Putting Crime Over - Hulbert Footner - ebook

Putting Crime Over ebook

Hulbert Footner

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„A Duet, with an Occasional Chorus” is a novel by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, published in 1899. The novel features the story of a happily married couple which is threatened by a previous lover of the husband. Also, the novel tells the adventures of a young couple, starting from their wedding preparation and ending with the birth of their first child. They are funny and cute, love each other, passionate and want always to be together. They make rules for family life, travel, keep the house and just live. The novel, set in Conan Doyle’s own time, written partly in the epistolary form he sought to revive after a century of disuse and which was also related to the self-conscious textuality of the late-Victorian urban Gothic.

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Liczba stron: 132

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Contents

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

CHAPTER XI

CHAPTER XII

CHAPTER XIII

CHAPTER XIV

CHAPTER XV

CHAPTER XVI

CHAPTER I

It was owing to the last-minute illness of Mrs. Cornelius Marquardt that I had the good fortune to be included in this little dinner of Mme. Storey’s. Her guests do not often disappoint.

Everybody in the know is aware that the best talk in New York is to be heard around her table. She picks her guests’ with that end in view, careless of their social position. One may meet a visiting marquis or a tramp poet–the poet more often than the marquis.

Mme. Storey herself is a better talker, in my opinion, than any of them, but one would be slow to learn that at her own table. Her object there is merely to keep the ball rolling briskly. She likes to listen. better than to talk.

On this occasion the men included Ambrose G. Larned, the brilliant. advertising man, who had introduced so many new ideas into his profession; John Durward, the famous English novelist; Harry Evans Colter, our own clever and popular short story writer; and Inspector Rumsey, of the New York police.

Rumsey, the dear little man, is not at all a brilliant person; but he is a perfect compendium of crime, and, since crime seems to be the most interesting of all subjects to persons of every degree nowadays, Mme. Storey finds him very useful at the dinner table. When people try to draw her out on the subject of crime, she shifts them on to Rumsey.

Foreigners regard us. Americans as pre-eminent in crime; they come over here to see crime; and when we have a distinguished visitor like Mr. Durward, Rumsey is pretty sure to be included.

My mistress, as you know, is not enamoured of crime, and she managed to divert the talk to other subjects until after we had left the table. When the little company was grouped around the amusing 1850 living room upstairs, it could no longer be staved off, and she let it have its way.

I must tell you that New York was experiencing a crime wave at the moment–but indeed it always is. It is like an ocean beach, with one crime wave falling right on top of the one before.

This was the time of the bobbed-hair bandit sensation, when many of the smaller jewelers were putting in defensive arrangements of siren whistles and tear gas. These things were always going off accidentally and throwing whole neighborhoods into a panic. The Englishman was all agog as he listened.

Everybody is familiar with Mr. Dur-ward’s fine head with its silvery hair and delicately chiseled features. He supplied a chorus of “Amazing! Extraordinary! Incredible!” to all the stories that were told.

“In the middle of the day!” I remember him saying. “With crowds passing in the street, these fellows go boldly into your jewelry shops, and point their guns, and take what they please, and get away scot-free! Such a thing would be impossible in London!”

“Not impossible,” Inspector Rumsey pointed out good-humoredly. “It has happened even in London. Your police are luckier than we are, that’s all. For London streets are narrow and crooked, and the few main thoroughfares are always crowded. It is exceedingly difficult to make a get-away. Now, our streets are broad and straight, and only one of them is completely full of traffic during business hours. You may have noticed that our holdups never take place in the center, but always in busy neighborhoods off the center, where there is enough traffic to conceal the bandits in their get-away, but not enough to stop them.”

“Well, what’s to be done? Are you just going to submit to this state of affairs?”

“There is a remedy,” said Inspector Rumsey quietly, “whenever the public is willing to pay for it.”

“And what is that?”

“It is ridiculous and humiliating to the police to be forced to go on foot, when every bandit is provided with an automobile. All patrolmen should be mounted on motorcycles.”

“Hear! Hear!” said Mme. Storey.

“Even the women are taking to banditry!” murmured Mr. Durward. “An incredible country!”

“There’s a good deal of nonsense about her,” said the inspector. “The newspapers have played up the bobbed-hair bandit so hard that their credulous readers see a bobbed-hair bandit everywhere they look. And I notice that the police are advertising in the subway cars,” Mr. Durward went on. “Cards addressed to the bandits, warning them that they will certainly be caught in the end. Surely that is very naïve.”

“Well,” said the inspector, smiling and firm in the defense of his beloved department, “we must try everything.”

Colter spoke up, a young man quick in his movements, with an eager, warm-colored face:

“If you’re sure to get him in the end; why bother to advertise?”

“It was Mr. Larned, here, who persuaded the commissioner to use those cards,” said Rumsey.

“Anything can be accomplished by intelligent publicity,” said Larned.

He went on to sing the praises of the wonderful new science, of which he was one of the most brilliant professors. A handsome man in his forties, with the full, beaming eye of the enthusiast, we were all sensible of his charm. He was of that type not uncommon in our country, the artist turned business man.

They said his private life was rather scandalous, but I know nothing about that. His new wife was among the ladies present, a pretty woman, but negligible as far as conversation went.

“That’s all true,” said Harry Colter, when he could get an opening, “but publicity, is a two-edged sword which is apt to cut in unexpected directions.”

“Take these subway cards,” went on Larned. “The idea was that the bandit lives in a world of his own, supported and encouraged by those of his kind, and cut off from all others. It was thought that it would be a good thing to remind him in this unexpected fashion of the existence of the real world which would not tolerate his actions. I appeal to Mme. Storey to tel us if this is not sound psychology.”

My mistress smiled in a way that told me what her opinion was, but refused to commit herself.

“Harry has something more to say on the subject,” she remarked.

“It’s a confession of weakness on the part of the police,” said Colter energetically. “Mr. Durward, with his fresh point of view, instantly perceived that. Irrespective of the effect on an occasional bandit, it certainly lowers the morale of the whole public that rides in the subway. For the public relies on the stern and secret measures of the police in dealing with crooks, and to have them come out in the open like this and beg the bandits to be good cannot help but be demoralizing.”

Inspector Rumsey agreed with Colter, though nothing could induce him to admit that the department could be in the wrong.

“It is true,” he said, “the stick-up boys have the public scared. And every story of a successful holdup that the newspapers print is just that much additional publicity for the bandits.”

“You can’t blame the newspapers for that,” said Larned.

“I don’t. It’s their job to purvey the news. But it’s too bad they’ve got to feature it the way they do.”

“That just proves my point,” said Larned. “You’ve got to have a counter-publicity to deal with it.”

I felt impelled to put in my oar at this point. Though I’m only a humble secretary, Mme. Storey expects me to keep my end up. There must be no dummies at her table.

“But a true counter-publicity would be directed toward boosting the public morale instead of further depressing it,” I suggested.

Mr. Larned gave me a cold look, as much as to say: Who is this red-haired female? His eyes quickly passed on to my mistress.

“Perhaps Mme. Storey will tell us how she would handle the situation,” he said.

My mistress held up her hands in mock dismay.

“Thank Heaven, I’m not obliged to answer that,” she said laughing. “My job is quite difficult enough. Bandits are a little out of my line.”

CHAPTER II

Some days or weeks after the dinner party, when all recollection of this conversation had passed out of my mind, I was working in the outer office of our suite on Gramercy Park one morning, when a good-looking young man came in. He was a mere lad of nineteen or so, but his face wore that unnatural look of experience and assurance that suggests a childhood spent on the streets.

“No; her secretary.” I could see that the little wretch was only trying to flatter me.

“Well, is she in?”

“Mme. Storey can only receive visitors by appointment,” I said. “Will you tell me your business?”

“Sure,” he said, with an appearance of the utmost good humor, plumping himself into a chair without waiting for an invitation. His bright eyes traveled around the room, taking everything in. “You sure got a swell joint here,” he remarked sociably.

I ignored this. “What can I do for you?” I asked coldly.

I could see from the beginning that he was just stringing me along; but it never occurred to me to suspect he might have a sinister motive. All kinds of people come into the office, and waste my time, particularly when we have been engaged on a big case, with all its attendant publicity.

“I just wanted to apply for a job,” he answered.

“A job?” I said, surprised. “What sort of job?”

“Anything at all,” he said, grinning. “I read in the papers how Mme. Storey employed a whole raft of, now, operatives, private detectives like, in the Harker case.”

“It is only occasionally that she is engaged on a criminal case,” said I. “And then any operatives that we may require are secured temporarily from a list that we keep.”

“Well, put me down on your list,” he said. “John Casey, 123 East Broadway.”

He was no Casey! However, as the quickest way of getting rid of him, I wrote the address on a pad.

“You got a swell job here, secretary to Mme. Storey and all,” he said while I was writing. “Somepin’ doin’ alla time, I guess.”

I made no answer.

“Don’t she employ no clerk nor office boy nor nothin’?” he asked.

“No,” I told him.

“There’d be the job for me,” he said.

“Well, let me have a sample of your handwriting,” I suggested, pushing the pad toward him. I thought I had him there.

He drew back. “I got a cramp in me hand to-day,” he said without batting an eye. “Along of catching a swift one yestiddy. But say, I could make myself useful here, receivin’ callers and runnin’ errands and all. And when you needed an outside man I’d be on the spot.”

I shook my head.

“And say, when she was out I’d be company for you,” he said with a sidelong grin. The good-looking little wretch was actually trying to vamp me. I was highly amused. His sharp eyes perceived my amusement, and it encouraged him to go further.

“Say, what’s your name?” he asked.

“I don’t see that that matters,” I said. “Just in case I wanted to write you later to see if there was an openin’.”

“I will write to you if there is an opening,” I said dryly.

He affected to laugh heartily. “Gee, you’re wise, all right! You’re there with the comeback!”

He came close to me and smiled insinuatingly. I suppose with a certain type of girl he had found himself irresistible. “Me and you’d get along fine, eh?”

“I dare say,” I said coldly. “But you will have to excuse me. I’m busy.”

“Is that the door to her room?” he asked, pointing.

I did not answer. He knew that it was the door to her room, because there was no other except that by which he had entered.

“Let me take a look in,” he said cajolingly. “I bet it’s a swell room!”

“Certainly not!” I said, rising to forestall any move to open the door. “Mme. Storey must not be disturbed.”

“Oh, I didn’t know she was in there,” he remarked with an innocent air. “Well, so long, kid,” with a final grin over his shoulder. “You know where to find me.” And went out.

It did not occur to me to be angry. Indeed, after he had gone, I sat down at my desk, smiling. Such is the power of youth and good looks. I merely put him down in my mind as another fresh kid.

Immediately afterward Mme. Storey called me in to take dictation. We were still suffering from the publicity attendant upon the famous Harker case, and there was a pile of letters six inches high on her desk.

My mistress as a matter of courtesy insists on writing once to everybody who writes to her. Of course if they continue to send in trifling letters they go into the wastebasket. Had we been less busy, I would no doubt have related the incident of my caller just for her amusement, and the whole course of subsequent events might have been changed; but as it was, I did not mention him.

I have on several former occasions described the arrangements of my mistress’s beautiful room. There is nothing about it to connote the word office.

Once the front drawing-room of a great house on Gramercy Park, it is now furnished with priceless Italian antiques, and forms a fit setting for Mme. Storey, who is herself like a vivid figure out of the Renaissance–but not antique. In spite of all pressure from the outside, she preserves her individuality.

She refuses to organize her genius, nor will she work herself to death either. She accepts the few cases that most appeal to her; all the others are turned down. I constitute her entire office force; and when we feel like it we close up the office altogether, and go for a jaunt.

Mine. Storey sits at an immense oak table, black with age, her back to the row-of casement windows which look out on the square. At her right hand is the door into my room; and in the same wall near the back of the long room, another door leading directly into the hall.

This door, which is closed with a spring lock, permits her to escape from anybody waiting in my room, whom she may not want to bother with. In the middle of the back wall is a door giving on what we call the middle room, which is used for the multitudinous requirements of our peculiar business–dressing-room, hiding place, temporary jail, and what not. The three rooms constitute our suite.

In taking dictation I sit at my mistress’s right hand, with my back to the door from my room. We were in the middle of our work without a thought in our minds except the desire to get to the bottom of that pile of silly letters, when the buzzer sounded that announced the opening of the outer door into my room.

I finished the sentence I was putting down, and rose to my feet. I got no farther, for at that moment the door from my room burst open, and two men ran in, each grasping an ugly automatic.

One was my visitor of half an hour before; the other was a few years older.

What a moment that was! Death itself could not have been worse than what I suffered. My heart turned to water in my breast; I seemed to lose all strength, all control of my body.

How I longed to shrivel up to nothing before those guns! I dared not look at my mistress, who was alongside, and a little behind me. My eyes were glued to those hideous weapons.

“Stick ‘em up!” barked the older man. My hands went over my head like a shot. They strained away from me, as if desirous of flying up under the ceiling on their own account. I heard Mme. Storey drawl:

“I’ll put mine on the table if you don’t mind. The other attitude is so ungraceful.”

I stole a look at her. Good Heavens! What a woman! She was actually smiling. The sight of her smile did not put any heart into me, though. It gave me a dreadful pang to realize that those worthless youths, the sweepings of the streets, held the life of such a glorious woman in their hands.

“None of your tricks!” growled the leader.

“Bless your heart, I wouldn’t think of it!” drawled Mme. Storey. “I have a gun in the drawer of this table, but I’m not going to try to get it out. I value my skin too highly.”

“Look through those two doors,” the leader said to his companion. “I’ll keep the women covered.”

As silently as a shadow, the younger man ran to the two doors.

“This door goes out into the hall,” he said at the first; and at the other, “Nobody in this room.”

“Do you mind if I smoke?” said Mme. Storey, moving her hand toward the big silver box that stood on her table.

“Keep your hands in front of you!” barked the leader.

Taking a step forward, he threw back the cover of the box. Seeing that it contained only cigarettes, he shrugged, and allowed my mistress to take one.

“Won’t you join me?” she drawled mockingly.

He helped himself, tossing the cigarette up to his mouth without taking his eyes from Mme. Storey’s face. She nonchalantly lighted up, and offered him the burning match. He put the cigarette to it, with his eyes fixed on hers.

What a picture! While the first one was merely a good looking boy, this one was infernally handsome. Mme. Storey’s face still wore the mocking half smile; his was like a mask.

It was perfectly inhuman in its immobility; not a muscle quivered; his very eyes appeared to be glazed. It made a cold shiver run down my spine.

“Hand over your pearls,” he said.

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