hand had gone into the pocket while Mannion's back was turned.

With the towel concealed behind his back, Mannion came to Nick's side. Suddenly, without a word, the hand with the towel appeared, when, like a flash, out came Nick's hand from his pocket, and the villain, looking down into the muzzle of a revolver, saw sudden death and knew that his purpose was stayed.

Retreating to the middle of the room, he hissed out these words:

"I didn't need the towel to tell me you were a cursed detective in disguise."


"And I didn't need much more evidence to prove that you are the man I want," retorted Nick, in his own character. "So divest yourself of your weapons and hold out those pretty wrists. The handcuffs are ready for them. Come, be quick about it"—the voice was now stern and menacing—"and don't try to come any of your California tricks, for at the first treacherous move I'll make a shambles out of the room."

Mannion gritted his teeth, cast a murderous glance at the triumphant man-hunter, and then, from his hip pocket, produced a silver-mounted revolver.

"It is a pity to give this up," he said surlily, as he fondled it in his hand, without, however, turning the muzzle in Nick's direction.

"Throw it on the bed or——"

The sentence was not finished, for in an access of desperation, and in entire disregard of his personal safety, Mannion, as swift as thought almost, sent the weapon whirling through the air. It struck Nick Carter squarely on the forehead, cutting the flesh, and sent him tumbling out of the chair. The next instant, Mannion brushed past his fallen enemy, opened the door, and rushed to the head of the stairs.

There he hesitated, for the thought struck him at the moment that the great detective he had just left had not, probably, come to the house alone; that there were officers down-stairs, ready to give assistance whenever it should be needed. Therefore, turning from the[146] stair landing, he hurried to a vacant room fronting the street.

The door was open, and he entered the room just as Nick Carter reached the corridor. The blow he had received had been a severe one; but the detective had bathed his face and head, removing the black paste that disguised him, and had not lost consciousness. Though weak and dizzy, he was fixed in the resolve to follow and arrest the murderer, no matter what the danger to himself might be.

Mannion crossed the room and was raising the window to step upon the scaffolding, when a bullet from Nick's revolver cut a lock of hair from his head. The detective could have easily killed the man, but it was not his desire to do so. Mannion must be taken alive and must be made, under the law's direction, to suffer for his crime. What the fugitive's object was in seeking the scaffolding, Nick at the time could not conjecture.

But it was evident that he believed he was taking the most available way, both to escape from the house and from the detectives who might be in waiting on the sidewalk. As was afterward learned, Mannion's intention was to follow the planking of the scaffolding to the side of the house, around which it ran for a few feet, then descend into the garden and make his way through the grounds to the street in the rear.

The shot fired by the detective did not stop Mannion in his flight. It accelerated it. He was out of the window and on the planking as another bullet whizzed by his[147] head. Chick and Patsy, who had been stationed below, around the corner of the house, saw Mannion come out of the window, and did a little pistol-practise themselves, but the fugitive, who by this time must have arrived at the conclusion that bullets were harmless, kept on his way.

He was at the front end of the scaffold when Nick Carter passed through the window. The great detective saw his enemy, and his lips parted in a grim smile. The man could not escape while he, Nick, was alive, and Chick and Patsy were below. "Keep an eye on him," he shouted to Chick, "and we'll get him, sure."

The words were spoken as the detective reached the planking, but the next moment something happened which was not down on Nick Carter's program. The scaffold, weakly put together, gave way, through the breaking of one of the supports, there was a crash, and then sudden death. It all happened in the twinkling of an eye, and Dimitri Goloff, who was passing on the sidewalk on his way to Mannion's room, was the victim. As the support yielded, down went Nick, his body falling with crushing weight on the head of the Russian.



Chick and Patsy, with eyes of horror, saw Nick Carter fall, and, forgetful of everything save the fate of their beloved chief, hurried to his side. Tears of joy were in their eyes when they saw that he was not dead, nor even badly injured. His body had struck the Russian, whose head, coming in contact with the protruding spike of a heavy board, was now still and lifeless. But the head of the detective, as well as the upper part of his body, had fallen against a hair mattress, and thus been the means of saving broken bones and the preservation of a useful life. Beyond a number of painful bruises and a temporary loss of breath, Nick Carter was as good as ever.

It was some moments, however, before he could speak to Chick.

"Mannion? Where is he?" he asked.

"Patsy is following him," was the answer; "the boy, as well as myself, let him go when you fell, but as soon as Patsy saw you were not dead he rushed around the corner of the house."

"I am afraid he has given us the slip," returned Nick disappointedly.

"Never mind," said Chick consolingly; "we'll get him[149] yet. By the way, do you know you have cooked the goose of one of the men you were after?"

"What! Goloff?"


"How? Ah! I understand. He was the man I flattened to the sidewalk."

"The same hombre, Nick. And he's dead. No more shall the ear-splitting notes of his fog-horn voice offend the senses of poor, suffering humanity."

"Have they taken his body away?"

"Not yet. But I'm looking for the patrol any minute."

The wagon soon came and Nick accompanied the driver to the morgue, leaving Chick behind to supplement the work of Patsy.

At the morgue, in the course of time, the body was searched, and forty dollars in money, some letters from San Francisco, written by Goloff's wife, and several copies of a will were the only articles deserving attention that were found.

The copies of the will were submitted to Nick by the coroner, and, in an instant, the detective's mind took in their vital significance. Here was a find, indeed. There were four copies in all, and the wording of each was the same. The only points of difference—and they were slight—lay in the handwriting. Looking at and comparing them carefully, Nick's correct conclusion was that each copy was written by the same person and for the purpose of using one—the copy as perfected—as a[150] model upon which to draft a purported genuine document. The reading of the words—the purport of the alleged will—revealed the object sought. And this is what Nick Carter read:

"This, my last will and testament, written by myself and without dictation, when, sound both in body and mind, disposes of all the property of which I may be possessed at the time of my death. I hereby declare that I am without wife or children, brothers or sisters, or any legal heirs at law. Therefore, I give and bequeath to the Soldiers' Home five thousand dollars; the Smithsonian Institute, five thousand dollars; and all the rest and residue of my property, real and personal, to Arthur Mannion, son of my deceased wife; and I hereby appoint my dear friend, Jackson Feversham, to serve as executor of my will, and desire that no bond shall be required of him.

"James Playfair."

"Washington, D. C., April 16. 19—."

For some time after he had handed back the papers to the coroner, Nick remained in a brown study. Soon his mind was made up as to his course of action. The finding of these copies must not be made public for a week. Much might be done in that time, perhaps the case might be ended.

Half an hour later the detective, the coroner, the local detectives, and secret service men, chiefs and subordinates were closeted together. To the assembled criminal-catchers Nick exposed his hand and outlined his plans.

"Mannion knows he is suspected," he said, "but blinded[151] by the great pecuniary interest at stake, he may conclude to remain in the city for awhile. If he does he will be caught. If, however, this will business is sprung on him through newspaper publication he will understand that all is lost and that his life is not worth a candle."

"But, Mr. Carter," spoke up the coroner, "I don't understand what value as evidence against Mannion these copies of the will possess. They are evidently not copies made by James Playfair, for they would not have been found in the possession of a Russian criminal, an utter stranger to the old man. Looking upon them, then, as having been written by another man, Arthur Mannion, say, they reveal nothing more than a silly propensity to build castles in the air. If a will, worded as these copies are, should, however, be produced by the executor as a genuine instrument, or, what purports to be one, and which was found among Playfair's possessions, then I could see some point to your contention."

The coroner paused. Nick, who had listened quietly and with an impassive face, replied:

"I think I can satisfy your scruples. Will you kindly step to the phone, call up Jackson Feversham, and ask him to step around here? His office is not far away, and if he is in he will be with us in a few minutes."

Feversham was in his office, and five minutes later made his appearance.

He was asked by Nick if any will had been found.

"Yes," was the answer.


"To whom is the property devised?"

"To me, that is, the larger portion of it. Playfair had no relatives. He was an only child, and so was his father."

"What is the date of the will?"

"October seventh of last year."

"Where did you find it?"

"Among his papers, in his room."

"Had he a deposit box in any bank?"


"Have you examined that?"

"No. I haven't found the key, and I have concluded to procure an order of court before having the lock forced."

"You are the executor under the will made in October, are you not?"

"I am."

Having been informed by the chief of detectives that court was then in session, Nick proposed that Feversham go at once to the judge, state the exigency of the case and obtain an order for the opening of the box.

"The court can act under the assumption that there is only one will in existence, the one which is in your possession. Of course," Nick went on, "the time is too short for the institution of regular proceedings; but under the circumstances the court may appoint you special administrator, and in that capacity you can go ahead."

"Yes. I think it can be done," returned Feversham,[153] "and I'll make the attempt at once. I sha'n't be gone long. Will you wait here, or shall we arrange for another meeting?"

"If there is no objection," said the coroner, "we will wait."

Feversham, on account of his long residence in Washington, and his high character as a citizen and as a man, had no difficulty in procuring the temporary appointment from the court. A locksmith was found, and in less than an hour after his departure from the room which held the officers he reappeared with a bulky envelope in his hand.

Opening the envelope in the presence of the company, a number of papers, stock certificates, tax receipts, bankbooks, etc., and a small, sealed envelope superscribed "My last will and testament," were brought forth.

"Before you produce the will which that small envelope holds," said Nick Carter. "I will venture a prediction of its contents. You will find it to be an exact reproduction in wording and handwriting of this model."—holding out one of the will copies taken from the body of Dimitri Goloff.

The coroner's eyes widened. But he said nothing.

Jackson Feversham opened the envelope, read the will with an amazed countenance, and then compared it with the copy which Nick had handed to him.

"You are right, Mr. Carter," he said. "The will I took from the envelope is a facsimile of the one you gave me. But I—I don't understand. The idea is ab[154]horrent. I can't believe that James Playfair, in his right mind, ever made that wretch, Arthur Mannion, his heir."

"Sit down, Mr. Feversham," said Nick, with a look charged with reassurance, "and I will try to make matters clear to you and at the same time relieve your mind. And I will also try to satisfy the curiosity of our friend the coroner. The will you found in the bank deposit box is a forgery."

"But," said Feversham, "it is in James Playfair's handwriting. I would be willing to swear to that."

"I will admit that it is an almost perfect imitation of Playfair's handwriting," replied the detective, "and that the imitation cannot probably be duplicated by any man in the United States—barring, of course, Arthur Mannion—but I cannot admit that it is genuine."

"It may be hard to prove that it is not genuine," put in the coroner.

Feversham, who, since he had last spoken, had been looking closely at the handwriting of the will, nodded his head at the coroner's words. "It would deceive an expert," was his comment, given in a tone of mingled sadness and disgust. "I know Playfair's handwriting—every peculiarity of it, and there is not a flaw in this document."

"All the same," replied Nick Carter imperturbably, "we are going to prove that it is a rank forgery. How? Mainly by these copies. Don't you see their importance? Standing alone, the will might be unassailable, but when[155] it is opposed by these copies, which upon their face show indubitable evidence of the process by which all the peculiarities of Playfair's handwriting were reproduced—the careful steps leading from crudity to perfection—the forgery is unmasked. Why, in the hands of the veriest tyro in legal practise, the story of the cheat would be primer reading to a jury even of asses.

"Four copies of a will making Arthur Mannion heir to an immense fortune are found in the pockets of Arthur Mannion's confederate in crime. Who, of all persons in the world, criminally inclined, would be capable of drawing a will likely to deceive the eyes of an expert? Arthur Mannion, who probably carried away with him when he left Washington, years ago, specimens of his stepfather's handwriting. Perhaps they were letters written to himself and containing words of admonition. And the bogus will stands not only as an instrument by which Arthur Mannion hoped to come into possession of a fortune, but also as something of incalculable value as a weapon in the cause of justice.

"In forging that will Arthur Mannion forged the instrument of his own destruction, for the controlling motive of the murder is now explained. Revenge for Playfair's refusal to submit to blackmail played but a small part in the murder. Mannion wanted the old man's fortune; he had paved the way to obtain it, and when the time came he removed the living obstacle from his path."

Jackson Feversham's countenance had lost its expres[156]sion of gloom and disgust. His eyes were bright and a smile hovered about his lips.

"It's all clear to me now, Mr. Carter," he said, "and I want you to accept my apology for having seemed to doubt your judgment even for a moment. Your explanation goes farther—it throws full light upon the robbery of Playfair's house."

The great detective inclined his head in assent. "Yes," he said, "the real purpose of the burglarious entrance into your friend's house is now shown. Mannion went there to steal the key to the deposit box, and, incidentally, to appropriate whatever articles of value he might come across. I am inclined to think that the letters found in the cash-drawer were letters written by his mother to his stepfather during their courtship."

"That's it, that's it," exclaimed Feversham. "I've seen him fondling the package many a time."

"And it was the offer of Mannion to return them that made Playfair consent to the appointment by the river," continued Nick. "The case is now clear of fog. The only thing is to catch Mannion."

"It is a pity the fellow Goloff could not have lived long enough to have spoken a few words," said the Washington chief of detectives. "He might have been able to tell us where we would be likely to find his partner. By the way," he added, addressing Nick, "how do you account for Goloff's possession of those will copies?"

"By discounting the old saw, 'There is honor among thieves,' Mannion, of course, gave Goloff his confidence,[157] told him all about the forged will and showed him his first imitative attempts. Naturally there was a pecuniary understanding between them. It is reasonable to conclude that Mannion promised the Russian a goodly share of Playfair's fortune. But Goloff was distrustful. He did not bank on his partner's word; he wanted surety, and he found it when he filched those will copies.

"In his possession they would serve as a club to make Mannion come to terms, in the possible event of a disposition on Mannion's part to play the hog. It is possible, though not probable, that Mannion, in a fit of generosity, gave the copies himself to Goloff as security for the performance of the agreement he had made. It matters not, however, how Goloff procured them. The plain deduction is that they were held for the purpose I have indicated.

"And now," continued the detective, with his eyes on the coroner, "my suggestion is that the public be left in ignorance, until we have caught Mannion, both of the identity of the man killed by my fall from the scaffolding and of the discovery of the will copies. Goloff came here a stranger; it is doubtful if his name is known to any one except myself and my assistants. It will, therefore, be an easy matter to manage the inquest so that a verdict of accidental death of an unknown man may be rendered."

The coroner, whose eyes had been opened by Nick's latest explanation and exposition, promptly fell in with the suggestion.


The chief of detectives saw no objection to the plan, and it was carried out.

"The time to look for the next move of Mannion's," were the detective's words as the assembly was about to break up, "is at the time or shortly alter the will is offered for probate. It must be offered," answering Feversham's shake of the head, "for not to offer it would amount to a declaration that its spurious character has been discovered. The offer will be merely a formal matter; its admission to probate, of course, is not to be thought of. Before the day set for such action arrives I will be prepared, I hope, to produce Mr. Mannion and expose the fraud."

Shortly afterward Nick went to his rooms, hoping to find either Chick or Patsy there. Both rose to greet him as he entered.

"Lost him, did you?" he asked, looking at Patsy, whose face wore a black, angry expression.

"It wasn't my fault, sir," was his reply, "I was bested by a woman."



"Bested by a woman?" repeated Nick, in surprise. "How was that, Patsy?"

"You have read of tiger cats, haven't you? Well, this woman was one. She is a little beauty, black-haired, black-eyed, slender, supple, and sinuous, and, oh, my! but her muscles are steel! I am no jellyfish myself, but she waltzed away with me, all right.

"This is how it happened, Mr. Carter: After I'd made sure that you wouldn't croak from that tumble I rushed around the corner of the house after Mr. Mannion. He was going through the garden—a regular tangle of all kinds of bushes—and I skinned after him. As he went over the fence into the next street this woman—she's a young thing, not over eighteen—hailed him and he stopped. But not for long, for, catching sight of me, he left the woman and made a lightning sprint toward the woods. Over the fence I went, to fall into the arms of the woman. She was very affectionate, must have thought I was her long-lost brother, for she caught me around the neck and gave me a hug and a squeeze that would have made a young grizzly bear fall down with envy. Naturally I objected, but I couldn't be as forcible in my objection as I might have been under other circumstances, for I was dealing with a woman."


Nick smiled and Chick winked.

"First thing I knew she tripped me up. I wasn't looking for that sort of thing, you know, and it was only when my block bumped the ground that I realized that I was really up against a tough proposition. What did I do? Well, I had to throw her off, but tiger cats are hard customers to deal with. They are like rubber balls. You chuck them away and back they come. I am ashamed to say it, Mr. Carter, but I wasted ten minutes with that woman and only got away from her when she was quite willing that I should do so."

"Who is she?" inquired Nick.

"Give it up. She knows Mannion, though, and I'll bet a Swiss cheese against a plate of boarding-house hash that she knows where Mannion has gone."

"Did you follow her?"

"I couldn't."

"Couldn't? Why not?"

"Because she did not give me a chance. She's standing there by the fence now, for all I know to the contrary. I wanted to follow her, but she knew what was in my mind, of course, and so she never moved."

"Did she say anything?"

"Oh, yes," said Patsy, rather sheepishly. "She said: 'Run home, little boy. Your mother must be anxious about you.'"

Chick burst into a laugh. Nick looked at him in mock severity. Patsy frowned and repressed an inclination to say something forcible.


"And so you lost track of your man, Patsy?" said the great detective.

"Yes, sir. I went into the woods, that is, the wooded grounds of the War College, but could neither get sight of him nor find anybody who had seen him. I told my story to the officer in charge, and men were instantly detailed to make a search."

"And that's all, eh?"

"That's all."

"And it is well, Patsy. You have done all that could have been expected." Nick patted the boy on the back. "You have not made a winning, it is true, but it was not on account of any fault of your own. Now," turning to Chick, "have you anything to report?"

"Only this: I know where the woman who attacked Patsy holds out."

"At Craven's, on L Street, isn't it?" suggested Nick quietly.

"Sure. But how did you discover the fact?"

"By a process of reasoning beautiful in its simplicity. The girl was seen near Craven's house. Craven knows Mannion and had a conversation with him the day of the murder. Craven will neither tell what that conversation had reference to, nor what his relationship with Mannion is. It is not a criminal relationship. I assured myself of that when I talked with Craven yesterday. The advent of the girl near Craven's house, her acquaintance with Mannion suggest a story which is probably true. She lives at Craven's because she is Craven's[162] daughter, and both she and Craven are interested in Mannion, because she is Mannion's wife."

"You've hit it," said Chick, with admiration in his eyes.

"If she is Mannion's wife," remarked Patsy, "he caught a Tartar when he married her. But maybe she is only his sweetheart."

"No," said Nick, "for that relation would not explain Craven's conduct. Craven might consent to shield a villainous son-in-law, but he would take the opposite course if there were only an engagement to be married. I think I'll make another trip to the Craven establishment. I have a desire to see the girl as well as to have a second talk with Craven." The detective looked at his watch. It was five o'clock. "I'll start now," he announced, "and have dinner after my return. Chick, you and Patsy may as well come along. Not to go inside the house with me, but to stay outside on watch. The girl may take a notion to run out to Mannion's hiding-place. If she does, Chick, you will follow her."

Prosper Craven, pale, yet composed, opened the door of his house in response to Nick Carter's knock. "I have been expecting you," he said, when the detective had entered the living-room and had taken a seat. "I knew you would not be satisfied until you had learned what my attorney had advised."

"You have seen him, then?" said Nick.

"No, I have not seen him. I came to the conclusion,[163] after you left yesterday, that I would hide nothing from you. I think the telling of the truth may be the best thing for my daughter, after all."

"Your daughter is Mannion's wife, is she not?"

Craven, showing surprise at this question, quietly answered: "Yes, she is married to that scoundrel."

"When did the marriage take place?"

"In San Francisco, two months ago. My daughter was then on a visit to her aunt. She and Mannion met at a Mission Club dance one night and took a shine to each other. Perhaps the discovery that they were both natives of Washington may have hastened the intimacy."

"Did she accompany her husband to this city?"

"No, she came as far as St. Louis with him. He had some business to transact in that city, he said, which would occupy his time for a few weeks. It was at his suggestion that she made the remainder of the journey alone. Now I am ready to answer any question which you may desire to ask."

"Very well. To begin, what was your business with Mannion on the day of the murder?"

"He wanted me to take a message to a friend of his, a Russian."

"What was the message?"

"'Nine-thirty o'clock to-night, at place agreed upon.'"

"Did you take it?"



"Without understanding what it meant?"

"Without understanding it at all. I asked Mannion what it meant, and he said it was an appointment about which I could possibly have no concern."

"Did you see Mannion that night?"

"Certainly. He stayed in this house."

"At what time did he come in?"

"About midnight."

"Did you expect him?"

"No, for he had told my daughter that he was going away for a few days and would leave on the evening train. He changed his mind; but for what reason, I do not know."

"You do know, I presume, that he is suspected of the murder of James Playfair?"

"What you said to me yesterday put the idea into my head. And if he did murder Playfair I want to see him punished. Better that he should die a felon's death, even though the disgrace of his crime and punishment should fall upon me and mine, than that my daughter should hereafter link her life with his."

"Do you think your daughter would cleave to him if she knew what he had done?"

"Yes; she is a strange girl. She has a good heart, but she is set in her ways. She loves Mannion with all her heart and soul, and she will love him and stay by him under any and all circumstances."


"In a way," said Nick, "her character is to be admired. Heroines have been made out of poorer stuff. But I think as you do, Mr. Craven, that it is better that she should suffer while she is young than live a life of wretchedness. Mannion dead or out of the way would be a blessing which she would appreciate in later days. The man is a deadly incubus to her. Not only on her account, but because society demands it, he must be caught and punished."

"If I can help you in any way I am ready and willing to do so," said Craven eagerly. He had been impressed by the detective's words. Nick felt that he could now be trusted.

Since entering the house he had not asked Craven as to the whereabouts of Mrs. Mannion, neither had he lowered his voice while speaking of Mannion and the murder. As a matter of fact, he had spoken in a louder tone than was usual with him, in the hope that the daughter would be a listener. It was very probable that she was somewhere about the house; and, if so, her anxiety over her husband's flight and the pursuit would cause her to view with suspicion the appearance of a stranger at the door. That she would eavesdrop was to be expected. Nick, as has been stated, hoped that she would overhear what he might say to her father, for from the description of her character he believed that the eavesdropping would likely be followed by an attempt to reach her husband and warn him that he must seek the safest quarters possible.


"Let her leave the house," thought the detective, "and Chick will shadow her wherever she may go."

For the purpose of adding interest to what he had said about Mannion, Nick answered Craven's last question by saying:

"I shall be glad to have your assistance, as I shall also be glad to bring about that which will in time make your daughter a happier woman than she would be if she knew what a dastardly scoundrel her husband is. As for her marriage, it may be annulled at any time, if, as I believe, she was unaware, at the time she became his wife, that he had served a term in prison."

There was a slight, a very slight movement behind the door opening into one of the rear apartments. The detective's sharp ears detected it, and he smiled inwardly.

"She knew nothing of it, I am sure," said Craven.

Dismissing the Mannion matter, Nick talked on general matters for about ten minutes. Then having, as he thought, given Mrs. Mannion a chance to escape, he arose to take his departure. It was close upon six o'clock, but the sun had not set. It would not be dark for over an hour.

"By the way," said the detective, as he stood at the door, "I would like to speak with your daughter a moment."

"Very well. I will call her."

Craven went to the rear, and was gone a few min[167]utes. He returned with the announcement that his daughter was not at home.

"She was here when you came, for I left her in the kitchen to answer your knock. Gone to a neighbor's, probably."

"It was a small matter," returned Nick. "I can see her at another time."

Outside, a block from the house, he was joined by Patsy.

"Chick's after her, Mr. Carter," he said. "They've been gone five minutes."

"Which way?"


South might mean a great many places. As it was likely that Mannion would leave Washington as soon as possible to seek a place of shelter where he might remain until he got the correct lay of the land in Washington—and this he must count upon securing through the intelligence and shrewdness of his wife—the most available section was on the Maryland side, beyond Twining. That would mean the crossing of either the Anacosta or Pennsylvania Avenue bridge, unless a boat could be secured before the first-named point could be reached. From there a quick landing might be made near Poplar Point. Mannion, with his knowledge of the river, would steal a boat, if one were to be found, and Mrs. Mannion would not scruple to do the same, if opportunity presented itself.


"I am afraid Chick has a big job on his hands, Patsy," was the detective's comment.

At that moment, down on Anacosta's shore, Chick and Nellie Mannion were looking into each other's eyes and smiling. They stood by a small punt, and Chick had just engaged to row Mrs. Mannion across the stream.



Chick, in the rôle of a street laborer, had accompanied Nick Carter to the house on L Street. From a monster elm he had seen Mrs. Mannion emerge from the back door of Craven's house with a small bundle under her arm, which, he rightly judged, contained eatables. Looking neither to right nor left, she hurried to the first corner, turned south, and almost flew along the sidewalk. Chick followed, using all the precautions of an expert shadower. Going through lanes and private grounds, she at last reached the river shore.

Chick, by a detour and making lightning time, arrived at a point near the water several hundred yards in advance of his beautiful quarry. Looking up-and down-stream without showing himself to the woman, he saw that there was but one boat between her and the first bridge, and that was not far beyond the point where he stood, and within a short distance of the river approaches to the navy-yard.

Intuitively Chick knew that Mannion's wife was looking for a boat, and this one he had no sooner discovered than he made a run for it, using the bushes along the shore as a screen for his body.

Reaching it, he saw it was a punt, and that it was half-filled with water. With an old tin can found on[170] the shore he was busily engaged in bailing out the punt, when Mrs. Mannion, flushed and anxious-eyed, came up to him. Chick did not turn his head at her approach, though out of the corner of his eye he saw her coming.

She stopped and spoke.

"Is this your punt?"

"Sure, miss," was the response, in a rough voice, but with a kindly intonation.

"I wish to get across the river. I live beyond the point, and some one has stolen my own boat. Can I engage you to paddle me over? I will pay you half a dollar."

"That's like finding money, miss," said Chick, looking into her face with a broad smile. "But, as I need some coin of the realm, I'll close with your offer, and thank you kindly for making it. Get right in, and away we'll go."

Nick's assistant was no novice at boat-work. He was as much at home on the water as on land. Swiftly and dexterously he paddled across the Potomac's east branch, landing, as directed by his fair employer, a quarter of a mile below the point in the direction of Uniontown.

On the way Chick asked a question:

"What kind of a boat is the stolen one?"

"Something odd for these parts. It's a batteau which my father brought from Vermont."

"Isn't that it over there?" pointing to a flat, sharp[171]nosed, square-sterned boat on the shore toward which they were proceeding.

She looked, and, without showing any surprise, said: "Yes, that is the one."

And now Chick was convinced that Mannion had used the batteau, and that his wife was on the way to find him.

When she found herself on the other side Nellie Mannion paid the counterfeit boatman, and then turned and went rapidly up the bank. Chick saw her disappear among the trees, and cautiously followed her. For half an hour he was able to keep her in sight. Then, all at once, she disappeared in the thickly wooded grounds of an old residence long deserted. The gate was gone, the fence was broken in many places, the grass grew thick in the walks, and there was neglect everywhere.

Chick was hurrying through the wild tangle of weeds and bushes in the garden near the house, when a scream, fraught with direst agony, reached his ears. It came from a spot near at hand, not many yards away, and in a moment he stood by the mouth of an old well and by the side of Nellie Mannion, who, on her knees and sobbing as if her heart would break, was gazing down into the black depths of the hole.

"What is it?" Chick asked, in real concern.

Mrs. Mannion looked up, partially checked her sobbing, and said, in a despairing voice:

"He's down there."

"Who is he, and how did he get there?"


Chick had not explained his presence in the grounds, nor had the woman expressed any surprise at his coming. It now occurred to the young detective, while Mrs. Mannion hesitated in her answer, that he might as well try to square himself.

"I live near here," he said unblushingly, "and I was going past the place when I heard your scream."

She seemed to pay no attention to this explanation, but said, with a renewal of her agitation: "He's down there, and he may be dead. Can you not get him out?"

"How do you know any one is down in the well?" the detective asked, as a dim suspicion crossed his mind.

"I heard his groans as I came toward the well," she replied, with every appearance of earnestness and sincerity; "and the groans stopped just before you came up."

Chick was but half-satisfied with this statement. Kneeling down, he looked and listened intently. There was not a sound from below. He struck a match and was in the act of using the light thus afforded to ascertain what, if anything, the well contained, when a shove given with all the force Nellie Mannion was capable of exerting—and she was anything but a weak woman—tumbled the brave detective into the well. There was a heavy thud, one groan, and then silence.

On her feet, her heart beating like a trip-hammer and her face, lighted up but a moment before with murderous fire, now pale with the first touches of remorse, Nellie Mannion listened for a few moments; then,[173] taking up her bundle from the ground, hastened, with shaking limbs, from the scene of her crime.

Nick Carter waited until midnight for the return of his assistant. Then, in no equable frame of mind, he sought his couch.

The morning came, and no Chick. Noon arrived, and still Chick had not made his appearance. During the forenoon Patsy had been on a hunt for the missing detective, and Nick had made a search on his own account, beginning with Craven's house. There he learned, somewhat to his alarm, that Mrs. Mannion had been away since the preceding afternoon. Her father showed anxiety, though it was his opinion that his daughter had gone to join her husband, of whose hiding-place she must be cognizant.

At noon Patsy reported the presence of two boats on the Uniontown side of the Anacosta, and the tracks of a man and a woman on the shore and bank. He had followed the tracks until they were lost in the grass.

In the afternoon Nick and Patsy made an attempt to pursue the clue which Patsy had discovered. The grounds of the deserted house attracted the great detective's attention, and he was proceeding in the direction of the well, when he came face to face with Nellie Mannion.

"Are you Nick Carter?" she asked eagerly.

Under other circumstances, the identity might have been denied. Nick now saw fit to give an affirmative answer.


"Then you will find your friend a few paces beyond."

Turning, she walked to the mouth of the well. Beside it lay Chick, with a broken leg, and a face covered with blood.

"He's not dead; he's not badly hurt," explained the woman quickly. "His skull is not injured. Bruises and cuts have caused the blood."

"She's right, all right," spoke Chick faintly; "but I'll feel better if some one will wash my face and put my leg straight."

The great detective bent over his disabled and suffering assistant, pressed his hand affectionately, and breathed consoling words into his ear. Then he lifted the body in his strong arms and started for the river. "Patsy," he said, "try to induce Mrs. Mannion to accompany us."

"I will go without compulsion," she said meekly. "I have done all the evil that I intend to do."

Nick frowned. Perhaps she had done all that was necessary. In crossing the river Nick and Chick used the batteau. Patsy and Mrs. Mannion took the punt.

Chick was taken to Craven's house, and a surgeon was telephoned for. An hour after the surgeon's arrival Chick was resting quietly, with his limb set and the wounds on his face and head washed and dressed.

"He will be all right in a few weeks," said the surgeon. "Nursing is all he requires."

In the evening Nellie Mannion, composed and quiet,[175] sat before Nick Carter as a person might sit before a prosecuting attorney.

"I have nothing to conceal," she said, "except the place where my husband is hidden. You will never find it, and you will never see him again."

Her tone was so positive that Nick felt a cold chill run down his spine; but he quickly recovered his spirits, and met her look with a smile of disbelief.

"I am sorry I threw your friend down the well," she continued, "but I had to do it. I suspected him on the boat, and the scream was given to test that suspicion. If he were a detective, he would follow me, and my scream would bring him to my side. It did. The well offered the only opportunity to rid myself of his pursuit. Rather would I myself have died than have permitted him to follow me to my husband's place of concealment."

Her face flushed, and Nick could not but admire as well as pity her.

"You came back to rescue him," he said, "and that action must go to your credit."

"I did not desire his death," she replied; "and when I had accomplished the purpose for which I had set out, I returned with a rope and assisted him in getting out."

"You say that your husband is beyond my reach. Do you mean by that that he will never return to Washington?"

"That is what I mean, Mr. Carter. I will say, however, that it was not his intention to leave these parts, until I told him yesterday what I heard you say to[176] father. If I had not come to him with the news you were kind enough"—here she smiled—"to furnish me, he would have made his appearance in town within a week."

"If he was not afraid of arrest, why did he run away?" queried the detective.

"On account of a temporary scare. After considering the matter, he concluded that you had no hold on him that would stand in court, and he would have chanced arrest, if I had not given him to understand that you knew more about him than he had given you credit for knowing."

Nick scanned her face, lovely in its heightened color, saw undying resolve in her eyes, and sighed.

"And you—you have done all that for a red-handed murderer," he said, with severity.

"He is my husband," she said simply, her eyes meeting his without a quiver.

"Arguments, then, would be thrown away."

"Entirely so. You look at the case from one side, I from the other. You do not know all the facts."

"And you are in possession of them, eh? Would it be presumption to ask you to give your side, or rather your husband's side, of the story?"

"No, it would not be presumption, but I cannot give you any information. My story, or his, you would laugh at, so what is the use of telling it?"

Nick made up his mind that Mannion had, in vulgar parlance, given her a "fill," and that she, in her love and[177] faith, had swallowed what had been given her as gospel truth. Therefore, he did not pursue the subject.

For several weeks after the rescue of Chick, Nick Carter used every means within his power to discover the hiding-place of Arthur Mannion, but without avail. Nellie Mannion never left her father's house during all that time, except to visit a neighbor, or make necessary purchases at near-by stores. Court action on the will had been indefinitely postponed, Nick believing that at some time, near or far, the will would furnish the clue that would unearth the murderer.

Chick made rapid recovery, and in less than a month was on the street. Nick was then in New York, having been called to his home by business demanding his attention. One afternoon, about two months after the escape of Mannion, as he sat in his office a telegraph boy handed him this message from Washington:

"See afternoon papers to-day. Despatch just come Baltimore saying Mannion dead in hospital.




It goes without saying that one of the first to buy a paper that afternoon was Nick Carter. Eagerly he scanned the telegraphic columns until he found what he sought. Dated from Baltimore, the item read as follows: "Last night, at St. Luke's Hospital, a patient who had been under the care of the doctors for several weeks passed away. Upon his arrival he had given the name of William Jonas, but a few hours before he died he confessed that his true name was Arthur Mannion, and that the police wanted him for the murder of James Playfair, the Washington millionaire. He stoutly asserted his innocence, called upon God to hear his word, and died with the name of his wife on his lips."

The great detective very coolly folded the paper and placed it in his pocket. He was not dumfounded over what he had read, though his brow was wrinkled as he walked toward his residence.

He was a passenger that evening on the B. & O. train for Baltimore, and the next morning was at St. Luke's Hospital. The superintendent received him rather coolly, but upon hearing his name became affable at once.

"Can I see the body of the man Mannion who died here night before last?" Nick inquired.


"Unfortunately, no. The burial took place yesterday. It was an aggravated case of typhoid, and we got him underground as soon as possible."

"Did he leave any personal property behind?"

"Yes. Two hundred dollars in bank-notes, each of one hundred dollars, several letters from his wife, addressed to him under the name of Jonas, and a few other pocket articles."

"Will you allow me to read the letters?"

"Certainly. They are in my drawer here. I am waiting to hear from his wife. She was notified yesterday morning, and an answer signed by her father came back, which stated that the blow of her husband's death had prostrated her, and that she was threatened with brain-fever."

The letters were three in number, and all were written within the fortnight preceding the death.

The one bearing the earliest date Nick read with amused interest:

"My Dear Husband: Each day is more lonesome since your departure. I shall go mad if things do not turn out as you have planned. Get well quick. Make those nasty doctors take a special interest in your case. Offer them the highest inducement, and if you can't fulfil any agreement you make with them, let me know and I will help you, if I have to sell the gown off my back. That hateful Mr. Carter is here yet, but from what he told father the other day, I think he will leave for New York in a day or two. We've pulled the wool over his eyes so thoroughly that he is as harmless as a[180] dove. Chick, poor man, is about well. He is a good fellow, and I don't think he bears any grudge against me. But Patsy—you remember Patsy, don't you? He's the boy I told you about—he takes no stock in me. He told me so the other day. He had the impudence to say this to my face. 'Young woman,' said he, 'I wouldn't trust you farther than I can sling a cat.' I laughed at him. I could afford to. Now, do as I tell you. Get well and—you know what our plan is.

"Lovingly your own      Nellie."

The second and third letters showed the writer's anxiety over her husband's condition, which had become serious. In the last letter she said, if he was not better at the end of a week, she would take him to Philadelphia and place him under the care of a noted specialist.

Nick returned the letters to the superintendent, and then asked for the bank-notes. As he had expected, they belonged to the batch stolen from the body of Cora Reesey. "With what was Mannion afflicted when he came to the hospital?" was his next question.

"A complication of diseases, brought on by exposure. He looked like a tramp when he arrived, and said that for many days he had been sleeping in barns, sheds, and on the ground. Typhoid set in a week ago."

"Can you give me a description of his person, not omitting any physical peculiarity?"

"Yes. He was tall, thin, dark-featured, black-haired—he wore no mustache, had shaved it off, he said—and half of the forefinger of his left hand was missing."

Nick's brow clouded for a moment. Then from the[181] innermost corner of his brain crept an idea. "Doctor," said he, "have you given me a complete description of the dead man? Was there not some artificial mark on his left arm?"

"Yes; I had forgotten," replied the superintendent apologetically. "There was a castle tattooed on his arm."

"I thought so. One more question, and I am done. Did Mannion have any visitors, friends, while he was in the hospital?"

"One, his uncle, who came a few days before the typhoid symptoms appeared. Mannion said the uncle was the only blood relative he had."

"Did they hold long conversations?"

"On the first visit they had a long talk. After that they had not much to say to each other."

"Was the uncle an old man?"

"Sixty, at least, though he has no gray hairs. An old soldier, I should say, for he was as straight as an arrow, and had but one arm, taken off close to the shoulder."

"What name did he give?"

"Peter Mannion."

"Were you prepossessed in his favor?"

"Very much so. He was, or appeared to be, a perfect gentleman."

That evening Nick was in Washington. After a long talk with Chick, he retired to pass a restless night. The next morning Chick left the city, taking the Baltimore[182] train, but getting off at Beltzville. Patsy, by another route, left Washington in the afternoon.

A few days afterward, while Nick was at Prosper Craven's house, at which he had been a constant visitor, a tall, handsome, elderly man was ushered in by Nellie Mannion, who, the day before, had risen from a sickbed.

"Father," said she, "this is the uncle of Arthur. He lives near Baltimore, and has come to see me."

Nick Carter did not remain in the house but a few moments after the uncle's arrival. Excusing himself, he went out to give utterance to a soft whistle.

The uncle bore no resemblance to Arthur Mannion outside of his eyes. There was some similarity in shape, position, and expression. But Mannion's hair was black. This man's was light-brown. Mannion had full, red lips. This man's were thin and bloodless. Mannion had a sharp nose; this man's was broad and full. This man's voice was heavy and harsh. Mannion's was a light, musical one. There were other points of dissimilarity, but still the relationship might exist. Nick noticed that the uncle wore no sleeve to hide the loss of his arm. From appearances, the arm had been amputated at the shoulder-joint. "And yet, and yet," muttered the detective, under his breath, but without going further.

Chick returned three days later.

"Got it?" asked Nick, with no endeavor to hide his eagerness.


"Yes. Luck was with me. I traced Mannion from the time he left Beltzville until he arrived in Baltimore."

Chick did not remain in Washington but a few hours. Another mission of importance took him away. After his departure, Nick called on Jackson Feversham. He did not tell the murdered man's friend all he knew and suspected, for the detective was a stickler for the preservation of the dramatic unities. But he did say this:

"Arthur Mannion is not dead. Preparations are making for the attempted perpetration of a monstrous fraud. If the conspirators knew what we know about the will, the attempt would never be made. But, thanks to the coroner and the local officials, the secret of the copies has been kept, and before many days somebody representing Arthur Mannion will appear in court and ask, first, to have that bogus will admitted to probate, and second, to have some person—I can name him—appointed administrator of Mannion's estate; the estate, of course, being the property which is mentioned in the will drawn in his favor."

"Who is this person who will represent Mannion?"

Nick told Feversham about the uncle. "Peter Mannion is the man. He came to Washington to see his nephew's wife, of course, but principally for the purpose of getting hold of the Playfair property. Playfair himself, being wanted for murder, could not appear, so the scheme that he should die was concocted."

"He is in hiding somewhere not far from here, I suppose?"


"That is my opinion. And he will know every move that will be made in his behalf. It's a pretty plot, a bold plot, but it hasn't the slightest chance to win."

"How did you discover it? And are you sure that the person who died in the Baltimore hospital was not Arthur Mannion?"

"When I read the announcement of the death," said Nick, "my suspicions were aroused. Frauds of this kind are no new thing. The criminal records, both of America and Europe, are full of them. I had been waiting for Mannion or his friends to make some move, and the death scheme, under the circumstances, seemed just the thing. I went to Baltimore puzzled as to the manner in which the fraud had been accomplished, but, after my visit to the hospital, I had the whole thing before me as clear as day. Some of the details are, as yet, unknown to me, but the fraud itself, the purpose for which it was perpetrated, the plan of conduct which it suggests, all were revealed.

"Peter Mannion, acting for Arthur Mannion, arranged the cunning deception, and I must say his work shows the hand of a master artist. The fellow who died was a petty thief, Knocker Jilson, whom I had known in New York, and who of late years has been hoboing it about the country. He must have fallen in with Arthur Mannion while Mannion was journeying under cover from Washington to Baltimore. Jilson fell sick and went to the hospital; went there, of course, with Mannion's money. But the scheme to trick the officers and the[185] public was not broached to Jilson until he saw death in the near distance. It must have suggested itself to Mannion when he saw that Jilson, like himself, had half of his left forefinger missing, and that there was a resemblance between the two men in height, color of hair, and general appearance. What inducements were offered I can only guess. But I don't think I will be far out of the reckoning when I say that the offer meant pecuniary assistance to some relative of Jilson's; probably an old mother, whom he had neglected in her days of adversity.

"As it might be unsafe for Arthur Mannion to appear at the hospital and see that the fraud was carried out, the work fell upon the shoulders of Peter, who appears to possess all the qualifications necessary for the purpose. But there was one thing that escaped the notice of the conspirators—the tattooing on Jilson's arm. It could never have been observed, otherwise there would have come a hitch in the proceedings. But the tattooing kills the fraud, for, with the missing finger, it positively identifies the dead man as Jilson."

"When do you propose exposing the plot, Mr. Carter?" asked Feversham.

"On the day set by the court for hearing the application which I feel assured Peter Mannion will make. Probate day is to-morrow. We must be in court when it opens, but not where Peter Mannion can see us. If I am not mistaken, he will appear to-morrow, for he is not the man to permit the grass to grow under his feet."


Nick's prediction came true. The next forenoon, after court opened, Peter Mannion, accompanied by a lawyer of shady reputation, appeared. A will purporting to have been made by Arthur Mannion and witnessed by Prosper Craven and Emma Newton, a neighbor of Craven's, was presented for probate. By the terms of this will all the property possessed by the alleged decedent was bequeathed to Nellie Mannion, the wife, Peter Mannion, the uncle, being named as sole executor. As the instrument was in due form, it took the usual course, being set for hearing on the next court day. Then the matter of Playfair's will was taken up at the suggestion of Peter Mannion's attorney, and the hearing set, also, for the next court day.

On reaching his room after the court-room incidents, Nick found Patsy. "And your mission. Did it succeed?" questioned the great detective.

"It was too easy," replied Patsy.



"I got in with a mob of hoboes at Patapsco," said Patsy. "I know their holes, and when I left the train at Patapsco town and went toward the river, I felt sure I'd strike 'em. And what do you think? The main hiker is Snub-nosed Johnny, who used to be train-boy on the Boston and Albany. The minute I lamped him I knew the game was mine. Inside of five minutes he handed me out a dope about Jilson and Mannion that put me on velvet. Both these guineas were with the gang, Mannion for a few days, Jilson for several weeks.

"Johnny said Jilly and Mannion—the hoboes called him Serious Silas—had their blocks together about all the time. One day he saw Serious writing a letter for Jilly. The letter, he afterward discovered, was to Jilly's mother, who lives at Hagerstown. Did I go to Hagerstown? Cert. And I found the old lady. She is over seventy, sickly, and a washerwoman. Had she heard from her son lately? Her old, honest, patient face lit up with a smile that was heavenly in its sweetness. Yes, indeed, she had heard from the dear boy, who had forsaken his evil ways and was now at honest work in Baltimore.

"He had not forgotten his old mother, for during the past month he had sent her one hundred dollars. And,[188] what was better still, he was on the way to making a lot of money all in a heap, and when he had made it, he intended to send enough to keep her for the rest of her life. Then she broke down and cried, but the tears were tears of joy. My eyes were wet, too, and I could not say a word to undeceive her."

"You are a good boy, Patsy," said Nick, with a look of approbation, "and I'll see that Mrs. Jilson gets the money she is expecting."

The days came and went. Chick appeared, remained a day, and went off again. Patsy made several trips out of the city. Nick remained, like a spider watching its web. On the afternoon of the day preceding the probate day, upon which so much depended, the detective and Patsy were sitting in the E Street room, talking over matters pertaining to the morrow's program.

The windows of the room overlooked the street. The detective, while talking to Patsy, was seated near one of the windows, and he had occasionally looked out. As Patsy was preparing to go out, Nick's eye, turning toward the street, fell upon the form of Peter Mannion, who, cane in hand and with soldierly dignity, was walking along the opposite sidewalk. He glanced up once, saw Nick's face, and then quickly turned his head.

The appearance of the man in that quarter, while it might not mean anything, yet gave rise in Nick's mind to a suspicion that the uncle was out for a purpose. Although Peter Mannion might think that the scheme upon which he was working was perfect in all its details, yet[189] the presence in Washington of the noted detective, Nick Carter, on the day preceding the calling of the probate cases would have a disquieting effect upon his nerves. Nick said a few quick words to Patsy, who at once put on his hat, left the room, and went down the stairs.

The boy did not follow Peter Mannion, but went unconcernedly up the street toward the railway depot. He walked slowly, and Nick, without showing his face to passers-by in the street, saw that the uncle had taken note of Patsy, had turned about and was now following him. The detective's face showed satisfaction. What the next act on the program would be he could not guess, but that there was an act scheduled for near performance he would have staked his existence.

The day passed without incident. Toward dark Nick went out and had dinner in a Pennsylvania Avenue restaurant. After his refreshment he walked about, enjoying his cigar and the calm, soft night. He was standing on the marble walk of the little triangular square at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Seventh Street, listening to a colored quartet, the singing adjunct of an outdoor gospel meeting, when Peter Mannion passed him. Nick did not turn his head, and he was satisfied that the uncle was going on under the impression that he had not been observed. Where was he going?

Nick became a shadower, and when he saw the uncle disappear through the double doors of the Metropolitan Hotel, a look of disappointment crept into his face. All[190] at once an idea, containing a queer suggestion, came to him. Egress from the rear of the hotel would take a person either on to John Marshall Avenue or C Street, and by either route there was a short and easy walk to the detective's quarters on E Street.

Hurrying around the corner, Nick saw no sign of his quarry on the avenue. He then hastened to C Street. Peter Mannion was nowhere in sight. Perhaps he had not had time to get there. The detective in the dark shade cast by the sidewalk trees waited for ten minutes, his observation covering both ways of departure from the hotel premises. Then he went to the hotel, entered the office, which held only the clerk and several colored attachés, and asked if a person, describing Peter Mannion, had been in that evening. The reply of the clerk was that the gentleman referred to had engaged a room for the night, and had then gone out.

"By the front way?"


"I may have been making a mountain out of a mole-hill," thought Nick, as he went out, "but I don't like the look of things. Peter has a card to play, and I will confess that he is a deeper man than I imagined."

Arrived at the stairway leading to his rooms, he scrutinized it carefully from top to bottom. No trap was there. In the corridor above his searching eye again came into play. All was as it should be. Before his own door he paused and listened. Silence within. Then with his pass-key he unlocked the door and threw it[191] open, but did not enter. The lights inside were out, but the illumination from the street enabled him to see that everything appeared to be as he had left it. True, he could not see into the closet, but, stooping, he could see under the bed.

He was in this posture, when the door of a room on the opposite side of the corridor opened quickly; a man sprang out, and, with uplifted sand-bag, struck the detective a powerful blow on the head. Nick flattened out and did not move. Swiftly the body of the unconscious detective was dragged into his room, and the door closed and locked. Fifteen minutes later Nick opened his eyes, to find that he could neither move nor speak. His enemy had restored him to consciousness, but had taken the precaution to bind and gag him.

The room was now full of light, and Nick, with aching head but with clear sense, saw that he had fallen a victim to the wiles of Peter Mannion.

The uncle, seated in an easy chair, looked at the disgruntled man-hunter with an evil smile.

"You did not realize what you were up against?" the harsh voice jeered. "Thought you had a farmer in tow, I suppose? Well, you might have made the proper crack at Arthur, if he had been alive, but you are no match for the mature individual who is now before you."

Nick clenched his hands. It was all he could do. He would have gritted his teeth, but the gag was in the way.

"I don't know as this move of mine was required,"[192] Peter Mannion went on, "for I think the game is in such shape that even Nick Carter could not have checkmated it. But it's best to have the ground entirely clear. You were obnoxious; the sight of you at Craven's the other day offended my sense of proportion. You don't fit into the picture. To-morrow is my day, and butters-in are barred."

The uncle lighted a cigar, and, stooping over, deliberately blew smoke into his captive's face. Nick blinked his eyes, but the glance he gave his tormentor was cool and defiant.

"You are probably consoling yourself with the idea," pursued Peter Mannion, with easy assurance, "that your smart friend, Chick, will play your hand in case you are unable to do so. Don't think it. It's not on the program. Chick may come here to-morrow—I reckon he will—but he will not find you here. He will, however, find a note in your dear handwriting, informing him that you have struck a clue which clinches the whole business beyond the possibility of a doubt, and that he must come to your assistance without the delay of a moment. The note will further state that you are to be found on the outskirts of Georgetown, about a mile below the big bridge and at a boat-landing, with boat all ready for a sail. Will Chick bite? Of course, he'll bite. Chick is impulsive. Even if he suspected a trap he would go, for Chick is devoted to you, and would brave any danger for your sake. How do I know this? Through Nellie, my niece-at-law. Chick[193] talked himself nearly blind while he was staying at Craven's house. He did not give anything away, but he said lots of nice things about you. Wish I could do the same, but I can't. You are not nice in my eyes."

There was a soft expression on the great detective's face. His thoughts were of Chick. But when this passed, alarm did not follow. On the contrary, a calm, deadly look shone in his eyes.

"As for Patsy," resumed Peter Mannion, with a contemptuous wave of the hand, "he's a boy and doesn't count. Besides, he's out of the way, for I was at the depot to-day, and saw him buy a ticket for New York. And if he does come back here within a week, it will be an easy job to fix him. This is the note which will settle Mr. Chick," he concluded, as he took from his pocket a folded paper and held it, opened, before Nick's eyes.

It bore evidence of having been written hurriedly, but the handwriting was a masterly imitation of the great detective's.

"Don't imagine that I did it," said Peter Mannion, "for such tricks are beyond me. But there's a smart little girl down at Craven's who spent a whole day in dressing up the document. How did she get a specimen of your fist? your eyes ask. Luck gave it to her. Chick's clothes, when they were changed, shed a note which you had written to him, and Nellie picked it up from under the bed after he had left the house. There was nothing in the note of value to us outside the handwriting."


The uncle might be lying, or he might be telling the truth. Nick had his own opinion on the matter, but he could not express it, and he would not have expressed it if he could.

"I suppose you are wondering what fate is in store for you?" showing his teeth in a diabolical smile. "It is the fate of the interferer. To-morrow morning you will sleep at the bottom of the Potomac. The prospect doesn't seem to frighten you. Well, I'll give you credit for being a thoroughbred. Pity you hadn't been born with a little more sense. Yes, you're booked for fish-bait, all right, and this is how I'll do the job. That big trunk, there in the corner"—pointing to a Saratoga—"will hold you fast and sure. A little after daybreak to-morrow morning an expressman will come for it. He will deposit it near the Mt. Vernon wharf, from which it will be conveyed to a small launch. On board that launch will be your humble servant, and, after an hour's trip down the river, the launch will return without the trunk. Am I explicit enough for your understanding?"

Nick nodded his head, and Peter Mannion thought he saw his face blanch with fear and dread.

"Everything," the villain went on, as he blew a wreath of smoke toward the ceiling, "has been arranged with care. The landlady of this flat is unsuspicious. She is a German, and she is resting under the belief that I am your elder brother. She did not see me as you see me now. Oh, no, Nicholas, not for your honey-boy. She talked with a very old man, with two arms—thanks to[195] this wig and these whiskers"—fishing them from his pocket—"and this wooden arm"—picking it up from the floor—"and if she sees me go out, she will again see the same aged abuser of trusting innocence. I have nothing more to say at this moment, except to remark that I shall remain here with you until just before daylight. Then I shall put you into the trunk, stuff the blank places with pillows and sheets, lock the trunk, take away the key, and leave you for the kind offices of the expressman."

And so the night passed. Nick Carter suffered, how much he never told, for he was not one to expose his scars. The cords hurt his wrists and ankles, and the gag was a source of torture. But he bore it all without a sign of distress, and there was nothing of the craven in his pale face when at daylight he was lifted and doubled up into the Saratoga trunk.

Peter Mannion's words as he left the room were these:

"We shall never see each other again. I leave you with this reflection to make more bitter your last hours on earth: For the first time in your life you have bumped up against a smarter man than yourself. Ta! ta!"



A well-dressed man, with white hair and whiskers, occupied a stool in front of a fruit-stand opposite Nick Carter's rooms from eight o'clock until half-past nine on the morning following the trunk episode. The man was Peter Mannion, and he was making sure that Chick was not in town at the time of the opening of court. At half-past nine a telegraph boy appeared. He went quickly up the stairway of the house where Nick had lodged, and before his return to the street he was stopped by Peter Mannion. "If you have a telegram for Mr. Carter," he said, "I'll take it and sign for it. Here is my authority," and he produced a card upon which was written: "Deliver to bearer all letters, notes, and telegrams for me that may come to-day"—giving the date. "Nicholas Carter." The boy, without hesitation, gave up an envelope containing a telegram. When the book had been signed, Peter Mannion opened the telegram, which was dated Frederick, Md., and read: "Will be with you seven o'clock to-night. C. Carter."

"Good! good!" and the villain rubbed his hands gleefully. "Everything is coming our way. Nick Carter is at the bottom of the river, and Chick, who will go to join him will not be here to interfere with the court[197] business. The prospect could not be better. And now to prepare for court."

At ten o'clock Peter Mannion and his lawyer entered the court-room. They were followed by Prosper Craven and Elmer Newton, the witnesses to Arthur Mannion's will. There were but few spectators present, for there had been no public intimation that the proceedings that day would be of special interest.

Just as the calendar was being called Jackson Feversham, accompanied by two smart-looking business men, both strangers to Peter Mannion, entered and took seats just outside the bar.

The first matter taken up was that of the will of Arthur Mannion. Craven and Newton were sworn and the fact elicited that the will had been signed at Craven's house, in the presence of the witnesses and of Arthur Mannion. It had been delivered into the keeping of Nellie Mannion.

There being no objection, an order was made admitting the will to probate.

"So far so good," thought Peter Mannion. "And now for the will as is a will; the will that means millions to Nellie Mannion and her dear ones."

Rising to his feet, the uncle's attorney now made a motion that the matter of the will of James Playfair be taken up. "It must be judged by itself, as the court is aware," said the attorney, somewhat pompously, and glaring at Jackson Feversham, "for it is an olographic will, one which does not require the signature of wit[198]nesses. Having once proved that the will is in the handwriting of the deceased Washingtonian, the court must admit it to probate."

The attorney sat down, and the judge took up the will, examined it, turned it over, and then said:

"Produce your witnesses."

"To prove the handwriting?"

"Of course. What else?" asked the court sharply.

"Then," said Peter Mannion's attorney, "I will ask Mr. Feversham to take the stand."

James Playfair's friend looked surprised, but he came forward, was sworn, and the will was placed in his hands.

"Examine it carefully, Mr. Feversham," said the attorney, "and then state whether or not, in your opinion, the body of the instrument and the signature, all the writing, in fact, is in the writing of James Playfair."

"If this is not his handwriting," answered Feversham, after a pause, "it is a perfect imitation."

"Can you say it is not his handwriting?" questioned Peter Mannion's attorney, with sternness.

There was a pause. Feversham looked at the judge, then at the two men who had accompanied him to the court. Finally he said slowly, but with emphasis: "I can say, with a conviction that almost amounts to certainty, that this will is not in the handwriting of my deceased friend."

Peter Mannion started violently. His face grew gray.[199] A sense of danger suddenly possessed him; but he gripped the sides of his chair and waited.

The attorney for the moment was nonplussed. He had not expected the answer. But he speedily recovered his wits, and, in a blustering manner, said:

"Is it because the will leaves you nothing, while a previous one leaves you heir to the fortune, that you are unwilling to state what must be a patent fact to any man of intelligence?"

Feversham's fine face darkened with anger. He was about to reply, when the judge spoke with severity.

"You must not insult your own witnesses. If I hear anything of the kind again I shall be compelled to fine you for contempt of court. Have you any more questions to ask?"

"Yes," was the surly reply. "I wish to ask Mr. Feversham why he is positive that this will is not what it purports to be?"

"My attorney, who has just arrived, will answer for me," said the witness.

Both Peter Mannion and his attorney turned to see advancing toward the bar the tall, courtly figure of Colonel Seaman, one of the leaders of the Washington bar.

"It is our intention," said the colonel to the court, "to contest the probate of this alleged olographic will. I have in my hands copies of the same document, which I respectfully ask the court to examine before I proceed to[200] explain where and how they were found, and what they mean."

Thus saying, he stepped within the bar, approached the bench, and handed to the judge the four copies found on the body of Dimitri Goloff, the Russian accomplice of Arthur Mannion.

The judge examined them, first with perplexity, then with understanding.

"As supplementing them," continued Colonel Seaman, "I will offer for your inspection a copy of the indictment under which Arthur Mannion was convicted in a California court of forgery." This document was passed to the judge.

Peter Mannion shifted uneasily in his seat. His brow began to ooze cold perspiration.

"Anything more?" asked the court pleasantly.

"Yes, your honor. Here are four affidavits declaring that on the date of the alleged will in favor of Arthur Mannion that young man was in St. Louis."

"Well, what of that?"

"If you will hold up the will and the copies, you will see that the water-mark is 'St. Louis Mills.'"

The judge did so, with the remark: "You are right, Colonel Seaman; and, while the circumstance taken alone is of little consequence, when considered with other circumstances it may prove to have weight."

"I think the weight will be shown when we produce reliable witnesses who will swear that for years James[201] Playfair used but one kind of paper, and that of Baltimore make."

"Where were these will copies found?"

"Ask Mr. Feversham, your honor. He is on the stand, and he has been sworn."

The question was asked, and Feversham answered: "In the pockets of a dead man."

"His name?"

"Dimitri Goloff, who was the criminal associate of Arthur Mannion, and who accompanied Mannion from San Francisco. They were together in Washington until Goloff met his death by accident."

Peter Mannion could scarcely breathe, so great was his agitation. It was in his mind to rise and make a bolt from the room, but his limbs seemed to have lost their power of motion.

"The proceedings thus far have been somewhat irregular," remarked the court. "I presume that you are ready to proceed, unless there is objection from the other side."

Peter Mannion's attorney cast at his client a look full of disgust, and said nothing. He was ready to throw up the case.

"Before doing so," said Colonel Seaman suavely, "I desire to say that we shall need a subpœna for a Baltimore witness, Doctor Haswick, the superintendent of St. Luke's Hospital."

"What do you expect to prove by him?" asked Peter Mannion's attorney, in marked curiosity.


"We expect to prove that the man who died there a short time ago and who was buried as Arthur Mannion was not Arthur Mannion, but one Jonas Jilson, a petty thief and tramp. By other witnesses we shall prove that Arthur Mannion is still alive."

The colonel ceased speaking. Peter Mannion, shaking as if with the ague, his eyes bloodshot, and his lips blue and trembling, arose to his feet and staggered toward the door. No one stayed him until he neared the two men who had entered with Jackson Feversham. Both rose when the discomfited villain was within a few feet of them. Then acting simultaneously, they stepped forward and each seized a wrist of the fleeing man.

"Don't go," said one of them, in a voice that made the wretch's heart stop beating, "for you may consider yourself under arrest, Mr. Arthur Mannion, for the murder of James Playfair."

The speaker was Nick Carter, and his assistant was Chick.



Arthur Mannion, splendidly disguised as he was, utterly collapsed at Nick Carter's denunciation, and he said not a word as he was led away, handcuffed, to the police-station.

Jackson Feversham, who had been kept in the dark regarding the identity of the one-armed man, could not believe that the murderer of Playfair was the soldierly person who had represented himself to be the murderer's uncle.

"Why, he's one-armed, there's no sham there, his hair is light, his features are different, and he speaks in a different voice. I remember Arthur Mannion well, and this man bears no resemblance to him."

"All the same," said Nick stoutly, "I can prove that he is Arthur Mannion, and before twenty-four hours he will confess that he is!"

Playfair's friend and executor was now in Nick's rooms. The other persons present were Chick and Patsy.

The detective spoke with such conviction that Feversham was impressed.

"How did you get at the secret?" he asked.

"By work, by using the powers which nature gave me[204] and which experience has sharpened, and by the invaluable assistance of Chick and Patsy. I suspected the uncle when I heard of his visit to the hospital, my suspicions were deepened when I first met the man at Craven's house. He had but one arm, that is true, but it struck me as a singular circumstance that the missing member should be the left one, the arm to which, upon Arthur Mannion, when I had last seen him, was attached a hand with half a finger missing. An accident would account for the amputation, and if an accident to Mannion had occurred within a radius of one or even two hundred miles, the fact could be easily ascertained, both through telegraphic and private inquiry. I tried the private way first, and within a week Chick lit upon the surgeon who amputated Arthur Mannion's arm. While on his way, traveling mainly by night, from Alexandria to Baltimore, Mannion fell under a freight-train. He was stealing a ride with some hoboes, and, being awkward at brake-beam work, slipped and fell. The accident happened near a station—I had looked for the very thing—and a railway surgeon removed the arm and had the patient, who gave an assumed name, removed to St. Luke's Hospital, Baltimore. In the hospital Mannion met Knocker Jilson, a tramp he had struck up an acquaintance with while both were on the road. Do you begin to see, Mr. Feversham?"

"Yes, light is breaking fast. You are a very shrewd man, Mr. Carter. Hereafter I shall take whatever you say as the law and gospel."


"Before leaving the hospital Mannion arranged his deal with Jilson. The fellow was booked for an early death, and as he grew weaker he thought of his mother, whom for years he had shamefully neglected. Mannion saw his chance. He offered to send Mrs. Jilson money, and to provide for the few years she has yet to live, if Jilson, on his part, would consent to a harmless deception. Jilson listened and consented. He would have done more, if it had been necessary, than was asked of him, for the promise to relieve his mother's necessities was an inducement that would have made him swallow any kind of bait.

"After Mannion was discharged as cured, he proceeded to make the next move in the game. I suppose you know, Mr. Feversham, that there are now many surgeons, professionals and quacks, who make a specialty of changing facial appearance. Twenty years ago the thing was almost unheard of. Now there have been so many demonstrations that the practise is carried on to an extent that would amaze you were you to be furnished with the statistics. There is one of these practitioners in Baltimore. I sent Chick to investigate. He proved the correctness of my theory, and he brought back these."

The detective from his pocketbook took two small photographs and handed them to Feversham. One was a counterfeit full-length presentment of Arthur Mannion as he appeared before the disguise, but after the amputation, and, facially, as Nick had seen him at the[206] house on L Street; the other was a reproduction of the person of the so-called Peter Mannion.

"'Before taking,' and 'After taking,'" said Nick, with a smile. "Do you understand? And do you notice that each picture is of a one-armed man?"

"Yes. One was taken when the patient arrived; the other when the operation had been performed. If I used slang I should say it is a dead give-away." said Feversham.

"It is nothing else. Surgery fixed the features and changed the workings of the vocal chords, while chlorine or peroxide of hydrogen altered the color of the hair and eyebrows. Besides all this, I have other evidence of a minor nature which goes to cement the case against Arthur Mannion."

"What you have offered is sufficient, Mr. Carter. It is evidence overwhelming in its nature. Confront your prisoner with it and he must confess."

That is what Nick did. The next day he called at the jail, had an interview with Mannion, told him what proofs had been gathered, both of the impersonation and of the murder, and the result was that the wicked stepson of James Playfair threw up his hands and made full confession.

He had, as the great detective supposed, robbed Playfair's house in order to obtain the key to the bank deposit box. He found the key, and he found something more—the money and a package of his mother's letters in the locked drawer. The letters were used as a lure[207] for the appointment by the river, and the murder was committed with deliberate intent, Goloff assisting by holding Playfair's arms while Mannion choked the old man to death.

The scheme of the bogus will had been concocted in St. Louis, where Mannion had, by previous arrangement, met Goloff, who had left San Francisco a week before the departure of Mannion and his wife from that city. The forgery had not been a difficult task, for Mannion was an expert in that line, and he had some of Playfair's old letters as a guide.

Asked about the notes taken from the body of Cora Reesey, Mannion answered: "I might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb, so I'll say that I robbed the body. I was the first to discover it. I was rowing along the shore when I spotted it. There was no one in sight, and so I took all the valuables I could find. Goloff was with me, and I whacked up with him.

"And now," said Mannion, when he had finished his confession, "it's up to you to do a little explaining. How in the name of Satan did you get out of that trunk?"

Nick Carter smiled. He could afford to. "I wasn't in that trunk more than two minutes," he said. "But it was lucky for me that help came when it did, else I should have suffocated. Do you suppose that I was such a ninny as to run blindfold into the trap you had set for me? You spoke rather sneeringly of my boy Patsy, while you had me at a disadvantage in the room. Let me tell you now that you owe Patsy an apology, for he[208] is responsible for my presence in the court to-day and your arrest. When I sent him out in the daytime, it was not for the purpose of taking a train out of the city, but to pipe you. Now you begin to see? He bought a ticket for New York, but he rode only a few blocks, then jumped off the train and carried out my other instructions. He saw you go up the stairs—he was concealed across the street—and he saw me go up. Then he followed suit. With ear at the keyhole he overheard every word you said to me. He was too shrewd to go out and procure assistance, for he saw that the only way to block your game would be to let you fancy that you had really sent me to the bottom of the Potomac. You did send something—a trunk that cost sixty dollars, and a couple of pillows and a lot of bricks that I threw in to give the proper weight."

Mannion bit his lips till the blood came. But he soon assumed a devil-may-care expression.

"I was too anterior: I see it now. And I suppose that telegram from Chick was a plant?"

"Of course. Chick was only a few miles away, I had him at the phone before eight o'clock, and his part was soon arranged. I presume you thought the boy who gave you the telegram was a regular employee of the company?"

"Wasn't he?"

"Oh, no. He was only Patsy."

"Patsy!" And what the checkmated villain said about Patsy would not look well in print.


Arthur Mannion was never tried for his crime. Pneumonia carried him off within a fortnight after his arrest. His widow still mourns for him, but Nick Carter believes that her eyes will soon brighten, and that there are happy days in store for her.

The three detectives left Washington showered with congratulations.

Jackson Feversham's last words were: "Nick, I can't tell you what I think about your work in this case, but I can say one thing. I wouldn't have believed any man could have done what you have done. I don't know how you've done it, but it's great, and so are you!"


With thrills from the first page to the last is told No. 1232, of the New Magnet Series, entitled, "A Voice from the Past," by Nicholas Carter.





Stories of Frank and Dick Merriwell

Fascinating Stories of Athletics

A half million enthusiastic followers of the Merriwell brothers will attest the unfailing interest and wholesomeness of these adventures of two lads of high ideals, who play fair with themselves, as well as with the rest of the world.

These stories are rich in fun and thrills in all branches of sports and athletics. They are extremely high in moral tone, and cannot fail to be of immense benefit to every boy who reads them.

They have the splendid quality of firing a boy's ambition to become a good athlete, in order that he may develop into a strong, vigorous, right-thinking man.


In order that there may be no confusion, we desire to say that the books listed below will be issued during the respective months in New York City and vicinity. They may not reach the readers at a distance promptly, on account of delays in transportation.

To be published in January, 1928.

To be published in February, 1928.

To be published in March, 1928.

To be published in April, 1928.

To be published in May, 1928.

To be published in June, 1928.



Stories of the Big Outdoors

There has been a big demand for outdoor stories, and a very considerable portion of it has been for the Maxwell Stevens stories about Jack Lightfoot, the athlete.

These stories are not, strictly speaking, stories for boys, but boys everywhere will find a great deal in them to interest them.



Alger Series

Clean Adventure Stories for Boys

The Most Complete List Published

The following list does not contain all the books that Horatio Alger wrote, but it contains most of them, and certainly the best.

Horatio Alger is to boys what Charles Dickens is to grown-ups. His work is just as popular to-day as it was years ago. The books have a quality, the value of which is beyond computation.

There are legions of boys of foreign parents who are being helped along the road to true Americanism by reading these books which are so peculiarly American in tone that the reader cannot fall to absorb some of the spirit of fair play and clean living which is so characteristically American.

In this list will be included certain books by Edward Stratemeyer, Oliver Optic, and other authors who wrote the Alger type of stories, which are equal in interest and wholesomeness with those written by the famous author after which this great line of books for boys is named.






[A] See "In the Lap of Danger; or, The Bait That Failed to
Lure," Magnet Library, 458.

Transcriber's Notes:

1. Spelling has been retained as in the original book.

2. Punctuation has been standardized.