THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY
Copyright, 1922, by
FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY
Copyright, 1921, by
THE CURTIS PUBLISHING COMPANY
under the title "Two and Two"
Printed in the United. States of A merica
I WORTH GILBERT i
II SIGHT UNSEEN 16
III A WEDDING PARTY 27
IV AN APPARITION 45
V AT THE ST. DUNSTAN 57
VI Ox THE ROOF 65
VII THE GOLD NUGGET 75
VIII A TIN-HORN GAMBLER 87
IX SANTA YSOBEL 101
X A SHADOW IN THE FOG no
XI THE MISSING DIARY 124
XII A MURDER 137
XIII DR. BOWMAN 147
XIV SEVEN LOST DAYS 155
XV AT DYKEMAN S OFFICE 164
XVI A LUNCHEON 171
XVII CLEANSING FIRES 181
XVIII THE TORN PAGE 188
XIX ON THE HILL-TOP 196
XX AT THE COUNTRY CLUB 209
XXI A MATTER OF TASTE 214
XXII A DINNER INVITATION 225
XXIII A BIT OF SILK 231
XXIV THE MAGNET :., . ; . 240
XXV AN ARREST . 250
XXVI MRS. BOWMAN SPEAKS 261
XXVII THE BLOSSOM FESTIVAL 273
XXVIII THE COUNTRY CLUB BALL 293
XXIX UNMASKED 303
XXX A CONFESSION 311
XXXI THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE . . . 320
THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
The Million-Dollar Suitcase
ON the blank silence that followed my last words,
there in the big, dignified room with its Cir
cassian walnut and sound-softening rugs, Dykeman,
the oldest director, squalled out as though he had been
"All there is to tell! But it can t be! It isn t
possib " His voice cracked, split on the word, and
the rest came in an agonized squeak, "A man can t
just vanish into thin air!"
"A man! Knapp, the cashier, echoed. "A suitcase
full of money our money can t vanish into thin air
in the course of a few hours."
Feverishly they passed the timeworn phrase back
and forth; it would have been ludicrous if it hadn t
been so deadly serious. Well, money when you come
to think of it, is its very existence to such an institu
tion ; it was not to be wondered at that the twelve men
around the long table in the directors room of the
Van Ness Avenue Savings Bank found this a life or
"How much ?" began heavy-set, heavy-voiced old
Anson, down at the lower end, but stuck and got no
further. There was a smitten look on every face at
the contemplation a suitcase could hold so unguess-
/4 2; ; THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
ably great a sum expressed in terms of cash and
"We ll have the exact amount in a few moments
I ve just set them to verifying," President Whipple
indicated with a slight backward nod the second and
smaller table in the room, where two clerks delved
mole-like among piles of securities, among greenbacks
and yellowbacks bound round with paper collars, and
stacks of coin.
The blinds were down, only the table lamps on, and
a gooseneck over where the men counted. It put the
place all in shadow, and threw out into bolder relief the
faces around that board, gray-white, denatured, all with
the financier s curiously unhuman look. The one
fairly cheerful countenance in sight was that of A. G.
Cummings, the bank s attorney.
For myself, I was only waiting to hear what results
those clerks would bring us. So far, Whipple had
been quite noncommittal : the extraordinary state of
the market everything so upset that a bank couldn t
afford even the suspicion of a loss or irregularity
hinting at something in his mind not evident to the
rest of us. I was just rising to go round and ask him
quietly if, having reported, I might not be excused to
get on the actual work, when the door opened.
I can t say why the young fellow who stood in it
should have seemed so foreign to the business in hand ;
perhaps the carriage of his tall figure, the military
abruptness of his movements, the way he swung the
door far back against the wall and halted there, look
ing us over. But I do know that no sooner had
Worth Gilbert, lately home from France, crossed the
threshold, meeting Whipple s outstretched hand, nod-
WORTH GILBERT 3
ding carelessly to the others, than suddenly every man
in the room seemed older, less a man. We were dead
ones ; he the only live wire in the place.
"Boyne," the president turned quickly to me, "would
you mind going over for Captain Gilbert s benefit what
you ve just said?"
The newcomer had, so far, not made any movement
to join the circle at the table. He stood there, chin up,
looking straight at us all, but quite through us. At
the back of the gaze was a something between weary
and fierce that I have noticed in the eyes of so many
of our boys home from what they d witnessed and gone
through over there, when forced to bring their atten
tion to the stale, bloodless affairs of civil life. Used
to the instant, conclusive fortunes of war, they can
hardly handle themselves when matters hitch and halt
upon customs and legalities ; the only thing that appeals
to them is the big chance, win or lose, and have it over.
Such a man doesn t speak the language of the group
that was there gathered. Just looking at him, old
Dykeman rasped, without further provocation,
"What s Captain Gilbert got to do with the private
concerns of this bank?"
As though the words and their tone had been a
cordial invitation, rather than an offensive challenge,
the young man, who had still shown no sign of
an intention to come into the meeting at all, walked
to the table, drew out a chair and sat down.
"Pardon me, Mr. Dykeman," Cummings voice
had a wire edge on it, "the Hanford block of stock in
this bank has, as I think you very well know, passed
fully into Gilbert hands to-day."
4 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"Thomas A. Gilbert/ Dykeman was sparing of
"Captain Worth Gilbert s father," Whipple at
tempted pacification. "Mr. Gilbert senior was with
me till nearly noon, closing up the transfer. He had
hardly left when we discovered the shortage. After
consultation, Knapp and I got hold of Cummings.
We wanted to get you gentlemen here have the cap
ital of the bank represented, as nearly as we could
and found that Mr. Gilbert had taken the twelve-forty-
five train for Santa Ysobel ; so, as Captain Gilbert was
to be found, we felt that if we got him it would be
practically er quite the same thing "
Worth Gilbert had sat in the chair he selected, abso
lutely indifferent. It was only when Dykeman, hang
ing to his point, spoke again, that I saw a quick gleam
of blue fire come into those hawk eyes under the slant
brow. He gave a sort of detached attention as
Dykeman sputtered indecently.
"Not the same thing at all! Sons can t always
speak for fathers, any more than fathers can always
speak for sons. In this case "
He broke off with his ugly old mouth open. Worth
Gilbert, the son of divorced parents, with a childhood
that had divided time between a mother in the East
and a California father, surveyed the parchment-like
countenance leisurely after the crackling old voice was
hushed. Finally he grunted inarticulately (I m sorry
I can t find a more imposing word for a returned
hero) ; and answered all objections with,
"I m here now and here I stay. What s the
WORTH GILBERT 5
"I was just asking Mr. Boyne to tell you," Whipple
came in smoothly.
Xo one else offered any objections. What I re
peated, briefly, amounted to this:
Directly after closing time to-day which was noon,
as this \vas Saturday Knapp, the cashier of the bank,
had discovered a heavy shortage, and it was decided
on a quick investigation that Edward Clayte, one of
the paying tellers, had walked out with the money in
a suitcase. I was immediately called in on what
appeared a wade-open trail, with me so close behind
Clayte that you d have said there was nothing to it.
I followed him and the suitcase to his apartment
at the St. Dunstan, found he d got there at twenty-
five minutes to one, and I barely three quarters of an
"How do you get the exact minute Clayte arrived?"
Anson stopped me at this point, "and the positive
knowledge that he had the suitcase with him?"
"Clayte asked the time from the clerk at the desk
as he came in. He put the suitcase down while he
set his watch. The clerk saw him pick it up and go
into the elevator; Mrs. Griggsby, a w oman at work
mending carpet on the seventh floor which is his
saw him come out of the elevator carrying it, and let
himself into his room. There the trail ends."
"Ends?" As my voice halted young Gilbert s word
came like a bullet. "The trail can t end unless the
man was there."
"Or the suitcase," little old Sillsbee quavered, and
Worth Gilbert gave him a swift, half-humorous glance.
"Bath and bedroom," I said, "that suite has three
6 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
windows, seven stories above the ground. I found
them all locked not mere latches the St. Dunstan
has burglar-proof locks. No disturbance in the room ;
all neat, in place, the door closed with the usual spring
lock; and I had to get Mrs. Griggsby to move, since
she was tacking the carpet right at the threshold.
Everything was in that room that should have been
there except Gayte and the suitcase."
The babel of complaint and suggestion broke out as
I finished, exactly as it had done when I got to this
point before : "The Griggsby woman ought to be kept
under surveillance"; "The clerk, the house servants
ought to be watched," and so on, and so on. I
curtly reiterated my assurance that such routine
matters had been promptly and thoroughly attended to.
My nerves were getting raw. I m not so young as I
was. This promised to be one of those grinding cases
where the detective agency is run through the rollers
so many times that it comes out pretty slim in the end,
whether that end is failure or success.
The only thing in sight that it didn t make me sick
to look at was that silent young fellow sitting there,
never opening his trap, giving things a chance to
develop, not rushing in on them with the forceps. It
was a crazy thing for Whipple to call this meeting
have all these old, scared men on my back before I
could take the measure of what I was up against.
What, exactly, had the Van Ness Avenue Bank lost?
That, and not anything else, was the key for my first
moves. And at last a clerk crossed to our table,
touched Whipple s arm and presented a sheet of paper.
"I ll read the total, gentlemen." The president
stared at the sheet he held, moistened his lips, gulped,
WORTH GILBERT 7
gasped, "I I d no idea it was so much!" and finished
in a changed voice, "nine hundred and eighty seven
thousand, two hundred and thirty four dollars/
A deathlike hush. Dykeman s mere look was a call
for the ambulance; Anson slumped in his chair; little
old Sillsbee sat twisted away so that his face was in
shadow, but the knuckles showed bone white where his
hand gripped the table top. None of them seemed
able to speak; the young voice that broke startlingly
on the stillness had the effect of scaring the others,
with its tone of nonchalance, rather than reassuring
them. Worth Gilbert leaned forward and looked
round in my direction with,
"This is beginning to be interesting. What do the
police say of it?
"We ve not thought well to notify them yet."
Whipple s eye consulted that of his cashier and he
broke off. Quietly the clerks got out with the last
load of securities; Knapp closed the door carefully
behind them, and as he returned to us, Whipple re
peated, "I had no idea it was so big, his tone almost
pleading as he looked from one to the other. "But I
felt from the first that we d better keep this thing to
ourselves. We don t want a run on the bank, and
under present financial conditions, almost anything
might start one. But almost a million dollars!"
He seemed unable to go on; none of the other men
at the table had anything to offer. It was the silent
youngster, the outsider, who spoke again.
"I suppose Clayte was bonded for what that s
"Fifteen thousand dollars," Knapp, the cashier, gave
ic information dully. The sum sounded pitiful be-
8 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
side that which, we were to understand, had traveled
out of the bank as currency and unregistered securities
in Clayte s suitcase.
"Bonding company will hound him, won t they?"
young Gilbert put it bluntly. "Will the Clearing
House help you out?" in the tone of one discussing a
"Not much chance now." Whipple s face was
sickly. "You know as well as I do that we are going
to get little help from outside. I want you to all stand
by me now keep this quiet among ourselves
"Among ourselves !" rapped out Kirkpatrick. "Then
it leaks we have a? run and where are you?"
"No, no. Just long enough to give Boyne here a
chance to recover our money without publicity try it
"Well," said Anson sullenly, "that s what he s paid
for. How long is it going to take him?"
I made no attempt to answer that fool question;
Cummings spoke for me, lawyer fashion, straddling
the question, bringing up- the arguments pro and con.
"Your detective asks for publicity to assist his
search. You refuse it. Then you ve got to be in
dulgent with him in the matter of time. Understand
me, you may be right ; I m not questioning the wisdom
of secrecy, though as a lawyer I generally think the
sooner you get to the police with a crime the better.
You all can see how publicity and a sizable reward
offered would give Mr. Boyne a hundred thousand
assistants conscious and unconscious to help nab
"And we d be a busted bank before you found him-,"
WORTH GILBERT 9
groaned Knapp. "We ve got to keep this thing to
ourselves. I agree with Whipple."
"It s all we can do," the president repeated.
"Suppose a State bank examiner walks in on you
Monday?" demanded the attorney.
"We take that chance that serious chance," re
plied Whipple solemnly.
Silence after that again till Cummings spoke.
"Gentlemen, there are here present twelve of the
principal stockholders of the bank." He paused a
moment to estimate. "The capital is practically rep
resented. Speaking as your legal advisor, I am obliged
to say that you should not let the bank take such a
risk as Mr. Whipple suggests. You are threatened
with a staggering loss, but, after all, a high percent of
money lost by defalcations is recovered made good
wholly or in part."
"Nearly a million dollars !" croaked old Sillsbee.
"Yes, yes, of course," Cummings agreed hastily;
"the larger amount s against you. The men who can
engineer such a theft are almost as strong as you are.
You ve got to make every edge cut use every weapon
that s at hand. And most of all, gentlemen, you ve
got to stand together. No dissensions. As a tem
porary expedient to keep the bank sufficiently under
cover and still allow Boyne the publicity he needs-
replace this money pro rata among yourselves. That
wouldn t clean any of you. Announce a small defal
cation, such as Clayte s bond would cover, so you
could collect there ; use all the machinery of the police.
Then when Clayte s found, the money recovered, you
io THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"But if he s never found! If it s never recovered?"
Knapp asked huskily; he was least able of any man
in the room to stand the loss.
"What do you say, Gilbert?" The attorney looked
toward the young man, who, all through the discus
sion, had been staring straight ahead of him. He
came round to the lawyer s question like one roused
from other thoughts, and agreed shortly.
"Not a bad bet."
"Well Boyne " Whipple was giving way an
inch at a time.
"It s a peculiar case," I began, then caught myself
up with, "All cases are peculiar. The big point here
is to get our man before he can get rid of the money.
W T e were close after Clayte ; even that locked room
in the St. Dunstan needn t have stopped us. If he
wasn t in it, he was somewhere not far outside it.
He d had no time to make a real getaway. All I
needed to lay hands on him was a good description/
"Description?" echoed Whipple. "Your agency s
got descriptions on file thumb prints photographs
of every employee of this bank."
"Every one of em but Clayte," I said. "When I
came to look up the files, there wasn t a thing on him.
Don t think I ever laid eyes on the man myself."
A description of Edward Clayte? Every man at
the table even old Sillsbee sat up and opened his
mouth to give one; but Knapp beat them to it, with,
"Clayte s worked in this bank eight years. We all
know him. You can get just as many good descrip
tions as there are people on our payroll or directors
in this room and plenty more at the St. Dunstan,
I ll be bound."
WORTH GILBERT 11
"You think so?" I said wearily. "I have not been
idle, gentlemen; I have interviewed his associates.
Listen to this; it is a composite of the best I ve been
able to get." I read: "Edward Clayte; height about
five feet seven or eight; weight between one hundred
and forty and one hundred and fifty pounds ; age some
where around forty; smooth face; medium complex
ion, fairish; brown hair; light eyes; apparently com
monplace features; dressed neatly in blue business
suit, black shoes, black derby hat "
"Wait a minute," interposed Knapp. "Is that what
they gave you at the St. Dunstan what he was wear
ing when he came in?"
"Well, I d have said he had on tan shoes and a fe
dora. He did or was that yesterday? But aside
from that, it s a perfect description; brings the man
right up before me."
I heard a chuckle from Worth Gilbert.
"That description," I said, "is gibberish; mere
words. Would it bring Clayte up before any one
who had never seen him? Ask Captain Gilbert, who
doesn t know the man. I say that s a list of the points
at which he resembles every third office man you meet
on the street. What I want is the points at which
he d differ. You have all known Clayte for years;
forget his regularities, and tell me his peculiarities
looks, manners, dress or habits."
There was a long pause, broken finally by Whipple.
"He never smoked," said the bank president.
"Occasionally he did," contradicted Knapp, and the
pause continued till I asked,
"Any peculiarities of clothing?"
12 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"Oh, yes," said Whipple. "Very neat. Usually
"But sometimes gray," added Knapp, heavily, and
old Sillsbee piped in,
"I ve seen that feller wear pin-check; I know I
I was fed up on clothes.
"How did he brush his hair?" I questioned.
"Smoothed down from a part high on the left/*
Knapp came back promptly.
"On the right," boomed old Anson from the foot
of the table.
"Sometimes yes I guess he did," Knapp con
"Oh, well then, what color was it? Maybe you can
agree better on that."
"Sort of mousy color," Knapp thought.
"O Lord! Mousy colored!" groaned Dykeman
under his breath. "Listen to em!"
"Well, isn t it?" Knapp was a bit stung.
"House mousy, or field mousy ?" Cummings wanted
"Knapp s right enough," Whipple said with dignity.
"The man s hair is a medium brown indeterminate
brown." He glanced around the table at the heads of
hair under the electric lights. "Something the color
of Merrill s," and a director began stroking his hair
"No, no; darker than Merrill s," broke in Kirk-
patrick. "Isn t it, Knapp?"
"Why, I was going to say lighter," admitted the
WORTH GILBERT 13
"Never mind," I sighed. "Forget the hair. Come
on what color are his eyes?"
"Blue," said Whipple.
"Gray," said Knapp.
"Brown," said Kirkpatrick.
They all spoke in one breath. And as I despair
ingly laid down my pencil, the last man repeated
"Brown. But they might be light brown or
hazel, y know."
"But, after all, Boyne," Whipple appealed to me,
"you ve got a fairly accurate description of the man,
one that fits him all right."
"Does it? Then he s description proof. No moles,
scars or visible marks?" I suggested desperately.
"None." There was a negative shaking of heads.
"No mannerisms? No little tricks, such as a twist
of the mouth, a mincing step, or a head carried on
More shakes of negation from the men who knew
"Well, at least you can tell me who are his friends
"He must have friends?" I urged.
"He hasn t/ maintained Whipple. "Knapp is as
close to him as any man in San Francisco."
The cashier squirmed, but said nothing.
"But outside the bank. Who were his associates?"
"Don t think he had any," from Knapp.
"None I know he hadn t."
14 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"Girls? Lord! Didn t he have a girl?"
"Not a girl."
"No associates no girl? For the love of Mike,
what could such a man intend to do with all that
money?" I gasped. "Where did he spend his time
when he wasn t in the bank?"
Whipple looked at his cashier for an answer. But
Knapp was sitting, head down, in a painful brown
study, and the president himself began haltingly.
"Why, he was perhaps the one man in the bank that
I knew least about. The truth is he was so unobjec
tionable in every way, personally unobtrusive, quite
unimportant and uninteresting; really er un-every-
thing, such a a "
"Shadow," Cummings suggested.
"That s the word- shadow I never thought to
inquire where he went till he walked out of here this
noon with the bank s money crammed in that suit
"Was the Saturday suitcase a regular thing?" I
asked, and Whipple looked bewildered. But Knapp
woke up with,
"Oh, yes. For years. Studious fellow. Books to
be exchanged at the public library, I think. No "
Knapp spoke heavily. "Come to think of it, guess
that was special work. He told me once he was
taking some sort of correspondence course."
"Special work!" chuckled Worth Gilbert. "I ll tell
the world !"
"Oh, well, give me a description of the suitcase,"
"Brown. Sole-leather. That s all I ever noticed,"
from Whipple, a bit stiffly.
WORTH GILBERT 15
"Brass rings and lock, I suppose?"
"Brass or nickel; I don t remember. What d you
"I wouldn t know now, if it was canvas and tin,"
replied the harried cashier.
"Gentlemen," I said, looking across at the clock,
"since half-past two my men have been watching docks,
ferries, railroad stations, every garage near the St.
Dunstan, the main highways out of town. Seven of
them on the job, and in the first hour they made ten
arrests, on that description ; and every time, sure they
had their man. They thought, just as you seem to
think, that the bunch of words described something.
We re getting nowhere, gentlemen, and time means
IN the squabble and snatch of argument, given dignity
only because it concerned the recovery of near a
million dollars, we seemed to have lost Worth Gilbert
entirely. He kept his seat, that chair he had taken
instantly when old Dykeman seemed to wish to have
it denied him ; but he sat on it as though it were a lone
rock by the sea. I didn t suppose he was hearing
what we said any more than he would have heard the
mewing of a lot of gulls, when, on a sudden silence,
he burst out,
"For heaven s sake, if you men can t decide on any
thing, sell me the suitcase! I ll buy it, as it is, and
clean up the job."
"Sell you the suitcase Clayte s suitcase?" They
sat up on the edge of their chairs ; bewildered, incred
ulous, hostile. Such a bunch is very like a herd of
cattle; anything they don t understand scares them.
Even the attorney studied young Gilbert with curious
interest. I was mortal glad I hadn t said what was
the fact, that with the naming of the enormous sum
lost I was certain this was a sizable conspiracy with
long-laid plans. They were mistrustful enough as
Whipple finally questioned,
"Is this a bona-fide offer, Captain Gilbert?" and
Dykeman came in after him.
SIGHT UNSEEN 17
"A gambler s chance at stolen money is that what
you figure on buying, sir? Is that it?" And heavy-
faced Anson asked bluntly,
"Who s to set the price on it? You or us? There s
practically a million dollars in that suitcase. It be
longs to the bank. If you ve got an idea that you can
buy up the chance of it for about fifty percent you re
mistaken. We have too much faith in Mr. Boyne
and his agency for that. Why, at this moment, one
of his men may have laid hands on Clayte, or found
the man who planned "
He stopped with his mouth open. I saw the same
suspicion that had taken his breath away grip mo
mentarily every man at the table. A hint of it was
in Whipple s voice as he asked, gravely :
"Do you bind yourself to pursue Clayte and bring
him, if possible, to justice?"
"Bind myself to nothing. I ll give eight hundred
thousand dollars for that suitcase."
He fumbled in his pocket with an interrogative look
at Whipple, and, "May I smoke in here?" and lit a
cigarette without waiting a reply.
Banking institutions take some pains to keep in
their employ no young men who are known to play
poker; but a poker face at that board would have ac
quired more than its share of dignity. As it was, you
could see, almost as though written there, the agoniz
ing doubt running riot in their faces as to whether
Worth Gilbert was a young hero coming to the bank s
rescue, or a con man playing them for suckers. It
was Knapp who said at last, huskily,
"I think we should close with Captain Gilbert s
offer." The cashier had a considerable family, and I
i8 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
knew his recently bought Pacific Avenue home was not
all paid for.
"We might consider it," Whipple glanced doubt
fully at his -associates. "If everything else fails, this
might be a way out of the difficulty for us."
If everything else failed! President Whipple was
certainly no poker player. Worth Gilbert gave one
swift look about the ring of faces, pushed a brown,
muscular left hand out on the table top, glancing at
the wrist watch there, and suggested brusquely,
"Think it over. My offer holds for fifteen minutes.
Time to get at all the angles of the case. Huh!
Gentlemen! I seem to have started something!"
For the directors and stockholders of the Van Ness
Avenue Savings Bank were at that moment almost as
yappy and snappy as a wolf pack. Dykeman wanted
to know about the one hundred and eighty seven thou
sand odd dollars not covered by Worth s offer did
they lose that ? Knapp was urging that Clayte s bond,
when they d collected, would shade the loss; Whipple
reminding them that they d have to spend a good deal
maybe a great deal on the recovery of the suit
case; money that Worth Gilbert would have to spend
instead if they sold to him; and finally an ugly mutter
from somewhere that maybe young Gilbert wouldn t
have to spend so very much to recover that suitcase
maybe he wouldn t !
The tall young fellow looked thoughtfully at his
watch now and again. Cummings and I chipped into
the thickest of the row and convinced them that he
meant what he said, not only by his offer, but by its
"How about publicity, if this goes?" Whipple sud-
SIGHT UNSEEN 19
denly interrogated, raising his voice to top the pack-
yell. "Even with eight hundred thousand dollars in
our vaults, a run s not a thing that does a bank any
good. I suppose," stretching up his head to see across
his noisy associates, "I suppose, Captain Gilbert, you ll
be retaining Boyne s agency? In that case, do you
give him the publicity he wants?"
"Course he does!" Dykeman hissed. "Can t you
see? Damn fool wants his name in the papers!
Rotten story like this about some lunatic buying a
suitcase with a million in it would ruin any bank
if it got into print." Dykeman s breath gave out.
"And it s it s just the kind of story the accursed
yellow press would eat up. Let it alone, Whipple.
Let his damned offer alone. There s a joker in it
"There won t be any offer in about three minutes/
Cummings quietly reminded them. "If you d asked
my opinion and giving you opinions is what you pay
me a salary for I d have said close with him while
Whipple gave me an agonized glance. I nodded
affirmatively. He put the question to vote in a breath ;
the ayes had it, old Dykeman shouting after them in
an angry squeak.
"No! No!" and adding as he glared about him,
"I d like to be able to look a newspaper in the face;
but never again! Never again!"
I made my way over to Gilbert and stood in front
"You ve bought something, boy," I said. "If you
mean to keep me on as your detective, you can assure
these people that I ll do my darndest to give informa-
20 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
tion to the police and keep it out of the papers. What s
happened here won t get any further than this room
"You re hired, Jerry Boyne." Gilbert slapped me
on the back affectionately. After all, he hadn t
changed so much in his four years over there; I be
gan to see more than traces of the enthusiastic young
ster to whom I used to spin detective yarns in the
grill at the St. Francis or on the rocks by the Cliff
House. "Sure, we ll keep it out of the papers. Suits
me. I d rather not pose as the fool soon parted from
The remark was apropos; Knapp had feverishly
beckoned the lawyer over to a little side desk; they
were down at it, the light snapped on, writing, trying
to frame up an agreement that would hold water.
One by one the others went and looked on nervously
as they worked; by the time they d finished some
thing, everybody d seen it but Worth; and when it
was finally put in his hands, all he seemed to notice
was the one point of the time they d set for payment.
"It ll be quite some stunt to get the amount to
gether by ten o clock Monday," he said slowly.
"There are securities to be converted "
He paused, and looked up on a queer hush.
"Securities?" croaked Dykeman. "To be con
"Yes," in some surprise. "Or would the bank
prefer to have them turned over in their present
Again a strained moment, broken by Whipple s
SIGHT UNSEEN 21
"Maybe that would be better," and a quickly sup
pressed chuckle from Cummings.
The agreement was in duplicate. It gave Worth
Gilbert complete ownership of a described sole-leather
suitcase and its listed contents, and, as he had de
manded, it bound him to nothing save the payment.
Cummings said frankly that the transaction was
illegal from end to end, and that any assurance as to
the bank s ceasing to pursue Clayte would amount to
compounding a felony. Yet we all signed solemnly,
the lawyer and I as witnesses. A financier s idea of
indecency is something about money which hasn t
formerly been done. The directors got sorer and
sorer as Worth Gilbert s cheerfulness increased.
"Acts as though it were a damn crap game," I
heard Dykeman muttering to Sillsbee, who came back
"Craps ? they say our boys did shoot craps a good
deal over there. Well uh they were risking their
And that s as near as any of them came, I suppose,
to understanding how a weariness of the little inter
weaving plans of tamed men had pushed Worth Gil
bert into carelessly staking his birthright on a chance
that might lend interest to life, a hazard big enough
to breeze the staleness out of things for him.
We were leaving the bank, Gilbert and I ahead,
Cummings right at my boy s shoulder, the others hold
ing back to speak together, (bitterly enough, if I am
any guesser) when Worth said suddenly,
"You mentioned in there it s being illegal for the
bank to give up the pursuit of Clayte. Seems funny
22 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
to me, but I suppose you know what you re talking
about. Anyhow" he was lighting another cigarette
and he glanced sharply at Cummings across it "any
how, they won t waste their money hunting Clayte
now, should you say? That s my job. That s where
I get my cash back."
"Oh, that s where, is it?" The lawyer s dry tone
might have been regarded as humorous. We stood in
the deep doorway, hunching coat collars, looking into
the foggy street. Worth s interest in life seemed to
be freshening moment by moment.
"Yes," he agreed briskly. "I m going to keep you
and Boyne busy for a while. You ll have to show me
how to hustle the payment for those Shylocks, and
Jerry s got to find the suitcase, so I can eat. But I ll
Cummings stared at the boy.
"Gilbert," he said, "where are you going? right
now, I mean."
"To Boyne s office."
We stepped out to the street where the line of
limousines waited for the old fellows inside, my own
battleship-gray roadster, pretty well hammered but still
a mighty capable machine, far down at the end. As
Worth moved with me toward it, the lawyer walked
at his elbow.
"Seat for me?" he glanced at the car. "I ve a few
words of one syllable to say to this young man
council that I ought to get in as early as possible."
I looked at little Pete dozing behind the wheel, and
"Take you all right, if I could drive. But I
SIGHT UNSEEN 23
sprained my thumb on a window lock looking over that
room at the St. Dunstan."
Til drive/ Worth had circled the car with surpris
ing quickness for so large a man. I saw him on the
other side, waiting for Pete to get out so he could get
in. Curious the intimate, understanding look he gave
the monkey as he flipped a coin at him with, "Buy
something to burn, kid." Pete s idea of Worth Gil
bert would be quite different from that of the directors
in there. After all, human beings are only what we
see them from our varying angles. Pete slid down,
looking back to the last at the tall young fellow who
was taking his place at the wheel. Cummings and I
got in and we were off.
There in the machine, my new boss driving, Cum
mings sitting next him, I at the further side, began the
keen, cool probe after a truth which to me lay very
evidently on the surface. Any one, I would have said,
might see with half an eye that Worth Gilbert had
bought Clayte s suitcase so that he could get a thrill
out of hunting for it. Cummings I knew had in
charge all the boy s Pacific Coast holdings; and since
his mother s death during the first year of the war,
these were large. Worth manifested toward them
and the man who spoke to him of them the indifference,
almost contempt, of an impatient young soul who in
the years just behind him, had often wagered his chance
of his morning s coffee against some other fellow s
month s pay feeling that he was putting up double.
It seemed the sense of ownership was dulled in one
who had seen magnificent properties masterless, or
apparently belonging to some limp, bloodstained bundle
24 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
of flesh that lay in one of the rooms. In vain Cum-
mings urged the state of the market, repeating with
more particularity and force what Whipple had said.
The mines were tied up by strike; their stock, while
perfectly good, was down to twenty cents on the dollar;
to sell now would be madness. Worth only repeated
"I ve got to have the money Monday morning
ten o clock. I don t care what you sell or hock.
"See here," the lawyer was puzzled, and therefore
unprofessionally out of temper. "Even sacrificing
your stuff in the most outrageous manner, I couldn t
realize enough not by ten o clock Monday. You ll
have to go to your father. You can catch the five-
five for Santa Ysobel."
I could see Worth choke back a hot-tempered re
fusal of the suggestion. The funds he d got to have,
even if he went through some humiliation to get them.
"At that," he said slowly, "father wouldn t have any
great amount of cash on hand. Say I went to him
with the story and took the cat-hauling he ll give
me should I be much better off?"
"Sure you would." Cummings leaned back. I saw
he considered his point made. "Whipple would rather
take their own bank stock than anything else. Your
father has just acquired a big block of it. Act while
there s time. Better go out there and see him now
"I ll think about it," Worth nodded. "You dig for
me what you can and never quit." And he applied
himself to the demands of the downtown traffic.
SIGHT UNSEEN 25
"Well," Cummings said, "drop me at the next cor
ner, please. I ve got an engagement with a man
Worth swung in and stopped. Cummings left us.
As we began to worm a slow way toward my office,
"You ll come upstairs with me, and er sort of
outline a policy? I ought to have any possible infor
mation you can give me, so s not to make any more
wrong moves than we have to."
"Information?" he echoed, and I hastened to amend,
"I mean whatever notion you ve got. Your theory,
you know "
"Not a notion. Not a theory." He shook his
head, eyes on the traffic cop. "That s your part."
I sat there somewhat flabbergasted. After all, I
hadn t fully believed that the boy had absolutely
nothing to go on, that he had bought purely at a \vhim,
put up eight hundred thousand dollars on my skill at
running down a criminal. It sort of crumpled me up.
I said so. He laughed a little, ran up to the curb at
the Phelan building, cut out the engine, set the brake
and turned to me with,
"Don t worry. I m getting what I paid for or
what I m going to pay for. And I ve got to go right
after the money. Suppose I meet you, say, at ten
o clock to-night?"
"At Tajt s. Reserve a table, will you, and we ll
"You re on," I said. "And plenty to do myself
meantime." I hopped out on my side.
26 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
Worth sat in the roadster, not hurrying himself to
follow up Cummings suggestion the big boy, non-
communicative, incurious, the question of fortune lost
or won seeming not to trouble him at all. I skirted
the machine and came round to him, demanding,
"With whom do you suppose Cummings engage
ment was ?"
"Don t know, Jerry, and don t care," looking down
at me serenely. "Why should I?" He swung one
long leg free and stopped idly, half in the car, half out.
"What if I told you Cummings engagement was
with our friend Dykeman only Dykeman doesn t
know it yet?"
Sowly he brought that dangling foot down to the
pavement, followed it with the the other, and faced me.
Across the blankness of his features shot a joyous
gleam; it spread, brightening till he was radiant.
"I get you!" he chortled. "Collusion! They think
I m standing in with Clayte Oh, boy!"
He threw back his head and roared.
A WEDDING PARTY
I LOOKED at my watch; quarter of ten; a little
ahead of my appointment. I ordered a telephone
extension brought to this corner table I had reserved
at Tait s and got in touch with my office; then with
the knowledge that any new kink in the case would be
reported immediately to me, I relaxed to watch the
early supper crowd arrive: Women in picture hats
and bare or half -bare shoulders with rich wraps slip
ping off them; hum of voices ; the clatter of silver and
china; waiters beginning to wake up and dart about
settling new arrivals. And I wondered idly what sort
of party would come to sit around one long table across
from me specially decorated with pale tinted flowers.
There was a sense of warmth and comfort at my
heart. I am a lonely man ; the people I take to seem
to have a way of passing on in the stream of life or
death leaving me with a few well-thumbed volumes
on a shelf in my rooms for consolation. Walt Whit
man, Montaigne, The Bard, two or three other lesser
poets, and you ve the friends that have stayed by me
for thirty years. And so, having met up with Worth
Gilbert when he was a youngster, at the time his
mother was living in San Francisco to get a residence
for her divorce proceedings, having loved the boy and
got I am sure some measure of affection in return, it
seemed almost too much to ask of fate that he should
come back into my days, plunge into such a proposition
28 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
as this bank robbery, right at my elbow as it were,
and make himself my employer my boss.
I was a subordinate in the agency in those old times
when he and I used to chin about the business, and his
idea (I always discussed it gravely and respectfully
with him) was to grow up and go into partnership
with me. Well, we were partners now.
Past ten, nearly five minutes. Where was he?
What up to? Would he miss his appointment? No,
I caught a glimpse of him at the door getting rid of
hat and overcoat, pausing a moment with tall bent head
to banter Rose, the little Chinese girl who usually
drifted from table to table with cigars and cigarettes.
Then he was coming down the room.
A man who takes his own path in life, and will walk
it though hell bar the way, never explaining, never
extenuating, never excusing his course something
seems to emanate from such a chap that draws all eyes
after him in a public place in a look between fear and
desire. Sitting there in Tait s, my view of Worth cut
off now by a waiter with a high-carried tray, again by
people passing to tables for whom he halted, I had a
good chance to see the turning of eyeballs that followed
him, the furtive glances that snatched at him, or fon
dled him, or would have probed him ; the admiration of
the women, the envy of the men, curiously alike in
that it was sometimes veiled and half wistful, some
times very open. Drifters you see so many of the
sort in a restaurant why wouldn t they hanker after
the strength and ruthlessness of a man like Worth?
And the poor prunes, how little they knew him ! As
my friend Walt would say, he wasn t out after any of
the old, smooth prizes they cared for. And win or lose
A WEDDING PARTY 29
he would still be a victor, for all he and his sort demand
is freedom, and the joy of the game. So he came on to
I noticed, a little startled, as he slumped into his
chair with a grunt of greeting, that his cheek was
somehow gaunt and pale under the tan; the blue fire of
his eyes only smoldered, and I pulled back his chair
"You look as if you hadn t had any dinner."
"I haven t." He gave a man-size order for food
and turned back from it to listen to me. "I ll be
nearer human when I get some grub under my belt."
My report of what had been done on the case since
we separated was interrupted by the arrival of our
orders, and Worth sailed into a thick, juicy steak while
I was still explaining details. The orchestra whanged
and blared and jazzed away; the people at the other
tables noticed us or busied themselves noisily with
affairs of their own ; Worth sat and enjoyed his meal
with the air of a man feeding at a solitary country
tavern. When he had finished and he took his time
about it the worn, punished look was gone from his
face; his eye was bright, his tone nonchalant, as he
lighted a cigarette, remarking,
"I ve had one more good dinner. Food s a thing
you can depend on; it doesn t rake up your
entire past record from the time you squirmed into
this world, and tell you what a fool you ve always
I turned that over in my mind. Did it mean that
he d seen his father and got a calling down ? I wanted
to know and was afraid to ask. The fact is I was
beginning to wake up to a good many things about
30 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
my young boss. I was intensely interested in his
reactions on people. So far, I d seen him with
strangers. I wished that I might have a chance to ob
serve him among intimates. Old Richardson who
founded our agency (and would never knowingly have
left me at the head of it, though he did take me in as
partner, finally) used to say that the main trouble with
me was I studied people instead of cases. Richardson
held that all men are equal before the detective, and
must be regarded only as queer shaped pieces to be
fitted together so as to make out a case. Richardson
would have gone as coolly about easing the salt of the
earth into the chink labeled "murder" or "embezzle
ment," as though neither had been human. With me
the personal equation always looms big, and of course
he was quite right in saying that it s likely to get you
all gummed up.
The telephone on the table before me rang. It was
Roberts, my secretary, with the word that Foster had
lifted the watch from Ocean View, the little town at
the neck of the peninsula, where bay and ocean narrow
the passageway to one thoroughfare, over which every
machine must pass that goes by land from San Fran
cisco. With two operatives, he had been on guard
there since three o clock of the afternoon, holding up
blond men in cars, asking questions, taking notes and
numbers. Now he reported it was a useless waste of
"Order him in," I instructed .Roberts.
A far-too-fat entertainer out on the floor was writh
ing in the pangs of an Hawaiian dance. It took the
attention of the crowd. I watched the face of my
companion for a moment, then,
A WEDDING PARTY 31
"Worth/ 1 I said a bit nervously after all, I nearly
had to know "is your father going to come through?
"Eh?" He looked at me startled, then put it aside
negligently. "Oh, the money? No. I ll leave that
up to Cummings." A brief pause. "We ll get a
wiggle on us and dig up the suitcase." He lifted his
tumbler, stared at it, then unseeingly out across the
room, and his lip twitched in a half smile. "I m sure
glad I bought it."
Looking at him, I had no reason to doubt his word.
His enjoyment of the situation seemed to grow with
every detail I brought up.
It was near eleven when the party came in to take
the long, flower-trimmed table. Worth s back Was to
the room ; I saw them over his shoulder, in the lead a
tall blonde, very smartly dressed, but not in evening
clothes; in severe, exclusive street wear. The man
with her, good looking, almost her own type, had that
possessive air which seems somehow unmistakable
and there was a look about the half dozen companions
after them, as they settled themselves in a great
flurry of scraping chairs, that made me murmur with
"Bet that s a wedding party."
Worth gave them one quick glance, then came round
to me with a smile.
"You win. Married at Santa Ysobel this afternoon.
Local society event. Whole place standing on its hind
legs, taking notice."
So he had been down to the little town to see his
father after all. And he wasn t going to talk about it.
"Friends of yours?" I asked perfunctorily, and he
32 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
gave me a queer look out of the corners of those wicked
eyes, repeating in an enjoying drawl.
"Friends? Oh, hardly that. The girl I was to
have married, and Bronson Vandeman the man she
I had wanted to get a more intimate line on the kid
it seemed that here was a chance with a vengeance!
"The rest of the bunch?" I suggested. He took a
leisurely survey, and gave them three words :
"Family and accomplices."
"Santa Ysobel people, too, then. Folks you know
"The lady changed her mind while you were
across?" I risked the query.
"While I was shedding my blood for my country."
He nodded. "Gave me the butt while the Huns were
using the bayonet on me."
In the careless jeer, as much at himself as at^ her,
no hint what his present feeling might be toward the
fashion plate young female across there. With some
fellows, in such a situation, I should have looked for a
disposition to duck the encounter; let his old sweet
heart s wedding party leave without seeing him; with
others I should have discounted a dramatic moment
when he would court the meeting. It was impossible
to suppose either thing of Worth Gilbert; plain that
he simply sat there because he sat there, and would
make no move toward the other table unless something
in that direction interested him pleasantly or unpleas
antly which at present nothing seemed to do.
So we smoked, Worth indifferent, I giving all the
A WEDDING PARTY 33
attention to the people over there: bride and groom;
a couple of fair haired girls so like the bride that I
guessed them to be sisters ; a freckled, impudent look
ing little flapper I wasn t so sure of; two older men,
and an older woman. Then a shifting of figures gave
me sight of a face that I hadn t seen before, and I
drew in my breath with a whistle.
"Whew! Who s the dark girl? She s a beauty!"
"Dark girl?" Worth had interest enough to lean
into the place where I got my view ; after he did so he
remained to stare. I sat and grinned while he mut
"Can t be. ... I believe it is!"
Something to make him sit up and take notice now.
I didn t wonder at his fixed study of the young
creature. Not so dressed up as the others I think
she wore what ladies call an evening blouse with a
street suit ; a brunette, but of a tinting so delicate that
she fairly sparkled, she took the shine off those blonde
girls. Her small beautifully formed, uncovered head
had the living jet of the crow s \ving; her great eyes,
long-lashed and sumptuously set, showed ebon irises
almost obliterating the white. Dark, shining, she was
a night with stars, that girl.
"Funny thing/ Worth spoke, moving his head to
keep in line with that face. "How could she grow up
to be like this a child that Wasn t allowed any child
hood? Lord, she never even had a doll!"
"Some doll herself now," I smiled.
"Yen," he assented absently, "she s good looking
but where did she learn to dress like that and play
34 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"Where they all learn it." I enjoyed very much
seeing him interested. "From her mother, and her
sisters, or the other girls."
"Not." He was positive. "Her mother died when
she was a baby. Her father wouldn t let her be with
other children treated her like one of the instruments
in his laboratory ; trained her in her high chair ; prob
lems in concentration dumped down into its tray, pun
ishment if she made a failure; God knows what kind
of a reward if she succeeded ; maybe no more than her
bowl of bread and milk. That s the kind of a deal
she got when she was a kid. And will you look at
If he kept up his open staring at the girl, it would
be only a matter of time when the wedding party dis
covered him. I leaned back in my chair to watch,
while Worth, full of his subject, spilled over in words.
"Never played with anybody in her life but me,"
he said unexpectedly. "They lived next house but one
to us; the professor had the rest of the Santa Ysobel
youngsters terrorized, backed off the boards; but I
wasn t a steady resident of the burg. I came and went,
and when I came, it was playtime for the little girl."
"What was her father? Crank on education?"
"Psychology," Worth said briefly. "International
reputation. But he ought to have been hung for the
way he brought Bobs up. Listen to this, Jerry. I
got off the train one time at Santa Ysobel can t
remember just when, but the kid over there was all
shanks and eyes bout ten or eleven, I d say. Her
father had her down at the station doing a stunt for
a bunch of professors. That was his notion of a nice,
normal development for a small child. There she sat
A WEDDING PARTY 35
poked up cross-legged on a baggage truck. He d
trained her to sit in that self balanced position so she
could make her mind blank without going to sleep. A
freight train was hitting a twenty mile clip past the
station, and she was adding the numbers on the sides
of the box cars, in her mind. It kept those professors
on the jump to get the figures down in their notebooks,
but she told them the total as the caboose was passing."
"Some stunt," I agreed. "Freight car numbers run
up into the ten-thousands." Worth didn t hear me,
he was still deep in the past.
"Poor little white-faced kid," he muttered. "I
dumped my valises, horned into that bunch, picked her
off the truck and carried her away on my shoulder,
while the professor yelled at me, and the other ginks
were tabbing up their additions. And I damned every
one of them, to hell and through it."
"You must have been a popular youth in your home
town," I suggested.
"I was," he grinned. "My reason for telling you
that story, though, is that I ve got an idea about the
girl over there if she hasn t changed too much. I
think maybe we might "
He stood up calmly to study her, and his tall figure
instantly drew the attention of everybody in the room.
Over at the long table it was the sharp, roving eye of
the snub-nosed flapper that spied him first. I saw her
give the alarm and begin pushing back her chair to
bolt right across and nab him. The sister sitting next
stopped her. Judging from the glimpses I had as the
party spoke together and leaned to look, it was quite
a sensation. But apparently by common consent they
left whatever move was to be made to the bride ; and
36 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
to my surprise this move was most unconventional.
She got up with an abrupt gesture and started over to
our table alone. This, for a girl of her sort, was
going some. I glanced doubtfully at Worth. He
shrugged a little.
"Might as well have it over. Her family lives on
one side of us, and Brons Vandeman on the other."
And then the bride was with us. She didn t overdo
the thing much; only held out her hand with a
slightly pleading air as though half afraid it would be
refused. And it was a curious thing to see that pretty,
delicate featured, schooled face of hers naively drawn
in lines of emotion like a bisque doll registering
Gilbert took the hand, shook it, and looked around
with the evident intention of presenting me. I saw by
the way the lady gave me her shoulder, pushing in,
speaking low, that she didn t want anything of the sort,
and quietly dropped back. I barely got a side view of
Worth s face, but plainly his calmness was a dis
appointment to her.
"After these years!" I caught the fringes of what
she was saying. "It seems like a dream. To-night
of all times. But you will come over to our table
for a minute anyhow? They re just going to to
drink our health Oh, Worth !" That last in a sort
of impassioned whisper. And all he answered was,
"If I might bring Mr. Boyne with me, Mrs. Van
deman." At her protesting expression, he finished,
"Or do I call you Ina, still?"
She gave him a second look of reproach, acknowl
edging my introduction in that way some women have
which assures you they don t intend to know you in
A WEDDING PARTY 37
the least the next time. We crossed to the table and
met the others.
If anybody had asked my opinion, I should have
said it was a mistake to go. Our advent in that
party or rather Worth Gilbert s advent was bound
to throw the affair into a sort of consternation. No
mistake about that. The bridegroom at the head of
the table seemed the only one able to keep a grip on
the situation. He welcomed Worth as though he
wanted him, took hold of me with a glad hand, and
presented me in such rapid succession to everybody
there that I was dizzy. And through it all I had an
eye for Worth as he met and disposed of the effusive
welcome of the younger Thornhill girls. Either of
the twins, as I found them to be, would, I judged,
have been more than willing to fill out sister Ina s un-
expired term, and the little snub-nosed one, also a sister
it seemed, plainly adored him, as a hero, sexlessly, as
they sometimes can at that age.
While yet he shook hands with the girls, and
swapped short replies for long questions, I became
conscious of something odd in the air. Plain enough
sailing with the young ladies ; all the noise with them
echoed the bride s, After all these years." They
clattered about whether he looked like his last photo
graph, and how perfectly delightful it was going to be
to have him back in Santa Ysobel again.
But when it came to the chaperone, a Mrs. Dr. Bow
man, things were different. Xo longer young, though
still beautiful in what I might call a sort of w r asted
fashion, with slim wrists and fragile fingers, and a
splendid mass of rich, auburn hair, I had been startled,
even looking across from our table, by the extreme
38 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
nervous tension of her face. She looked a neuras
thenic; but that was not all; surely her nerves were
almost from under control as she sat there, her rich
cloak dropped back over her chair, the corners caught
up again and fumbled in a twisting, restless hold.
Now, when Worth stood before her appealing eyes,
she reached up and clutched his hand in both of hers,
staring at him through quick tears, saying something
in a low, choking tone, something that I couldn t for
the life of me make into the greeting you give even a
beloved youngster you haven t seen for several years.
At the moment, I was myself being presented to the
lady s husband, a typical top-grade, small town medical
man, with a fine bedside manner. His nice, smooth
white hands, with which I had watched him feeling the
pulse of his supper as though it had been a wealthy
patient, released mine; those cold eyes of his, that hid
a lot of meaning under heavy lids, came around on his
"Laura, control yourself. Where do you think you
are?" was like a lash.
It worked perfectly. Of course she would be his
patient as well as his wife. Yet I hated the man for
it. To me it seemed like the cut of the whip that pun
ishes a sensitive, over excited Irish setter for a fault in
the hunting field. Mrs. Bowman quivered, pulled her
self together and sat down, but her gaze followed the
She sat there stilled, but not quieted, under her
husband s eye, and watched Worth s meeting with the
other man, whom I heard the boy call Jim Edwards,
and with whom he shook hands, but who met him, as
Mrs. Bowman had, as though there had been some-
A WEDDING PARTY 39
thing recent between them ; not like people bridging a
long gap of absence.
And this man, tall, thin, the power in his features
contradicted by a pair of soft dark eyes, deep-set, look
ing out at you with an expression of bafflement, defeat
why did he face Worth with the stare of one
drenched, drowned in woe? It wasn t his wedding.
He hadn t done Worth any dirt in the matter.
And I was wedged in beside the beautiful dark girl,
without having been presented to her, without even
having had the luck to hear what name Worth used
when he spoke to her. At last the flurry of our com
ing settled down (though I still felt that we were stuck
like a sliver into the wedding party, that the whole
thing ached from us) and Dr. Bowman proposed the
health of the happy couple, his bedside manner going
over pretty well, as he informed Vandeman and the
rest of us that the bridegroom was a social leader in
Santa Ysobel, and that the hope of its best people was
to place him and his bride at the head of things there,
leading off with the annual Blossom Festival, due in
about a fortnight.
Vandeman responded for himseH and his bride,
appropriately, with what I d call a sort of acceptable,
fabricated geniality. You could see he was the kind
that takes such things seriously, one who would go to
work to make a success of any social doings he got
into, would give what his set called good parties ; and
he spoke feelingly of the Blossom Festival, which was
the great annual event of a little town. If by putting
his shoulder to the wheel he could boost that affair
into nation-wide fame and place a garland of rich
bloom upon the brow of his fair city, he was willing to
40 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
take off his neatly tailored coat, roll up his immaculate
shirtsleeves and go to it.
There was no time for speech making. The girls
wanted to dance ; bride and groom were taking the one
o clock train for the south and Coronado. The
orchestra swung into "I ll Say She Does."
"Just time for one." Vandeman guided his bride
neatly out between the chairs, and they moved away.
I turned from watching them to find Worth asking
Mrs. Bowman to dance.
"Oh, Worth, dearest! I ought to let one of the
girls have you, but "
She looked helplessly up at him; he smiled down
into her tense, suffering face, and paid no attention to
her objections. As soon as he carried her off, Jim
Edwards glumly took out that one of the twins I had
at first supposed to be the elder, the remaining Thorn-
hill girls moved on Dr. Bowman and began nagging
him to hunt partners for them.
"Drag something up here," prompted the freckled
tomboy, "or I ll make you dance with me yourself."
She grabbed a coat lapel, and started away with him.
I turned and laughed into the laughing face of the
dark girl. I had no idea of her name, yet a haunting
resemblance, a something somehow familiar came
across to me which I thought for a moment was only
the sweet approachableness of her young femininity.
Bowman had found and collared a partner for
Ernestine Thornhill, but that was as far as it went.
The little one forebore her threat of making him dance
with her, came back to her chair and tucked herself
in, snuggling up to the girl beside me, getting hold of
a hand and looking at me across it. She rejoiced, it
A WEDDING PARTY 41
seems, in the nickname of Skeet, for by that the other
now spoke to her whisperingly, saying it was too bad
about the dance.
"That s nothing," Skeet answered promptly. "I d
a lot rather sit here and talk to you and your
gentleman friend " with a large wink for me "if
you don t mind."
At the humorous, intimate glance which again passed
between me and the dark girl, sudden remembrance
came to me, and I ejaculated,
"I know you now!"
"Only now?" smiling.
"You ve changed a good deal in seven years," I
"And you so very little," she was still smiling, "that
I had almost a mind to come and shake hands with
you when Ina went to speak to Worth."
I remembered then that it w r as Worth s recognition
of her which had brought him to his feet. I told her
of it, and the glowing, vivid face was suddenly all
rosy. Skeet regarded the manifestation askance, ask
"When did you see Worth last, Barbie? You
weren t still living in Santa Ysobel when he left, were
I sat thinking while the girlish voices talked on.
Barbie the nickname for Barbara. Barbara Wal
lace; the name jumped at me from a poster; that s
where I first saw it. It linked itself up with what
Worth had said over there about the forlorn childhood
of this beguiling young charmer. Why hadn t I
remembered then? I, too, had my recollections of
Barbara Wallace. About seven years before, I had
42 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
first seen her, a slim, dark little thing of twelve or
fourteen, very badly dressed in slinky, too-long skirts
that whipped around preposterously thin ankles, blue-
black hair dragged away from a forehead almost too
fine, made into a bundle of some fashion that belonged
neither to childhood nor womanhood, her little, pointed
face redeemed by a pair of big black eyes with a won
derful inner light, the eyes of this girl glowing here
at my left hand.
The father Worth spoke of brusquely as "the
professor" was Elman Wallace, to whom all students
of advanced psychology are heavily indebted. The
year I heard him, and saw the girl, his course of lec
tures at Stanford University was making quite a stir.
I had been one of a bunch of criminologists, detectives
and police chiefs who, during a state convention were
given a demonstration of the little girl s powers, clos
ing with a sort of rapid pantomime in which I was
asked to take part. A half dozen of us from the
audience planned exactly what we were to do. I
rushed into the room through one door, holding my
straw hat in my left hand, and wiping my brow with
a handkerchief with the right. From an opposite
door, came two men; one of them fired at me twice
with a revolver held in his left hand. I fell, and the
second man the one who wasn t armed ran to me
as I staggered, grabbed my hat, and the two of them
went out the door I had entered, while I stumbled
through the one by which they had come in. It lasted
all told, not half a minute, the idea being for those
who looked on to write down w r hat had happened.
Those trained criminologists, supposed to have eyes
in their heads, didn t see half that really took place,
A WEDDING PARTY 43
and saw a-plenty that did not Most of em would
have hung the man who snatched my hat. Only one,
I remember, noticed that I was shot by a left-handed
man. Then the little girl told us what really had
occurred, every detail, just as though she had planned
it instead of being merely an observer.
"Pardon me," I broke in on the girls. "Miss
Wallace, you don t mean to say that you really know
me again after seeing me once, seven years ago, in a
group of other men at a public performance?"
"Why shouldn t I ? You saw me then. You knew
"But you were doing wonderful things. We re
member what strikes us as that did me."
She looked at me with a little fading of that glow
her face seemed always to hold.
"Most memories are like that," she agreed listlessly.
"Mine isn t. It works like a cinema camera ; I ve only
to turn the crank the other way to be looking at any
"But can you ? I was beginning, when Skeet
stopped me, leaning around her companion, bristling at
me like a snub-nosed terrier.
"If you want to make a hit with Barbie, cut out the
reminiscences. She does loathe being reminded that
she was once an infant phenom."
I glanced at my dark eyed girl; she bent her head
affirmatively. She wouldn t have been capable of
Skeet s rudeness, but plainly Skeet had not overstated
her real feeling. I had hardly begun an apology when
the dancers rushed back to the table with the informa
tion that there was no more than time to make the Los
Angeles train; there was an instant grasping of wraps,
44 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
hasty good-bys, and the party began breaking up with
a bang. Worth went out to the sidewalk with them;
I sat tight waiting for him to return, and to my sur
prise, when he finally did appear, Barbara Wallace was
look so scared!" she said smilingly to
me. "I m only on your hands a few minutes ;
a package left to be called for."
I had watched them coming back to me at our old
table, with its telephone extension, the girl with eyes
for no one but Worth, who helped her out of her wrap
now with a preoccupied air and,
"Shed the coat, Bobs," adding as he seated her be
side him, "The luck of luck that I chanced on you here
That brought the color into her face; the delicate
rose shifted under her translucent skin almost with the
effect of light, until that lustrous midnight beauty of
hers was as richly glowing as one of those marvellous
dark opals of the antipodes.
"Yes," she said softly, with a smile that set two
dimples deep in the pink of her cheeks, "wasn t
it strange our meeting this way?" Worth wasn t
looking at her. He d signaled a waiter, ordered a pot
of black coffee, and was watching its approach. "I
didn t go down to the wedding, but Ina herself invited
me to come here to-night. I had half a mind not to ;
then at the last minute I decided I would and I met
Worth nodded, sat there humped in a brown study
while the waiter poured our coffee. The minute the
man left us alone, he turned to her with,
46 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"I ve got a stunt for you."
"A a stunt?"
The light failed abruptly in her face ; her mouth with
its soft, firm molding, its vivid, floral red, like the
lips of a child, went down a bit at the clean-cut cor
ners. A small hand fumbled the trimming of her
blouse; it was almost as if she laid it over a wounded
"Yes," he nodded. "Jerry s got something in his
pocket that ll be pie for you."
She turned to me a look between angry and piteous
the resentment she would not vent on him.
"Is is Mr. Boyne interested in stunts such as I
used to do?"
"Sure," Worth agreed. "We both are. We"
"Oh, that was why you wanted me to come back
with you?" She had got hold of herself now. She
was more poised, but still resentful.
"Bobs," he cut straight across her mood to what he
wanted, "Jerry Boyne is going to read you something
it took about steen blind people to see and you ll give
us the answer." I didn t share his confidence, but I
rather admired it as he finished, poising the tongs,
"One lump, or two ?"
Of course I knew what he meant. My hand was
already fumbling in my pocket for the description of
Clayte. The girl looked as though she wasn t going
to answer him; she moved to shove back her chair.
Worth s only recognition of her attitude was to put
out a hand quietly, touch her arm, not once looking at
her, and say in a lowered tone,
"Steady, Bobs." And then, "Did you say one lump
or two ?"
AN APPARITION 47
"None." Her voice was scarcely audible, but I saw
she was going to stay; that Worth was to have his
way, to get from her the opinion he wanted whatever
that might amount to. And I passed the paper to him,
"Let her read it. This is too public a place to be
declaiming a thing of the sort."
She hesitated a minute then gave it such a mere
flirt of a glance that I hardly thought she d seen what
it was, before she raised inquiring eyes to mine and
"Why shouldn t that be read shouted every ten
minutes by the traffic officer at Market and Kearny?
They d only think he was paging every other man in
the Palace Hotel."
I leaned back and chuckled. After a bare glance,
this sharp witted girl had hit on exactly what I d
thought of the Clayte description.
"Is that all? May I go now, Worth?" she said,
still with that dashed, disappointed look from one of
us to the other. "If you ll just put me on a Haight
Street car I won t wait for " And now she
made a definite movement to rise; but again Worth
held her by the mere touch of his fingers on her
"Wait, Bobs," he said. "There s more."
"More?" Her eyes on Worth s face talked louder
than her tongue, but that also gained fluency as he
looked back at her and nodded. "Stunts!" she re
peated his word bitterly. "I didn t expect you to come
back asking me to do stunts. I hated it all so work
ing out things like a calculating machine!" Her voice
sank to a vehement undertone. "Nobody thinking of
48 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
me as human, with human feelings. I have never
done one stunt since my father died."
She didn t weaken. She sat there and looked
Worth squarely in the eye, yet there was a kind of big
gentleness in her refusal, a freedom from petty re
sentment, that had in it not so much a girl s hurt
vanity as the outspoken complaint of a really grieved
"But, Bobs," Worth smiled at her trouble, about the
same careless, good-natured smile he had given little
Pete when he flipped him the quarter, suppose you
could possibly save me a hundred thousand dollars a
Then it s not just a stunt?" She settled slowly
back in her chair.
"Certainly not," I said. "This is business with
me, anyhow. Miss Wallace, why do you think a des
cription like that could be shouted on the street with
out any one being the wiser?"
"Was it supposed to be a description?" she asked,
raising her brows a bit.
"The best we could get from sixteen or eighteen
people, most of whom have known the man a long
time; some of them for eight years."
"And no one not one of all these people could
"I ve done my best at questioning them."
She gave me one straight, level look, and I won
dered a little at the way those velvety black eyes could
saw into a fellow. But she put no query, and I had
the cheap satisfaction of knowing that she was con
vinced I d overlooked no details in the quiz that went
AN APPARITION 49
to make up that description. Then she turned to
"You said I might save you a lot of money. Has
the man you re trying here to describe anything to
do with money in large amounts financial affairs
of importance ?"
Again the little girl had unconsciously scored with
me. To imagine a rabbit like Clayte, alone, swing
ing such an enormous job was ridiculous. From the
first, my mind had been reaching after the others
the big-brained criminals, the planners whose instru
ment he was. She evidently saw this, but Worth
"He s quite a financier, Bobs. He walked off with
nearly a million cash to-day."
"From you?" with a quick breath.
"I m the main loser if he gets away with it."
"Tell me about it."
And Worth gave her a concise account of the theft
and his own share in the affair. She listened eagerly
now, those innocent great eyes growing big with the
interest of it. With her there was no blind stumbling
over Worth s motive in buying a suitcase sight un
seen. I had guessed, but she understood completely
and unquestioningly. When he had finished, she said
"You know, don t you, that, if you ve got your
facts right if these things you ve told me are square,
even cubes of fact they prove Clayte among the won
derful men of the world?"
Worth s big brown paw went out and covered her
little hand that lay on the table s edge.
50 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"Now we re getting somewhere," he encouraged
her. As for me, I merely snorted.
"Wonderful man, my eye! He s got a wonderful
gang behind him."
"Oh, you should have told me that you know there
is a gang, Mr. Boyne," she said simply. "Of course,
then, the result is different."
"Well," I hedged, "there s a gang all right. But
suppose there wasn t, how would you find any wonder-
fulness in a creature as near nothing as this Clayte?"
She sat and thought for a moment, drawing imag
inary lines on the table top, finally looking up at me
with a narrowing of the lids, a tightening of the lips,
which gave an extraordinary look of power to her
young feminine face.
"In that case, Clayte would inevitably be one of the
wonderful men of the world," she repeated her char
acterization with the placid, soft obstinacy of falling
snow. "Didn t you stop a minute one little min
ute, Mr. Boyne to think it wonderful that a man so
devoid of personality as that " she slanted a slim
finger across the description of Clayte "Didn t you
add up in your mind all that you told me about the
men disagreeing as to which side he parted his hair
on, whether he wore tan shoes or black, a fedora or
derby, smoked or didn t, absolutely nothing left as
to peculiarities of face, figure, movement, expression,
manner or habit to catch the eye of one single observer
among the sixteen or eighteen you questioned surely
you added that up, Mr. Boyne? What result did you
"Nothing," I admitted. "To hear you repeat it, of
course it sounds as if the man was a freak. But he
AX APPARITION 51
wasn t. He was just one of those fellows that are
born utterly commonplace, and slide through life with
out getting any marks put on em."
"And is it nothing that this man became a teller in
a bank without infringing at all on the circle of his
nothingness? Remained so shadowy that neither the
president nor cashier can, after eight years association,
tell the color of his hair and eyes? Then add the
fact that he is the one clerk in the bank without a
filed photograph and description on record with your
;v what result now, Mr. Boyne?"
"A coincidence," I said, rather hastily.
"Don t, please, Mr. Boyne!" he ed softly
as she smiled her mild sarcasm. "Admit that he has
ceased to be a freak and becomes a marvel."
"As you put it " I began, but she cut in on me
"I haven t put it yet. Listen." She was smiling
but it was plain she was thoroughly in earnest
"When this cipher this nought this zero manages
to annex to himself a million dollars that doesn t be
long to him, his nothingness gains a specific meaning.
The zero is an important factor in mathematics. I
think we have placed a digit before the long string of
ciphers of Clayte s nothingness."
thing and nothing make nothing." I spoke
more brusquely because I was irritated by her logic.
You called the turn when you spoke of him as a zero.
There are digits to be added, but they re the gang
that planned and helped and used zero Clayte as
their tool. You re talking of those digits, not Clayte."
"I believe Bobs U find them for you, Jerry if youTI
er " said Worth.
52 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"Oh, I ll let anybody do anything" a bit nettled.
"I m ready to have our friend Clayte take his place,
with the pyramids and the hanging gardens of Bab
ylon, among the earth s wonders; but you ve got to
"All right." Worth gave the girl a look that
brought something of that wonderful rose flush flut
tering back into her cheeks. "I m betting on her.
Go to it, Bobsie let him in on your mathematical
"You used the word coincidence, Mr. Boyne."
She leaned across toward me, eyes bright, little finger
tip marking her points. "Allow one coincidence
that the only description, the only photograph missing
from your files are those of the self-effacing Clayte.
To-day Clayte has proved to be a thief "
"In seven figures," Worth threw in, and she smiled
"You would call that another coincidence, Mr.
I nodded, rather unable at the moment to think of
a better word to use.
"Two coincidences," she went on, "we are still
in mathematics you can t add. They run by geo
metrical progression into the impossible."
The phone rang. While I turned to answer it, my
mind was still hunting a comeback to this. The call
was from Foster, just in from Ocean View and re
porting for instructions. Covering the transmitter
with my hand, I told Worth the situation and asked,
"Not I," he shook his head. I added, a bit sar
AN APPARITION 53
"Or you, Miss Wallace?"
"Yes," she surprised me. "Have your man Foster
find three women who have seen Edward Clayte; get
from them the color of his hair and eyes; tell him
to have them be exact about it."
"Fine! But you know they ll not agree, any more
than the other people agreed."
"Oh, yes they will," she laughed at me a little.
"Don t you notice that a girl always says a blue-eyed
man or a brown-eyed man? That s what she sees
when she first meets him, and it sticks in her mind.
Girls and women sort out people by types ; small
differences in color mean something to them."
I didn t keep Foster waiting any longer.
"Hello," I spoke quickly into the transmitter. "Get
busy and dig out any women clerks of the bank,
stenographers, scrub-women there, or whatever, and
ask them particularly as to the exact shade of Clay-
te s hair and eyes. Get Mrs. Griggsby again at the
St. Dunstan. I want at least three women who
can give these points exactly. Exactly, under
He did, and I thanked Miss Wallace for her sug
"Now that," I said, "is what I want; a good, prac
tical idea "
"And it won t be a bit of use in the world to you/
she laughed across the table into my eyes. "Why,
Mr. Boyne, you ve found out already that there are
too many Edward Claytes, speaking in physical terms,
for you to run one down by description. There are
three of him here, within sight of our table right now
and the place isn t crowded."
54 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
I grinned in half grudging agreement, and found
nothing to say. It was Worth who spoke.
"Like to have you go a step further in this, if you
would/ and when she shook her head, he went on a
bit sharply. "See here, Bobs ; you and I used to be
pals, didn t we?" She nodded, her look brightening.
"Well then, here s the biggest game I ve been up
against since I crawled out of the trenches and shucked
my uniform. I come to you and give you the high-
sign and you throw me down. You don t want to
play with me is that it?"
"Oh, Worth! I do. I do want to play with you,"
she was almost in tears now. "But you see, I didn t
quite understand. I felt as though you were sort of
putting me through my paces."
"Sure not," Worth drove it at her like a turbulent
urchin. "I m having the time of my young life with
this thing, and I want to take you in on it."
"If if you fail you lose a lot of money; wasn t
that what you said?" she questioned.
"Oh, yes," he nodded, "Nothing in it if there
weren t a gamble."
"And if he wins out, he makes quite a respectable
pile," I added.
"What I want of you now," he explained, "is to
go with us to Clayte s room at the St. Dunstan the
room he disappeared from look it over and tell us
how he got out and where he went."
He made his request light-heartedly ; she considered
it after the same fashion ; it seemed to me all absurdity.
"To-morrow morning Sunday," she said. "No
office to-morrow," she sipped the last of her black
AN APPARITION 55
coffee slowly. "All the rest of the facts there ever
will be about Edward Clayte are in that room aren t
they? Her voice was musing; she looked straight
ahead of her as she finished softly, "What time do
"Early. Does nine o clock suit you?" Worth
didn t even glance at me as he made this arrangement
for us both. "We d scoot up there now if it wasn t
"I ve no doubt you ll find the place carpeted with
zeros and hung with noughts and ciphers." I couldn t
refrain from joshing her a little. She took it with a
smile glanced across the room, looked a little surprised,
and half rose with,
"Why, there they are for me now."
I couldn t see anybody that she might mean, except
a man who had walked the length of the place talking
to the head waiter, and now stood arguing at the
corner of what had been Bronson Vandeman s supper
table. This man evidently had his attention directed
to us, turned, looked, and in the moment of his cross
ing I saw that it was Cummings. There was not even
the usual tight-lipped half smile under that cropped
mustache of his.
"Good evening." He looked at our faces, uttering
none of the surprise he plainly felt, letting the two
words do for greeting to us all, and, as it seemed, to
me, an expression of disapproval as well. The young
lady replied first.
"Oh, Mr. Cummings, did they send you for me?
Where are the others?"
She had come to her feet, and reached for the coat
56 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
which Worth was holding more as if he meant to
keep it than put it on her.
"I left your chaperone waiting in the machine,"
Cumming s tone and look carried a plain hurry-up.
Worth took his time about the coat, and spoke low to
the girl while he helped her into it.
"You ll go with us to-morrow morning?"
She gave me one of those adorable smiles that
brought the dimples momentarily in her cheeks.
"If Mr. Boyne wants me. He hasn t said yet."
"Do I need to?" I asked. The question seemed
reasonable. There she stood, such a very pretty girl,
between her two cavaliers who looked at each other
with all the traditional hostility that belonged to the
situation. She smiled on both, and didn t neglect me.
I settled the matter with,
"Worth has your address ; we ll call for you in my
machine." And I got the idea that Cummings was
asking questions about it as he went away holding her
"Do you think the little girl will really be of any
use?" I spoke to the back of Worth s head as he
continued to stare after them.
"Sure. I know she will." He shoved his crum
pled napkin in among the coffee service, and we moved
toward the desk. "Sure she will," he repeated.
"Wonder where she met Cummings."
AT THE ST. DUNSTAN
AT the Palace Hotel Sunday morning where I
went to pick up Worth before we should call
for little Miss Wallace, he met me in high spirits
and with an enthusiasm that demanded immediate
"Heh," I said, "you look fine. Must have slept
"Make it rested, and I ll go you/ he came back
He d already been out, going down to the Grant
Avenue corner for an assortment of Bay cities papers
not to be had at the hotel news-stands, so that he could
see whether our canny announcement of Clayte s
fifteen thousand dollar defalcation had received dis
creet attention from the Associated Press.
For my part, our agency had been able to get hold
of three women who had seen Clayte and remembered
the event ; Mrs. Griggsby ; a stenographer at the bank ;
and the woman who sold newspapers at the St. Dun-
stan corner. Miss Wallace s suggestion had proven
itself, for these three agreed with fair exactness, and
the description run in the late editions of the city
papers was less vague than the others. It gave Clayte s
eyes as a pale gray-blue, and his hair as dull brown,
eliminating at least all brown-eyed men. Worth
That girl s going to be useful to us, Boyne." I
58 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
couldn t well disagree with him-, after using her hint.
We were getting out of the elevator on the office
floor when he looked at me, grinned boyishly, and
added, "What would you say if I told you I was
"That I thought it very likely," I nodded. "Also I
might hazard a guess at whose money is paying for it."
He gave me a quick glance, but asked no questions.
I could see he was enjoying his position, up to the
hilt, considered the attentions of a trailer as one of
"Keep your eyes open and you ll spot him as we
go out," he said as he left the key at the desk.
It was hardly necessary to keep my eyes open to
see the lurking figure over beyond the easy-chairs,
which started galvanically as we passed through the
court, and a moment later came sidling after us.
Little Pete had left my machine at the Market Street
entrance Worth was to drive me and we wheeled
away from a disappointed man racing for the taxi
line around the corner.
"More power to his legs," Worth said.
"Oh, I don t know," I grunted as we cut into Mont
gomery, negotiated the corner onto Bush Street s clear
way, striking a fair clip at once. "That end of him
already works better than the other. How did you
"Barbara Wallace telephoned me to look out for
him," he smiled, and let my car out another notch
once we d passed the traffic cop at Kearny.
I myself had foreseen the possibility but only as a
possibility that Dykeman would put a man on
Worth s coat-tails, since I knew Dykeman and had
AT THE ST. DUNSTAN 59
been at that bank meeting; yet I had not regarded it
as likely enough to warn Worth; and here was this
girl phoning him to look out for a trailer. Was this
some more of her deductive reasoning, or had Cum-
mings dropped a hint?
She was waiting for us in front of the Haight
Street boarding house that served her for a home,
and we tucked her between us on the roadster s wide
seat. At the St. Dunstan we found my man, left
there since the hour of the alarm the day before, and
everybody belonging to the management surly and
glum. The clerk handed me Clayte s key across the
morning papers spread out on his desk. Apartment
houses dislike notoriety of this sort, and the St. Dun
stan set up to be as rabidly respectable, as chemically
pure as any in the city. Well, no use their blaming
me ; Clayte was their misfortune ; they couldn t expect
me to keep the matter out of print entirely.
The three of us crowded into the automatic elevator,
and I pressed the seventh floor button. The girl s
eyes shone under the wisp of veil twisted around a
knowing little turban. She liked the taste of the ad
"That man came this way with that suitcase," she
breathed, " maybe set it down right there when he
pressed the button just as Mr. Boyne did now!"
It was a fine morning; the shades had been left up,
and Clayte s room when I opened the door was ablaze
"How delightful!" Barbara Wallace stopped on
the threshold and looked about her. I expected the
scientific investigating to begin; but no she was all
taken up with the beauty of sunlight and view.
60 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
The seventh was the top floor. The St. Dunstan
stood almost at the summit where Nob Hill slants
obliquely to north and east, and Powell Street dizzies
down the steep descent to North Beach and the Bay.
The girl had run to a window, and was looking out
toward the marvelous show of blue-green water and
distant Berkeley hills.
"Will you open this window for me, please?" she
asked. I stepped to her side, forestalling Worth who
was eyeing the room s interior with curiosity.
"You ll notice the burglar-proof sash locks, " I said
as I manipulated this one. She gave only casual in
terest, her attention still on the view beyond. The
steel latch, fastened to the upper sash, locked into the
socket on the lower sash by a lever-catch. "See?
I must pull out this little lever before I can push the
hasp back with my thumb so. Now the window
may be shoved up," and I illustrated.
"Yes," she nodded; then, "Look at the wisps of fog
around Tamalpais s top. Worth, come here and see
the violet shadows of the clouds on the bay."
"North wind coming up," agreed Worth, stepping
to the farther window.
"It s bringing in the fog," she said ; then abruptly,
giving me the first hint that little Miss Wallace con
sidered herself on the job, "Will it not latch by itself
if you jam it shut hard?"
"It will not." I illustrated with a bang. The
latch still remained open. "I must close it by hand."
I pushed the hasp into the keeper, and, snap the
lever shot back and it was fast.
"But a window like that couldn t be opened from
AT THE ST. DUNSTAN 61
outside, even without the locking lever," she remarked,
gazing again toward the Marin shore.
"A man with the know a burglar can open the
ordinary window latch in less than a minute," I told
her. "With a jimmy pinched between the sash and
the sill, a recurring pressure starts the latch back ;
nothing to hold it. This unless he cuts the glass
Worth, at her shoulder, now looked down the sheer
descent which exaggerated the seven stories of the
St. Dunstan; because of its crowning position on the
hill and the intersection of streets, we looked over the
roofs of the houses before us, far above their chim
ney tops. I caught his eye and grinned across the
girl s head, suggesting,
"Besides, we weren t trying to find how some one
could break into this room, but how they could break
out. Even if the latches had not been locked, there
wouldn t be an answer in these windows unless
Clayte could fly."
"Might have climbed from one window ledge to
the next and so made his way to the fire-escape,"
Worth said, but I shook my head.
"He d be seen from the windows by the tenants on
six floors and nobody saw him. Might as well take
the elevator or the stairs which he didn t."
But the girl wasn t listening to any of this. Her
expression attentive, alert, she was passing her hand
around the edge of the glass of either sash, as though
she still dwelt on my suggestion of cutting the pane;
and as we watched her, she murmured to herself,
"Yes, flying would be a good way." It made me
62 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
And then she turned away from the windows and
had no more interest in any of them, going with me
all over the rest of the room with rather the air of
a person who thought of renting it than a high-brow
criminal investigator hunting clews.
"He lived here years, you say?" I nodded. She
slid her hand over the plush cushions of a morris
chair, threw back the covers of an iron bed in one
corner and felt of the mattress, then went and stood
before the bare little dresser. "Why, the place ex
presses no more personality than a room in a tran
"He hadn t any personality," I growled, and got
the flicker of a smile from her eye.
"What about those library books he carried in the
suitcase?" Worth came in with an echo from the
"Some more bunk," 1 said morosely. "So far
we ve not been able to locate him as a patron of any
public or private library, and the hotel clerk s sure his
mail never contained a correspondence course in fact,
neither here nor at the bank can any one remember
his getting any mail. If he ever carried books in that
suitcase as Knapp believed, it was several years back."
"Several years back," Miss Wallace repeated low.
"Myself, I ve given up the idea of his studying.
This crime doesn t look to me like any sudden tempta
tion of a model bank clerk, spending his spare hours
over correspondence courses. I rather expect to find
him just plain crook."
"Oh, no," the girl objected. "It s too big and too
well done to have been planned by a dull, common
AT THE ST. DUNSTAN 63
"Right you are," I agreed, with restored good
humor. "A keen brain planned this, but not Clayte s.
There had to be an instrument and that was Clayte
also, likely, one or more to help in the getaway."
The getaway ! That brought us back with a thump
to the present moment. Our pretty girl had been all
over the shop now, glanced into bathroom, closet and
cupboard, noted abandoned hats, clothing and shoes,
the electric plate where Clayte got his breakfast coffee
and toast, asked without much interest where he ate
his other meals, and nodded agreeingly when she found
that he d been only an occasional customer at the
neighboring restaurants, never regular, apparently eat
ing here and there down-town. She seemed to get
something out of that; what I didn t know.
"You speak of this crime not being committed on
impulse," she turned to me at length. "How long
ahead should you say he planned it ?"
"Or had it planned and prepared for him," I re
"Well, that, then," she conceded with slight impa
tience. "How long do you think it might have been
planned or prepared for? Years?"
"Hardly that. Not more than a year probably. A
gang like this wouldn t hold together on a proposition
for many months."
The black brows over those clear, childlike eyes,
puckered a bit. I saw she wasn t at all satisfied with
what I had said.
"Made all the observations you want to, Bobs?"
"All here. I want to see the roof." She gave us
rather a mechanical smile as she silently ticked her
64 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
points off on her fingers, appealing to me with, "I m
depending upon you for such facts as I have been
unable to observe for myself, so if you give me wrong
facts make mistakes I ll make mistakes in deduc
There was such confidence in her deductive abilities
that a tinge of irony crept into my tones as I replied,
"I ll be very careful what opinions I hold."
"I don t mind the opinions," this astounding young
woman took me up gaily. "I never have any of my
own, so I don t pay attention to anybody else s. But
do be careful of your facts!"
"I ll try to," was all I said. Worth cut in with,
"Do you consider the roof another fact, Bobs?"
"I hope to find facts there," she answered promptly.
"Remember," I said, "your theory means another
man up there, and you haven t yet
"Please, Mr. Boyne, don t take two and two and
make five of them at this stage of the game," she
checked me hastily, and I left them together while
I made a hurried survey of the hall ceilings, looking
for the scuttle. There was no hatchway in view, so
I started down to the clerk to make inquiry. As I
passed Clayte s open door, Miss Wallace seemed to be
adjusting her turban before the dresser mirror, while
Worth waited impatiently.
"Just a minute," I called. "I ll be right back," and
I ducked into the elevator.
ON THE ROOF
WHEN I returned with a key and the information
that the way to the roof ran through the
janitor s tool-room at the far end of the hall, I found
my young people already out there. Worth was trying
the tool-room door.
"Got the key?" he called. "It s locked."
"Yes." I took my time fitting and turning it.
"How did you know this was the room?"
"I didn t," briefly. "Bobs walked out here, and I
followed her. She said we d want into this one."
She d guessed right again! I wheeled on her,
"For the love of Mike! Tell a mere man how you
deduced this stairway. Feminine intuition, I suppose."
I hadn t meant to be offensive with that last, but
her firm little chin was in the air as she countered,
"Is it a stairway? It might be a ladder, you know."
It was a ladder, an iron ladder, as I found when I
ushered them in. My eyes snapped inquiry at her.
ery simple," she said. Worth \vas pushing aside
pails and boxes to make a better way for her to the
ladder s foot. "There wouldn t be a roof scuttle in
the rented rooms, so I knew when you called in to
tell us there was none in the halls."
"I didn t. I said nothing of the sort." Where was
the girl s fine memory that she couldn t recollect a
66 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
man s words for the little time I d been gone! "All
I said was, Just a minute and I ll be back/
"Yes, that s all you said to Worth." She glanced
at the boy serenely as he waited for her at the ladder s
foot. "He s not a trained observer ; he doesn t deduce
even from what he does observe." There were twink
ling lights in her black eyes. "But what your hurried
trip to the office said to me was that you d gone for
the key of the room that led to the roof -scuttle."
Well, that was reasonable simple enough, too ; but,
"This room? How did you find it?"
She stepped to the open door and placed the tip of
a gloved finger on the nickeled naught that marked
"The significant zero again, Mr. Boyne," she
laughed. "Here it means the room is not a tenanted
one, and is therefore the way to the roof. Shall we go
"Well, young lady," I said as I led her along the
trail Worth had cleared, "it must be almost as bad to
see everything that way in minute detail as to be
"Carry on !" Worth called from the top of the lad
der, reaching down to aid the girl. She laughed back
at me as she started the short climb.
"Not at all bad ! You others seem to me only half
awake to what is about you only half living," and
she placed her hand in the strong one held down to her.
As Worth passed her through the scuttle to the roof, I
saw her glance carelessly at the hooks and staples, the
clumsy but adequate arrangement for locking the
hatch, and, following her, gave them more careful
attention, wondering what she had seen plenty that I
ON THE ROOF 67
did not, no doubt. They had no tale to tell my eyes.
Once outside, she stopped a minute with Worth to
adjust herself to the sharp wind which swept across
from the north. Here was a rectangular space sur
rounded by walls which ran around its four sides to
form the coping, unbroken in any spot; a gravel-and-
tar roof, almost flat, with the scuttle and a few small,
dust covered skylights its only openings, four chimney-
tops its sole projections. It was bare of any hiding-
place, almost as clear as a tennis court.
We made a solemn tour of inspection; I wasn t
greatly interested how could I be, knowing that
between this roof and my fugitive there had been
locked windows, and a locked door under reliable
human eyes? Still, the lifelong training of the detec
tive kept me estimating the possibilities of a getaway
from the roof if Clayte could have reached it.
Worth crossed to where the St. Dunstan fire escape
came up from the ground to end below us at a top
floor window. I joined him, explaining as we looked
"Couldn t have made it that way; not by daylight.
In open view all around."
"Think he stayed up here till dark?" Worth
suggested, quite as though the possibility of Clayte s
coming here at all was settled.
"My men were all over this building roof to cellar
within the hour. They d not have overlooked a
crack big enough for him to hide in. Put yourself in
Clayte s place. Time was the most valuable thing in
the world with him right then. If ever he got up to
this roof, he d not waste- a minute longer on it than he
68 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"Let s see what s beyond, then," and Worth led the
way to the farther end.
The girl didn t come with us. Having been once
around the roof coping, looking, it seemed to me, as
much at the view as anything else, she now seemed
content to settle herself on a little square of planking,
a disused scuttle top or something of the sort, in
against one of the chimneys where she was sheltered
from the wind. Rather to my surprise, I saw her
thoughtfully pulling off her gloves, removing her
turban, all the time with a curiously disinterested air.
I was reminded of what Worth had said the night
before about the way her father trained her. Probably
she regarded the facts I d furnished her, or that she d
picked up for herself, much as she used to the problems
in concentration her father spread in the high chair
tray of her infancy. I turned and left her with them,
for Worth was calling me to announce a fact I already
knew, that the adjoining building had a roof some
fifteen feet below where we stood, and that the man,
admitting good gymnastic ability, might have reached
"Sure," I said. "But come on. We re wasting
We turned to go, and then stopped, both of us
checked instantly by what we saw. The girl was sit
ting in a strange pose, her feet drawn in to cross
beneath her body, slender hands at the length of the
arms meeting with interlaced finger-tips before her,
the thumbs just touching; shoulders back, chin up,
eyes big enough at any time, now dilated to look
twice their size velvet circles in a white face. Like
a Buddha; I d seen her sit so, years before, an under-
ON THE ROOF 69
sized girl doing stunts for her father in a public hall;
and even then she d been in a way impressive. But
now, in the fullness of young beauty, her fine head
relieved against the empty blue of the sky, the free
winds whipping loose flying ends of her dark hair, she
held the eye like a miracle.
Sitting here so immovably, she looked to me as
though life had slid away from her for the moment,
the mechanical action of lungs and heart temporarily
suspended, so that mind might work unhindered in that
beautiful shell. No, I was wrong. She was breath
ing; her bosom rose and fell in slow but deep, placid
inhalations and exhalations. And the pale face might
be from the slower heart-beat, or only because the sur
face blood had receded to give more of strength to the
The position of head of a Bankers Security Agency
carries with it a certain amount of dignity a dignity
which, since Richardson s death, I have maintained
better than I have handled other requirements of the
business he left with me. I stood now feeling like a
fool. I d grown gray in the work, and here in my
prosperous middle life, a boy s whim and a girl s pretty
face had put me in the position of consulting a clair
voyant. Worse, for this was a wild-cat affair, without
even the professional standing of establishments to
which I knew some of the weak brothers in my line
sometimes sneaked for ghostly counsel. If it should
leak out, I was done for.
I suppose I sort of groaned, for I felt Worth put a
restraining hand on my arm, and heard his soft,
The two of us stood, how long I can t say, something
70 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
besides the beauty of the young creature, even the
dignity of her in this outre situation getting hold of
me, so that I was almost reverent when at last the
rigidity of her image-like figure began to relax, the
pretty feet in their silk stockings and smart pumps
appeared where they belonged, side by side on the edge
pf the planking, and she looked at us with eyes that
slowly gathered their normal expression, and a smile
of rare human sweetness.
"It is horrid to see and I loathe doing it! * She
shook her curly dark head like a punished child, and
stayed a minute longer, eyes downcast, groping after
gloves and hat. "I thought maybe I d get the answer
before you saw me sitting up like a trained seal !"
"Like a mighty pretty little heathen idol, Bobs,"
"Well, it s the only way I can really concentrate
effectively. But this is the first time I ve done it since
since father died."
"And never again for me, if that s the way you feel
about it." Worth crossed quickly and stood beside
her, looking down. She reached a hand to him ; her
eyes thanked him; but as he helped her to her feet I
was struck by a something poised and confident that
she seemed to have brought with her out of that
strange state in which she had just been.
"Doesn t either of you want to hear the answer? *
she asked. Then, without waiting for reply, she
started for the scuttle and the ladder, bare headed,
carrying her hat. We found her once more adjusting
turban and veil before the mirror of Clayte s dresser.
She faced around, and announced, smiling steadily
across at me,
ON THE ROOF 71
"Your man Clayte left this room while Mrs.
Griggsby was kneeling almost on its threshold left
it by that window over there. He got to the roof by
means of a rope and grappling hook. He tied the
suitcase to the lower end of the rope, swung it out
of the window, went up hand over hand, and pulled
the suitcase up after him. That s the answer I got."
It was? Well, it was a beaut! Only Worth Gil
bert, standing there giving the proceeding respecta
bility by careful attention and a grave face, brought
me down to asking with mild jocularity,
"He did? He did all that? Well, please ma am,
who locked the window after him?"
"He locked the window after himself."
"Oh, say!" I began in exasperation hadn t I just
shown the impractical little creature that those locks
couldn t be manipulated from outside?
"Wait. Examine carefully the wooden part of the
upper sash, at the lock again," she urged, but without
making any movement to help. "You ll find what we
overlooked before; the w r ay he locked the sash from
I turned to the window and looked where she had
said; nothing. I ran my fingers over the painted
surface of the wood, outside, opposite the latch, and a
queer, chilly feeling went down my spine. I jerked
out my knife, opened it and scraped at a tiny
"There is is something " I was beginning, when
Worth crowded in at my side and pushed his broad
shoulders out the window to get a better view of my
operations, then commanded,
"Let me have that knife." He took it from my
72 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
fingers, dug with its blade, and suddenly from the in
side I saw a tiny hole appear in the frame of the sash
beside the lock hasp. "Here we are! He brought
his upper half back into the room and held up a wooden
plug, painted dipped in paint the exact color of the
sash. It had concealed a hole; pierced the wood from
out to in.
"And she saw that in her trance," I murmured,
gaping in amazement at the plug.
I heard her catch her breath, and Worth scowled at
"Trance? What do you mean, Boyne? She
doesn t go into a trance."
"That that whatever she does," I corrected rather
"Never mind, Mr. Boyne," said the girl. "It isn t
clairvoyance or anything like that, however it looks."
"But I wouldn t have believed any human eyes could
have found that thing. I discovered it only by sense
of touch and that after you told me to hunt for it.
You saw it when I was showing you the latch, did
"Oh, I didn t see it." She shook her head. "I
found it when I was sitting up there on the roof."
"Guessed at it?"
"I never guess." Indignantly. "When I d cleared
my mind of everything else had concentrated on just
the facts that bore on what I wanted to know how
that man with the suitcase got out of the room and left
it locked behind him I deduced the hole in the sash
"By elimination?" I echoed. "Show me."
"Simple as two and two," she assented. "Out of
ON THE ROOF 73
the door? No; Mrs. Griggsby; so out of the window.
Down ? No ; you told why ; he would be seen ; so, up.
Ladder? No; too big for one man to handle or to
hide; so a rope/
"But the hole in the sash?"
"You showed me the only way to close that lock
from the outside. There was no hole in the glass, so
there must be in the sash. It was not visible you had
been all over it, and a man of your profession isn t a
totally untrained observer so the hole was plugged.
I hadn t seen the plug, so it was concealed by paint
I was trying to work a toothpick through the plug
hole. She offered me a wire hairpin, straightened out,
and with it I pushed the hasp into place from outside,
saw the lever snap in to hold it fast. I had worked
the catch as Clayte had worked it from outside.
"How did you know it was this window?" I asked,
forced to agree that she had guessed right as to the
sash lock. "There are two more here, either of
"No, please, Mr. Boyne. Look at the angle of the
roof that cuts from view any one climbing from this
window not from the others."
We were all leaning in the window now, sticking
our heads out, looking down, looking up.
"I can t yet see how you get the rope and hook," I
said. "Still seems to me that an outside man posted
on the roof to help in the getaway is more likely."
"Maybe. I can t deal with things that are merely
likely. It has to be a fact or nothing for my use.
I know that there wasn t any second man because of the
nicks Clayte s grappling hook has left in the cornice
74 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"Nicks!" I said, and stood like a bound boy at a
husking, without a word to say for myself. Of
course, in this impasse of the locked windows, my men
and I had had some excuse for our superficial examina
tion of the roof. Yet that she should have seen what
we had passed over seen it out of the corner of her
eye, and be laughing at me was rather a dose to
swallow. She d got her hair and her hat and veil to
her liking, and she prompted us,
"So now you want to get right down stairs don t
you and go up through that other building to its
I stared. She had my plan almost before I had
At the St. Dunstan desk where I returned the keys,
little Miss Wallace had a question of her own to put
to the clerk.
"How long ago was this building reroofed?" she
asked with one of her dark, softly glowing smiles.
"Reroofed?" repeated the puzzled clerk, much more
civil to her than he had been to me. "I don t know
that it ever was. Certainly not in my time, and I ve
been here all of four years."
"Not in four years? You re sure?"
"Sure of that, yes, miss. But I can find exactly/
The fellow behind the desk was rising with an eager
ness to be of service to her, when she cut him short
"Thank you. Four years would be exact enough
for my purpose." And she followed a puzzled detec
tive and, if I may guess, an equally wondering Worth
Gilbert out into the street.
THE GOLD NUGGET
THE neighbor to the south of the St. Dunstan
was the Gold Nugget Hotel, a five story brick
building and not at all pretentious as a hostelry. I
knew the place mildly, and my police training, even
better than such acquaintance as I had with this
particular dump, told me what it was. Through the
windows we could see guests, Sunday papers littered
about them, half smoked cigars in their faces,
and hats which had a general tendency to tilt over the
right eye. And here suddenly I realized the difference
between Miss Barbara Wallace, a scientist s daughter,
and some feminine sleuth we might have had with us.
"Take her back to the St. Dunstan, Worth," I
suggested. Then, as I saw they were both going to
resist, "She can t go in here. I ll wait for you if you
"Don t know why we shouldn t let Bobs- in on the
fun, same as you and me, Jerry." That was the way
Worth put it. I took a side glance at his attitude in
this affair that he d bought and was enjoying an eight
hundred thousand dollar frolic, offering to share it with
a friend ; and saying no more, I wheeled and swung
open the door for them. The man at the desk looked
at me, calling a quick,
"Hello, Jerry what s up?"
;6 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"Hello, Kite. How d you come here?"
The Kite as a hotelman was a new one on me. Last
I knew of him, he was in the business of making book
at the Emeryville track; and I supposed if I ever
thought of him that he d followed the ponies south
across the border. As I stepped close to the counter,
he spoke low, his look one of puzzled and somewhat
"Running straight, Jerry. You may ask the Chief.
What can I do for you?"
Rather glad of the luck that gave me an old
acquaintance to deal with, I told him, described Clayte,
Worth and Miss Wallace standing by listening; then
asked if Kite had seen him pass through the hotel going
out the previous day at some time around one o clock,
carrying a brown, sole leather suitcase.
The readers of the Sunday papers who had been
lured from their known standards of good manners
into the sending of sundry interested glances in the
direction of our sparkling girl, took the cue from the
Kite s scowl to bury themselves for good in the volu
minous sheets they held, each attending strictly to his
own business, as is the etiquette of places like the Gold
"About one o clock, you say?" Kite muttered,
frowning, twisted his head around and called down a
back passage, "Louie Oh, Louie!" and when an
overalled porter, rather messy, shuffled to the desk, put
the low toned query, "D you see any stranger guy
gripping a sole leather shirt-box snoop by out yestiddy,
after one, thereabouts?" And I added the informa
THE GOLD NUGGET 77
"Medium height and weight, blue eyes, light brown
hair, smooth face."
Louie looked at me dubiously.
"How big a guy?" he asked.
"Five feet seven or eight; weighs about hundred
"Blue eyes you say?"
"Light blue gray blue."
"How was he tucked up?"
"Blue serge suit, black shoes, black derby. Neat,
Louie s eyes wandered over the guests in the office
questioningly. I began to feel impatient. If there
was any place in the city where my description of Clayte
would differentiate him, make him noticeable by com
parison, it was here. Neat, quiet dressers were not
dotting this lobby.
"Might be Tim Foley ?" he appealed to the Kite, who
nodded gravely and chewed his short mustache.
"Would he have a big scar on his left cheek?"
"He would not," I said shortly. "He wasn t a
guest here, and you don t know him. Get this straight
now: a stranger, going through here, out; about one
o clock; carried a suitcase."
"Bulls after him?" Louie asked, and I turned away
from him wearily.
"Kite," I said, "let me up to your roof."
"Sure, Jerry." Released, the porter went on to
gather up a pile of discarded papers.
"Could he the man I ve described come through
here through this office and neither you nor Louie
see him?" I asked. The Kite brought a box of cigars
from under the counter with,
78 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"My treat, gentlemen. Naw, Jerry; sure not not
that kind of a guy. Louie d a spotted him. Most
observing cuss I ever seen."
Miss Wallace, taking all this in, seemed amused.
As I turned to lead to the elevator I found that again
she wanted a question of her own answered.
Mr. Kite/ she began and I grinned; Kite wasn t
the Kite s surname or any part of his name; "Who is
the guest here with the upstairs room on the top
floor has had the same room right along for five
or six years but doesn t "
"Go easy, ma am, please!" Kite s little eyes were
popping; he dragged out a handkerchief and fumbled it
around his forehead. "I ve not been here for any five
or six years no, nor half that time. Since I ve been
here most of our custom is transient. Nobody don t
keep no room five or six years in the Gold Nugget."
"Back up," I smiled at his excitement. "To my
certain knowledge Steve Skeels has had a room here
longer than that. Hasn t he been with you ever since
the place was rebuilt after the earthquake?"
"Steve?" the Kite repeated. "I forgot him. Yeah
he keeps a little room up under the roof."
"Has he had it for as long as four years ?" the young
"Search me," the Kite shook his head.
But Louie the overalled, piloting us the first stage
of our journey in a racketty old elevator that he seemed
to pull up by a cable, so slow it was, grumbled an
assent to the same question when it was put to him,
and confirmed my belief that Skeels came into the
hotel as soon as it was rebuilt, and had kept the same
room ever since.
THE GOLD NUGGET 79
Miss Wallace seemed interested in this; but all the
time we were making the last lap, by an iron stairway,
to that roof -house we had seen from the top of the St.
Dunstan; all the time Louie was unlocking the door
there to let us out, instructing us to be sure to relock
it and bring him the key, and to yell for him down the
elevator shaft because the bell was busted, the quiet
smile of Miss Barbara Wallace disturbed me. She
followed where I led, but I had the irritating impression
that she looked on at my movements, and Worth s as
well, with the indulgent eye of a grown-up observing
children at play.
On the roof of the Gold Nugget we picked up the
possible trail easily ; Clayte hadn t needed to go through
the building, or have a confederate staked out in a room
here, to make a downward getaway. For here the
fire escape came all the way up, curving over the cop
ing to anchor into the wall, and it was a good iron
stairway, with landings at each floor, and a handrail
the entire length, its lower end in the alley between
Powell and Mason Streets. Looking at it I didn t
doubt that it was used by the guests of the Gold
Nugget at least half as much as the easier but more
conspicuous front entrance. Therefore a man seen on
it would be no more likely to attract attention than he
would in the elevator. I explained this to the others,
but Worth had attacked a rack of old truck piled in
the corner of the roof-house, and paid little attention
to me, while Miss Wallace nodded with her provoking
smile and said,
"Once -yes; no doubt you are exactly right. I
wasn t looking for a w r ay that a man might take once,
under pressure of great necessity."
8o THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"Why not?" I countered. "If Clayte got away by
this means yesterday that ll do me."
"It might," she nodded, "if you could see it as a
fact, without seeing a lot more. Such a man as Clayte
was a really wonderful man, you know " the dim
ples were deep in the pink of her cheeks as she flashed
a laughing look at me with this clawful "a really
wonderful man like Clayte," she repeated, "wouldn t
have trusted to a route he hadn t known and proved
for a long time."
"That s theory," I smiled. "I take my hat off to
you, Miss Wallace, when it comes to observing and
deducing, but I m afraid your theorizing is weak."
"I never theorize," she reminded me. "All I deal
with is facts."
She had perched herself on an overturned box, and
was watching Worth sort junk. I leaned against the
roof-house, pushed Kite s donated cigar unlighted into
a corner of my mouth and stared at her.
"Miss Wallace," I said sharply, "what s this Steve
Skeels stuff? What s this reroofing stuff? What s
the dope you think you have, and you think I haven t?
Tell us, and we ll not waste time. Tell us, and we ll
get ahead on this case. Worth, let that rubbish alone.
Nothing there for us. Come here and listen."
For all answer he straightened up, looked at us with
out a word and went to it again. I turned to the
"Worth doesn t need to listen to me, Mr. Boyne,"
she said serenely. "He already has full faith in me
and my methods."
"Methods be be blowed !" I exploded. "It s results
that count, and you ve produced. I m willing to hand
THE GOLD NUGGET 81
it to you. All we know now, we got from you. Be
side you I m a thick-headed blunderer. Let me in on
how you get things and I wont be so hard to con
"Indeed, you aren t a blunderer," she said warmly.
"You do a lot better than most people at observing."
(High praise that, for a detective more than twenty
years in the business ; but she meant to be complimen
tary.) "I m glad to tell you my processes. How
much time do you want to give to it?"
Not a minute longer than will get what you know/
Arid she began with a rush.
"Those dents in the coping at the St. Dunstan, above
Clayte s window I asked the clerk there how long
since the building had been reroofed, because there
were nicks made by that hook and half filled with tar
that had been slushed up against the coping and into
the lowest dents. You see what that means ?"
"That Clayte or some accomplice of his had been
using the route more than four years ago. Yes."
"And the other scars were made at varying times,
showing me that coming over here from there w r as
quite a regular thing."
"At that rate he would have nicked the coping
until it would have looked like a huck towel," I
"A huck towel," she gravely adopted my word.
"But he was a man that did everything he did several
different ways. That was his habit a sort of disguise.
That s why he was shadowy and hard to describe.
Sometimes he came up to the St. Dunstan roof just
as we did; and once, a good while ago, there were
cleats on that wall there so he could climb down here
82 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
without the rope. They have been taken away some
time, and the places where they were are weathered
over so you would hardly notice them."
"Right you are," I said feelingly. "I d hardly
notice them. If I could notice things as you do
fame and fortune for me !" I thought the matter over
for a minute. "That lodger on the top floor, Steve
Skeels," I debated. "A poor bet. Yet after all, he
might have been a member of the gang, though some
how I don t get the hunch "
"What sort of looking person was this man Skeels?"
"Quiet fellow. Dressed like a church deacon.
Silent Steve they call him. I ll send for him down
stairs and let you give him the once-over if you like."
"Oh, that s not the kind of man I m looking for."
She shook her head. "My man would be more like
those down there in the easy chairs so he wasn t
noticed in the elevator or when he passed out through
"Wasn t it cute of him?" I grinned. "But you see
we ve just heard that he didn t take the elevator and go
through the office Saturday anyhow, which is the
only time that really counts for us, the time when he
carried that suitcase with a fortune in it."
"But he did," she persisted. "He went that way.
He walked out the front door and carried away the
"He didn t!" Worth shouted, and began throwing
things behind him like a terrier in a wood-rat s
Derelict stuff of all sorts; empty boxes, pasteboard
cartons, part of an old trunk, he hurtled them into a
THE GOLD NUGGET 83
heap, and dragged out a square something in a gunny
sack. As he jerked to clear it from the sacking, I
glanced at little Miss Wallace. She wasn t getting
any pleasureable kick out of the situation. Her eyes
seemed to go wider open with a sort of horror, her
face paled as she drooped in on herself, sitting there
on the box. Then Worth held up his find in triumph,
assuming a famous attitude.
"The world is mine!" he cried.
"Maybe tis, maybe tisn t," I said as I ran across to
look at the thing close. Sure enough, he d dug up a
respectable brown, sole leather suitcase with brass
trimmings such as a bank clerk might have carried,
suspiciously much too good to have been thrown out
here. Could it be that the thieves had indeed met in
one of the Gold Nugget s rooms or in the roof-house
up here, made their divvy, split the swag, and thus
clumsily disposed of the container? At the moment,
Worth tore buckles and latches free, yanked the thing
open, reversed it in air and out fell a coiled rope
that curved itself like a snake a three-headed snake;
the triple grappling iron at its end standing up as
though to hiss.
We all stood staring; I was too stunned to be tri
umphant. What a pat confirmation of Miss Wallace s
deductions! I turned to congratulate her and at the
same instant Worth cried,
"What s the matter, Bobs?" for the girl was sitting,
staring dejectedly, her chin cupped in her palms, her
lips quivering. Nonplussed, I stooped over the suit
case and rope, coiling up the one, putting it in the other
this first bit of tangible, palpable evidence we d
84 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"Let s get out of this/ I said quickly. "We ve
done all we can here and good and plenty it is, too."
Worth took the suitcase out of my hands and carried
it, so that I had to help Miss Wallace down the ladder.
She still looked as though she d lost her last friend.
I couldn t make her out. Never a word from her
while we were getting down, or while they waited and
I shouted for Louie. It was in the elevator, with the
porter looking at everything on earth but this suitcase
we hadn t brought in and we were taking out, that she
said, hardly above her breath,
"Shall you ask at the desk if this ever belonged to
any one in the house?"
"Find out here right now," and I turned to the
man in overalls with, "How about it?"
"Not that your answer will make any difference,"
Worth cut in joyously. "Nobody need get the idea
that they can take this suitcase away from me cause
they can t. It s mine. I paid eight hundred thousand
dollars for this box; and I ve got a use for it." He
chuckled. Louie regarded him with uncomprehending
toleration queer doings were the order of the day at
the Gold Nugget and allowed negligently.
"You ll get to keep it. It don t belong here."
Then, as a coin changed hands, "Thank you."
"But didn t it ever belong here?" our girl persisted
forlornly, and when Louie failed her, jingling Worth s
tip in his calloused palm, she wanted the women asked,
and we had a frowsy chambermaid called who denied
any acquaintance with our sole leather discovery, in
sisting, upon definite inquiry, that she had never seen
it in Skeels room, or any other room of her domain.
Little Miss Wallace sighed and dropped the subject.
THE GOLD NUGGET 85
As we stepped out of the elevator, I behind the
others, Kite caught my attention with a low whistle,
and in response to a furtive, beckoning, backward jerk
of his head, I moved over to the desk. The reading
gentlemen in the easy chairs, most consciously uncon
scious of us, sent blue smoke circles above their papers.
Kite leaned far over to get his mustache closer to my
"You ast me about Steve/ he whispered.
"Yeah," I agreed, and looked around for Barbara,
to tell her here was her chance to meet the gentleman
she had so cleverly deduced. But she and Worth were
already getting through the door, he still clinging to
the suitcase, she trailing along with that expression of
defeat. "I m sort of looking up Steve. And you
don t want to tip him off see?"
"Couldn t if I wanted to, Jerry," the Kite came down
on his heels, but continued to whisper hoarsely.
"Steve s bolted."
"Bolted," the Kite repeated. "Hopped the twig.
Jumped the town."
"You mean he s not in his room?" I reached for
a match in the metal holder, scratched it, and lit my
"I mean he s jumped the town," Kite repeated.
"You got me nervous asking for him that way. While
you was on the roof, I took a squint around and found
he was gone with his hand baggage. That means
he s gone outa town."
"Xot if the suitcase you squinted for was a brown
sole leather " I was beginning, but the Kite cut in on
86 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"I seen that one you had. That wasn t it. His was
a brand new one, black and shiny."
Suddenly I couldn t taste my cigar at all.
"Know what time to-day he left here?" I asked.
"It wasn t to-day. Twas yestiddy. About one
As I plunged for the door I was conscious of his
hoarse whisper following me,
"What s Steve done, Jerry? What d ye want him
I catapulted across the sidewalk and into the
"Get me to my office as fast as you can, Worth," I
exclaimed. "Hit Bush Street and rush it."
A TIN-HORN GAMBLER
AFTER we were in the machine, my head was so
full of the matter in hand that Worth had
driven some little distance before I realized that the
young people were debating across me as to which
place we went first, Barbara complaining that she was
hungry, while Worth ungallantly eager to give his own
affairs immediate attention, argued,
"You said the dining-room out at your diggings
w r ould be closed by this time. Why not let me take
you down to the Palace, along with Jerry, have this
suitcase safely locked up, and we can all lunch together
and get ahead with our talk."
Drive to the office, \Vorth," I cut in ahead of
Barbara s objections to this plan. "I ought to be
there this minute. We ll have a tray in from a little
joint that feeds me when I m too busy to go out for
I took them straight into my private office at the
end of the suite.
"Make yourself comfortable," I said to Miss
Wallace. "Better let me lock up that suitcase, Worth ;
stick it in the vault. That s evidence."
"I ll hang on to it." He grinned. "You can keep
the rope and hook. This has got another use before
it can be evidence."
Not even delaying to remove my coat, I laid a heavy
88 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
finger on the buzzer button for Roberts, my secretary ;
then as nothing resulted, I played music on the other
signal tips beneath the desk lid. It was Sunday, also
luncheon hour, but there must be some one about the
place. It never was left entirely empty.
My fugue work brought little Pete, and Murray,
one of the men from the operatives room.
"Where s Roberts?" I asked the latter.
"He went to lunch, Mr. Boyne."
"Where s Foster?" Foster was chief operative.
"He telephoned in from Redwood City half an hour
ago. Chasing a Clayte clue down the peninsula."
"If he calls up again, tell him to report in at once.
Is there a stenographer about?"
"Not a one ; Sunday, you know/
"Can you take dictation?"
"Me? Why, no, sir."
"Then dig me somebody who can. And rush it.
"Perhaps I might help." It was little Miss Wallace
who spoke; about the first cheerful word I d heard
out of her since we found that suitcase on the roof
of the Gold Nugget. "I can take on the machine
"Fine!" I tossed my coat on the big center table.
"Murray, send Roberts to me as soon as he comes in.
You take number two trunk line, and find two of the
staff quick; any two. Shoot them to the Gold
Nugget Hotel." I explained the situation in a word.
Then, as he was closing the door, "Keep off Number
One trunk, Murray; I ll be using that line," and I
turned to little Pete.
A TIN-HORN GAMBLER 89
"Get lunch for three," I said, handing him a bill.
From his first glance at Barbara one could have seen
that the monkey was hers truly, as they say at the end
of letters. I knew as he bolted out that he felt some
thing very special ought to be dug up for such a
The girl had shed coat and hat and was already
fingering the keys of the typewriter, trying their touch.
I saw at once she knew her business, and I turned to
the work at hand with satisfaction.
"You ll find telegram blanks there somewhere," I
instructed. "Get as many in for manifold copies as
you can make readable. The long form. Worth "
I looked around to find that my other amateur
assistant was following my advice, stowing his
precious suitcase in the vault ; and it struck me that he
couldn t have been more tickled with the find if the
thing had contained all the money and securities in
stead of that rope and hook. He had made the latter
into a separate package, and now looked up at me with,
"Want this in here, too, Jerry?"
"I do. Lock them both up, and come take the tele
phone at the table there. Press down Number One
button. Then call every taxi stand in the city (find
their numbers at the back of the telephone directory)
and ask if they picked up Silent Steve at or near the
Gold Nugget yesterday afternoon about one; Steve
Skeels or any other man. If so, where d they take
him? Get me?"
"All hunk, Jerry." He came briskly to the job.
I returned to Miss Wallace, with,
90 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"Yes, Mr. Boyne."
"Take dictation :
" We offer five hundred dollars You authorize
that, Worth ?"
"Sure. What s it for?"
"Never mind. You keep at your job. Five hun
dred dollars for the arrest of Silent Steve S keels
Wait. Make that arrest or detention, Got It?"
"All right, Mr. Boyne."
" Skeels, gambler, who left San Francisco about
one in the afternoon yesterday March sixth. Pre
sumed he went by train; maybe by auto. He is
man thirty-eight to forty; five feet seven or eight;
weighs about one hundred forty. Hair, light brown;
eyes light blue Make it gray-blue, Barbara."
Worth glanced up from where he was jotting down
telephone numbers to drawl,
"You know who you re describing there?"
"Yes Steve Skeels."
I saw Miss Wallace give him a quick look, a little
shake of her head, as she said to me.
"Go on please, Mr. Boyne."
" Hair parted high, smoothed down ; appears of
slight build but is well muscled. Neat dresser, quiet,
usually wears blue serge suit, black derby hat, black
"By Golly you see it now yourself, don t you,
"I see that you re holding up work," I said im
patiently. And now it was the quiet girl who came in
"Who gave you this description of Steve Skeels?
A TIN-HORN GAMBLER 91
I mean, how many people s observation of the man
does this represent?"
"One. My own," I jerked out. "I know Skeels;
have known him for years."
"Years? How many?" It was still the girl asking.
"Since 1907 or thereabouts."
"Was he always a gambler?" she wanted to know.
"Always. Ran a joint on Fillmore Street after the
big earthquake, and before San Francisco came back
"A gambler," she spoke the word just above her
breath, as though trying it out with herself. "A man
who took big chances risks."
"Not Steve," I smiled at her earnestness. "Steve
was a piker always a tin-horn gambler. Hid away
from the police instead of doing business with them.
Take a chance? Not Steve."
Worth had left the telephone and was leaning over
her shoulder to read what she had typed.
"Exactly and precisely," he said, "the same words
you had in that other fool description of him."
Worth let me have the one word straight between
the eyes, and I leaned back in my chair, the breath
almost knocked out of me by it. By an effort I
pulled myself together and turned to the girl :
"Take dictation, please: Skeel s eyes are wide
apart, rather small but keen "
And for the next few minutes I was making words
mean something, drawing a picture of the Skeels I
knew, so that others could visualize him. And it
92 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
brought me a word of commendation from Miss Wal
lace, and made Worth exclaim,
"Sounds more like Clayte than Clayte himself.
You ve put flesh on those bones, Jerry."
"You keep busy at that phone and help land him,"
I growled. "Finish, please: Wire information to
me. I hold warrant. Jeremiah Boyne, Bankers Se
curity Agency. That s all."
The girl pulled the sheets from the machine and
sorted them while I was stabbing the buzzer. Roberts
answered, breezing in with an apology which I nipped.
"Never mind that. Get this telegram on the wires
to each of our corresponding agencies as far east as
Spokane, Ogden and Denver. Has Murray got in
touch with Foster?"
"Not yet. Young and Stroud are outside."
"Send them to bring in Steve Skeels," I ordered.
"Description on the telegram there. Any word,
"Nothing yet." Worth was calling one after an
other of the taxi offices. Little Pete came in with a
"All right, Worth," I said. "Turn that job over
to .Roberts. Here s where we eat."
The kid s idea of catering for Barbara was club
sandwiches and pie a la mode. It wouldn t have been
mine; but I was glad to note that he d guessed right.
The youngsters fell to with appetite. For myself, I
ate, the receiver at my ear, talking between bites.
San Jose, Stockton, Santa Rosa in all the nearby
towns of size, I placed the drag-net out for Silent
Steve, tin-horn gambler.
They talked as they lunched. I didn t pay any
A TIN-HORN GAMBLER 93
attention to what they said now ; my mind was racing
at the new idea Worth had given me. So far, I had
been running Skeels down as one of the same gang
with Clayte; the man on the roof; the go-between for
the getaway. My supposition was that when the suit
case was emptied for division, Skeels, being left to
dispose of the container, had stuck it where we found
it. But what if the thing worked another way?
What if all the money almost a round million which
came to the Gold Nugget roof in the brown sole-
leather case, walked out of its front door in the new
black shiny carrier of Skeels the gambler?
Could that be worked ? A gambler at night, a bank
employee by day? Why not? Improbable. But not
"I believe you said a mouthful, Worth," I broke in
on the two at their lunch. "And tell me, girl, how
did you get the idea of walking up to the desk at the
Gold Nugget and demanding Steve Skeels from the
"I didn t demand Steve Skeels," she reminded me
rather plaintively. "I didn t want him."
"What did you want?"
"A room that had been lived in."
She didn t need to add a word to that. I got her
in the instant. That examination of hers in Clayte s
room at the St. Dunstan; the crisp, new-looking bed
ding, the unworn velvet of the chair cushions; the
faded nap of the carpet, quite perfect, while that in the
hall had just been renewed. Even had the room been
done over recently and I knew it had not there was
no getting around the total absence of photographs,
pictures, books, magazines, newspapers, old letters, the
94 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
lack of all the half worn stuff that collects about an
occupied apartment. No pinholes or defacements on
the walls, none of the litter that accumulates. The
girl was right; that room hadn t been lived in.
"Beautiful," I said in honest admiration. "It s a
pleasure to see a mind like yours, and such powers of
observation, in action, clicking out results like a per
fectly adjusted machine. Clayte didn t live in his
room because he lived with the gang all his glorious
outside hours. There was where the poor rabbit of
a bank clerk got his fling."
"Oh, yes, it works logically. He held himself down
to Clayte at the St. Dunstan and in the bank, and he
let himself go to what? outside of it, beyond it,
where he really lived."
"He let himself go to Steve Skeels won t that do
"No," she said so positively that it was annoying.
"That won t do me at all."
"But it s what you got," I reminded her rather un
kindly, and then was sorry I d done it. "It s what
you got for me and I thank you for it."
"You needn t," she came back at me spunky little
thing. "It isn t worth thanking anybody for. It s
only a partial fact."
"And you think half truths are dangerous?" I
smiled at her.
"There isn t any such thing," she instructed me.
"Even facts can hardly be split into fractions; while
the truth is always whole and complete."
"As far as you see it," I amended. "For instance,
you insist on keeping the gang all under Clayte s hat
or you did at first. Now you re refusing to believe,
A TIN-HORN GAMBLER 95
as both Worth and I believe, that Steve Skeels is
Clayte himself. I should think you d jump at the
idea. Here s your Wonder Man."
She leaned back in her chair and laughed. I was
glad to hear the sound again, see the dimples flicker
in her cheeks, even if she was laughing at me.
"A wonderful Wonder Man, Mr. Boyne," she said.
"One who? does things so bunglingly that you can
follow him right up and put your hand on him."
"Not so I could," I reminded her gaily. "So you
could. Quite a different matter." She took my com
pliment sweetly, but she said with smiling reluctance,
"I m not in this, of course, except that your kind
ness allowed me to be for this day only. But if I
were, I shouldn t be following Skeels as you are. I d
still be after Clayte."
"It foots up to the same thing," I said rather tartly.
"Oh, does it?" she laughed at me. "Two and two
are making about three and a half this afternoon, are
"What we ve got to-day ought to land something,"
I maintained. "You ve been fine help, Barbara "
and I broke off suddenly with the knowledge that I d
been calling her that all through the rush of the work.
"Thank you." She smiled inclusively. I knew she
meant my use of her name as well as my commenda
tion. I began clearing my desk preparatory to leaving.
Worth was going to take her home and as he brought
her coat, he spoke again of the suitcase.
"Hey, there !" I remonstrated, "You don t want to
be lugging that thing with you everywhere, like a
three-year-old kid that s found a dead cat. Leave it
where it is."
96 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"Give me an order for it then/ he said. And when
I looked surprised, "Might need that box, and you not
be in the office."
"Need it?" I grumbled. "I d like to know what
But I scribbled the order. Over by the window the
young people were talking together earnestly; they
made a picture against the light, standing close, the
girl s vivid dark face raised, the lad s tall head bent,
"But, Bobs, you must get some time to play about,"
I heard Worth say.
"Awfully little," Her look up at him was like that
of a wistful child.
"You said you were in the accounting department,"
he urged impatiently. "A lightning calculator like
you could put that stuff through in about one tenth
of the usual time."
"I use an adding machine," she half whispered, and
it made me chuckle.
"An adding machine!" Worth exploded in a peal
of laughter. "For Barbara Wallace! What s their
"It isn t their idea; it s mine," with dignity. "They
don t know that I used to be a freak mathematician.
I don t want them to. Father used to say that all
children could be trained to do all that I did if you
took them young enough. But till they are, I d rather
not be. It s horrid to be different; and I m keeping
it to myself in the office anyhow and living my
past down the best I can."
As though her words had suggested it, Worth spoke
A TIN-HORN GAMBLER 97
"Where did you meet Cummings? Seems you find
time to go out with him."
"I ve known Mr. Cummings for years," Barbara
spoke quietly, but she looked self-conscious. "I knew
he was with those friends of mine at the Orpheum
last night, but I didn t expect him to call for me at
Tait s or rather I thought they d all come in after
me. There wasn t anything special about it no
special appointment with him, I mean/
I had forgotten them for a minute or two, closing
my desk, finding my coat, when I heard some one
come into the outer office, a visitor, for little Pete s
voice went up to a shrill yap with the information
that I was busy. Then the knob turned, the door
opened, and there stood Cummings. At first he saw
only me at the desk.
"Your friend calling for you again, Bobs by ap
pointment?" Worth s question drew the lawyer s
glance, and he stared at them apparently a good deal
taken aback, while Worth added, "Seems to keep pretty
close tab on your movements." The low tone might
have been considered joking, but there was war in
the boy s eye.
It was as though Cummings answered the challenge,
rather than opened with what he had intended.
"My business is with you, Gilbert." He came in
and shut the door behind him, leaving his hand on the
knob. "And I ve been some time finding you." He
stopped there, and was so long about getting any
thing else out that Worth finally suggested,
"The money?" *And when there was no reply but
a surprised look, "How do you stand now?"
"Still seventy-two thousand to raise." Cummings
98 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
spoke vaguely. This was not what had brought him
to the office. He finished with the abrupt question,
"Were you at Santa Ysobel last night?"
"Hold on, Cummings," I broke in. "What you got ?
I was shut off there by Worth s,
"It s Sunday afternoon. I want that money to
morrow morning. You ve not come through ? You ve
not dug up what I sent you after ?"
I could see that the lawyer was absolutely nonplussed.
Again he gave Worth one of those queer, probing
looks before he said doggedly,
"The question of that money can wait."
"It can t wait." Worth s eyes began to light up.
"What you talking, Cummings an extension?" And
when the lawyer made no answer to this, "I ll not
crawl in with a broken leg asking favors of that bank
crowd. Are you quitting on me? If so, say it
and I ll find a way to raise the sum, myself."
"I ve raised all but seventy-two thousand of the
necessary amount," said Cummings slowly. "What
I want to know is how much have you raised?"
"See here, Cummings," again I mixed in. "I was
present when that arrangement was made. Nothing
was said about Worth raising any money."
Cummings barely glanced around at me as he said,
"I made a suggestion to him; in your presence, as
you say, Boyne. I want to know if he carried it out."
Then, giving his full attention to Worth, "Did you see
your father last night?"
On instinct I blurted,
"For heaven s sake, keep your mouth shut, Worth !"
For a detective that certainly was an incautious
A TIN-HORN GAMBLER 99
speech. Cummings eye flared suspicion at me, and
his voice was a menace.
"You keep out of this, Boyne."
"You tell what s up your sleeve, Cummings," I coun
tered. "This is no witness-stand cross-examination.
"What you got?"
But Worth answered for him, hotly,
"If Cummings hasn t seventy-two thousand dollars
I commissioned him to raise for me, I don t care what
he s got."
"And you didn t go to your father for it last
night?" Cummings returned to his question. He had
moved close to the boy. Barbara stood just where
she was when the door opened. Neither paid any
attention to her. But she looked at the two men,
drawn up with glances clinched, and spoke out sud
denly in her clear young voice, as though there was no
row on hand,
"Worth was with me last night, you know, Mr.
"I seem to have noticed something of the sort,"
Cummings said with labored sarcasm. "And he d
been with that wedding party earlier in the evening,
"With me till Miss Wallace came in." Worth s
natural disposition to disoblige the lawyer could be
depended on to keep from Cummings whatever in
formation he wanted before giving us his own news.
"\Vhat you got, Cummings?" I prompted again, im
patiently. "Come through."
His eyes never shifted an instant from Worth Gil
bert s face.
"A telegram from Santa Ysobel," he said slowly.
ioo THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
Worth shrugged and half turned away.
"I m not interested in your telegram, Cummings."
Instantly I saw what the boy thought : that the other
had taken it on himself to apply for the money to
Thomas Gilbert, and had been turned down.
"Not interested?" Cummings repeated in that dry,
lawyer voice that speaks from the teeth out; on the
mere tone, I braced for something nasty. "I think
you are. My telegram s from the coroner."
Silence after that; Worth obstinately mute; Barbara
and I afraid to ask. There was a little tremor of
Cummings nostril, he couldn t keep the flicker out
of his eye, as he said, staring straight at Worth,
"It states that your father shot himself last night.
The body wasn t discovered till late this morning, in
OF all unexpected things. I went down to Santa
Ysobel with Worth Gilbert. It happened this
way : Cummings, one of those individuals on whose
tombstone may truthfully be put, "Born a man and
died a lawyer," seemed rather taken aback at the effect
of the blow he d launched. If he was after informa
tion, I can t think he learned much in the moment
while Worth stood regarding him with an unreadable
There was only a little grimmer tightening of the
jaw muscle, something bleak and robbed in the glance
of the eye; the face of one, it seemed to me, who
grieved the more because he was denied real sorrow
for his loss, and Worth had tramped to the window
and stood with his back to us, putting the thing over
in his silent, fighting fashion, speaking to none of us.
It was when Barbara followed, took hold of his
sleeve and began half whispering up into his face that
Cummings jerked his hat from the table where he
had thrown it, and snapped,
"Boyne can I have a few minutes of your time?"
"Jerry," Worth s voice halted me at the door,
Leave that card an order for me. For the suit
Cummings was ahead of me, and he turned back to
102 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
listen, but I crowded him along and was pretty hot
when I faced him in the outer office to demand,
"What kind of a deal do you call this ripping in
here to throw this thing at the boy in such a way?
What is your idea? What you trying to put over?"
"Go easy, Boyne." Cummings chewed his words
a little before he let them out. "There s something
queer in this business. I intend to know what it is,"
"Queer," I repeated his word. "If the lawyers and
the detectives get to running down all the queer things
that don t concern them a little bit the world won t
have any more peace."
"All right, if you say it doesn t concern you," Cum
mings threw me overboard with relief I thought. "It
does concern me. When I couldn t get him" a jerk
of the head indicated that the pronoun stood for Worth
"at the Palace, found he d been out all day and left
no word at the desk when he expected to be. in, I
took my telegram to Knapp, and then to Whipple.
They were flabbergasted."
"The bank crowd," I said. "Now why did you
run to them? On account of Worth s engagement
with them to-morrow morning? Wasn t that exceed
ing your orders? You saw that he intends to meet
it, in spite of this."
"Why not because of this?" Cummings demanded
sharply. "He s in better shape to meet it now his
father s dead. He s the only heir. That s the first
thing Knapp and Whipple spoke of and I saw them
"Can that stuff. What do you think you re hint
"Something queer," he repeated his phrase. "Wake
SANTA YSOBEL 103
up, Boyne. Knapp and Whipple both saw Thomas
Gilbert a little before noon yesterday. He was in the
bank for the final transfer of the Hanford interests.
They d as soon have thought of my committing sui
cide that night or you doing it. They swear there
was nothing in his manner or bearing to suggest such
a state of mind, and everything in the business he was
engaged on to suggest that he expected to live out his
days like any man."
I thought very little of this ; it is common in cases
of suicide for family, friends or business associates
to talk in exactly this way, to believe it, and yet for
the deep-seated moving cause to be easily discovered
by an unprejudiced outsider. I said as much to Cum-
mings. And while I spoke, we could hear a murmur
of young voices from the inner room.
"Damn it all/ the lawyer s irritation spurted out
suddenly, "With a cub like that for a son, I d say
the reason wasn t far to seek. Better keep your eye
peeled round that young man, Boyne."
"I will," I agreed, and he took his departure. I
turned back into the private room.
" Worth" I put it quietly "what say I go to Santa
Ysobel with you? You could bring me back Monday
He agreed at once, silently, but thankfully I thought.
Barbara, listening, proposed half timidly to go
with us, staying the night at the Thornhill place, being
brought back before work time Monday, and was ac
cepted simply. So it came that when we had a blow
out as the crown of a dozen other petty disasters
which had delayed our progress toward Santa Ysobel,
and found our spare tire flat, Barbara jumped down
104 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
beside Worth where he stood dragging out the pump,
and stopped him, suggesting that we save time by
running the last few miles on the rim and getting
fixed up at Capehart s garage. He climbed in with
out a word, and drove on toward where Santa Ysobel
lies at the head of its broad valley, surrounded by the
apricot, peach and prune orchards that are its w r ealth.
We came into the fringes of the town in the ob
scurity of approaching night; a thick tulle fog had
blown down on the north wind. The little foot-hill
city was all drowned in it; tree-tops, roofs, the gable
ends of houses, the illuminated dial of the town clock
on the city hall, sticking up from the blur like things
seen in a dream. As we headed for a garage with
the name Capehart on it, we heard, soft, muffled, seven
strokes from the tower.
"Getting in late," Worth said absently. "Bill still
keeps the old place?"
"Yes. Just the same," Barbara said. "He married
our Sarah, you know was that before you went away?
Of course not," and added for my enlightenment,
"Sarah Gibbs was father s housekeeper for years. She
brought me up."
We drove into the big, dimly lighted building; there
came to us from its corner office what might have been
described as a wide man, not especially imposing in
breadth, but with a sort of loose- jointed effectiveness
to his movements, and a pair of roving, yellowish-
hazel eyes in his broad, good-humored face, mighty
observing I d say, in spite of the lazy roll of his glance.
"Been stepping on tacks, Mister?" he hailed, having
looked at the tires before he took stock of the human
SANTA YSOBEL 105
"Hello, Bill," Worth was singing out. "Give me
another machine or get our spare filled and on
whichever^ quickest. I want to make it to the house
as soon as I can."
"Lord, boy!" The wide man began wiping a big
paw before offering it. "I m glad to see you."
They shook hands. Worth repeated his request,
but the garage man was already unbuckling the spare,
going to the work with a brisk efficiency that contra
dicted his appearance.
Barbara sitting quietly beside me, we heard them
talking at the back of the machine, as the jack quickly
lifted us and Worth went to it with Capehart to unbolt
the rim; a low-toned steady stream from the wide
man, punctuated now and then by a word from Worth.
"Yeh," Capehart grunted, prying off the tire.
"Heard it m self bout noon or a little after. Yeh,
Ward s Undertaking Parlors."
"Undertaking parlors !" Worth echoed. Capehart,
hammering on the spare, agreed.
"Nobody in town that knowed what to do about
it ; so the coroner took a-holt, I guess, and kinda fixed
it to suit hisself. Did you phone ahead to see how
things was out to the house?"
"Tried to," Worth said. "The operator couldn t
"Course not." Capehart was coupling on the air.
"Your chink s off every Sunday has the whole day
and the Devil only could guess where a Chinaman d
go when he ain t working. Eddie Hughes ought to
be on the job out there but would he?"
"Father still kept Eddie?"
"Yeh." The click of the jack and the car was
106 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
lowering. Eddie s lasted longer than I looked to see
him. Due to be fired any time this past year. Been
chasing over crost the tracks. Got him a girl there,
one of these cannery girls. Well, she s sort of mar
ried, I guess, but that don t stop Eddie. F I see
him, I ll tell him you want him."
They came to the front of the machine; Worth
thrust his hand in his pocket. Capehart checked him
"Let it go on the bill." Then, as Worth swung
into his seat, Barbara bent forward from behind my
shoulder, the careless yellowish eyes that saw every
thing got a fair view of her, and with a sort of sub
dued crow, "Look who s here!" Capehart took hold
of the upright to lean his square form in and say
earnestly, "While you re in Santa Ysobel, don t for
get that we got a spare room at our house."
"Next time," Barbara raised her voice to top the
hum of the engine. "I m only here for over night,
now, and I m going down to Mrs. Thornhill s."
We were out in the street once more, leaving the
cannery district on our right, tucked away to itself
across the railroad tracks, running on Main Street to
City Hall Square, where we struck into Broad, fol
lowed it out past the churches and to that length of
it that held the fine homes in their beautiful grounds,
getting close at last to where town melts again into
orchards. The road between its rows of fernlike pep
per trees was a wet gleam before us, all black and
silver; the arc lights made big misty blurs without
much illumination as we came to the Thornhill place.
Worth got down and, though she told him he needn t
bother, took her in to the gate. For a minute I
SANTA YSOBEL 107
waited, getting the bulk of the big frame house back
among the trees, with a single light twinkling from an
upper story window; then Worth flung into the car
and we speeded on, skirting a long frontage of lawns,
beautifully kept, pearly with the fog, set off with
artfully grouped shrubbery 7 and winding walks. There
was no barrier but a low stone coping; the drive to
the Gilbert place went in on the side farthest from the
Thornhill s. We ran in under a carriage porch. The
house was black.
"See if I can raise anybody," said Worth as he
jumped to the ground. "Let you in, and then I ll run
the roadster around to the garage."
But the house was so tightly locked up that he had
finally to break in through a pantry window. I was
out in front when he made it, and saw the lights begin
to flash up, the porch lamp flooding me with a sud
den glare before he threw the door open.
"Cold as a vault in here."
He twisted his broad shoulders in a shudder, and
I looked about me. It was a big entrance hall, with
a wide stairway. There on the hat tree hung a man s
light overcoat, a gray fedora hat ; a stick leaned below;
When the master of the house went out of it this time,
he hadn t needed these. Abruptly Worth turned and
led the way into what I knew was the living room,
with a big open fireplace in it.
"Make yourself as comfortable as you can, Jerry.
I ll get a blaze here in two shakes. I suppose you re
hungry as a w^olf I am. This is a hell of a place I ve
brought you into."
"Forget it," I returned. "I can look after myself.
I m used to rustling. Let me make that fire."
io8 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"All right. * He gave up his place on the hearth
to me, straightened himself and stood a minute, say
ing, Til raid the kitchen. Chung s sure to have plenty
of food cooked. He may not be back here before
"Midnight?" I echoed. "Is that usual?"
"Used to be. Chung s been with father a long time.
Good chink. Always given his whole Sunday, and if
he was on hand to get Monday s breakfast no ques
"Left last night, you think?"
Worth shot me a glance of understanding.
"Sometimes he would after cleaning up from din
ner. But he wouldn t have heard the shot, if that s
what you re driving at."
He left me, going out through the hall. My fire
burned. I thawed out the kinks the long, chill ride
had put in me. Then Worth hailed; I went out and
found him with a coffee-pot boiling on the gas range,
a loaf and a cold roast set out. He had sand, that
boy; in this wretched home-coming, his manner was
neither stricken nor defiant. He seemed only a little
graver than usual as he waited on me, hunting up
stuff in places he knew of to put some variety into
Where I sat I faced a back window, and my eye
was caught by the appearance of a strange light, quite
a little distance from the house, apparently in another
building, but showing as a vague glow on the fog.
"What s down there?" I asked. Worth answered
without taking the trouble to lean forward and look,
"The garage and the study."
"Huh? The study s separate from the house?"
SANTA YSOBEL 109
I had been thinking of the suicide as a thing of this
dwelling, an affair in some room within its walls.
Of course Chung would not hear the shot. "Who s
"Eddie Hughes has a room off the garage."
"He s in it now."
"How do you know?" he asked quickly.
"There s a light or there was. It s gone now."
"That wouldn t have been Eddie," Worth said.
"His room s on the other side, toward the back street.
What you saw was the light from these windows shin
ing on the fog. Makes queer effects sometimes."
I knew that wasn t it, but I didn t argue with him,
"I d like to have a look at that place, Worth, if
you don t mind."
A SHADOW IN THE FOG
AGAIN I saw that glow from the Gilbert garage,
hanging on the fog; a luminosity of the fog;
saw it disappear as the mist deepened and shrouded
it. But Worth was answering me, and somehow his
words seemed forced;
"Sit tight a minute, Jerry. Have another cup of
coffee while I telephone, then I ll put the roadster in
and open up down there. I ll call you or you can
see my lights."
He left me. I heard him at the instrument in the
hall get his number, talk to some one in a low voice,
and then go out the front door; next thing was the
sound of the motor, the glare of its lamps as it
rounded into the driveway and started down back,
illuminating everything. In the general glare thrown
on the fog, the fainter light was invisible, but across
a plot of kitchen garden I saw where it had been; a
square, squat building of concrete, flat roofed, vining
plants in boxes drooping over its cornice; the typical
garage of such an establishment, but nearly double
the usual size. The light had come from there, but
how? In the short time that the lamps of the machine
were showing it up to me, there seemed no windows
on this side; only the double doors for the car s en
trance closed now and a single door which was
A SHADOW IN THE FOG in
crossed by two heavy, barricading planks nailed in the
form of a great X.
Worth ran the machine close up against the doors,
jumped down, and I could see his tall form, blurred
by the mist, moving about to slide them open. The
lamps of the roadster made little showing now as he
rolled it in. Then these were switched off and every
thing down there was dark as a pocket. For a time
I sat and waited for him to light up and call me, then
started down. The fog was making that kind of
dimness which has a curious, illusory character. I
suppose I had gone half the distance of the garden
walk, when, thrown up startlingly on the obscurity,
I saw a square of white, and across that shining
screen, moved the silhouette of a human head. The
whole thing danced before my eyes for a bare second,
With Cummings queer hints in my mind, I started
running across the garden toward it. About the first
thing I did w r as to step into a cold frame, plunging
my foot through the glass, all but going to my knees
in it; and when I got up, swearing, I was turned
around, ran into bushes, tripped over obstructions,
and traveled, I think, in a circle.
Then I began to go more cautiously. No use get
ting excited. That was only Worth I had seen. And
still I was unwilling to call, ask him to show a light.
I groped along until my outstretched fingers came
across the corner of a building, rough, stonelike the
concrete garage and study. I felt along, seeing a bit
now, and was soon passing my hands over the bar
ricading planks of that door.
I might have lit a match, but I preferred to find
112 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
out what I could by feeling around, and that cau
tiously. I discovered that the door had been broken
in, the top panels shattered to kindling wood, the
force of the assault having burst a hinge, so that the
whole thing sagged drunkenly behind the heavy planks
that propped it, while a strong bolt, quite useless, was
still clamped into a socket which had been torn, screws
and all, from the inside casing.
Sliding my hands over the broken top panel I
found that it had been covered on its inner side by a
piece of canvas ; the screen on which that shadow had
been thrown from within the room. There was no
light there now ; there was no sound of motion within.
The drip of the fog from the eaves was the only
break in the stillness.
"Worth?" I shouted, at last, and he answered me
instantly, hallooing from behind me, and to one side
of the house. I could hear him running and when he
spoke it was close to my shoulder.
"Where are you, Jerry?"
"Where are you," I countered. "Or rather, where
have you been?"
"Getting a bar to pry off these boards."
"A bar?" I echoed stupidly.
"A crowbar from the shed. These planks will have
to come off to let us in."
"The devil you say !" I was exasperated. "There s
some one in here now or was a minute back. Show
me the other way in."
I heard the ring of the steel bar as its end hit the
hard graveled path.
"Some one in there? Jerry, you re seeing things."
A SHADOW IN THE FOG 113
"Sure I am," I agreed drily. "But you get me to
that other door quick!"
"The only other door is locked. I tried it from the
garage. You re dreaming."
For reply, I ran up to the door and thrust my fist
through the canvas, ripping it away from its clumsy
"Who s in there?" I cried. "Answer me!"
Dead silence; then a click as Worth snapped on a
flood of light from his pocket torch, saying tolerantly,
"I told you there was no one. There couldn t be."
"I tell you, Worth, there was. I saw the shadow
on the square of that canvas. Give me the torch."
I pushed the flashlight through the opening and
played the light cone about the room in a quick survey ;
then brought the circle of white glow to rest upon one
of the side walls ; and my hand went down and back
to grip ringers about the butt of my revolver. There
was, as Worth had said, but one other door to this
room; but more, there was apparently no other exit;
no windows, no breaks in the walls. My circle of light
was on this second door; and the very heart of that
circle was a heavy steel bolt on the door, the bar of
which was firmly shot into the socket on the frame.
The only exit from that room, other than the door
through which I now leaned with pistol raised, was
locked bolted from the inside !
Worth was crowding his big frame into the opening
"Keep back," I growled. "Some one s inside," and
I sent the light shaft into corners to drive out the
shadows, to cut in under the desk and chairs. Worth s
H4 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
reply was a laugh, and his arm went by me to reach
inside the door. Then, as his fingers found the button,
a light sprang out from a lamp upon the center desk.
"You re letting your nerves play the deuce with you,
Jerry," he said lightly. "Make way for my crowbar
and we ll get in out of the wet."
I made no answer, but for a long moment more I
searched that room with my eyes ; but it was the kind
you see all over at a glance. Big, square, plain, it
hadn t a window in it; the walls, lined with book
shelves, floor to ceiling; a fireplace; a library table
with drawers; a few chairs. No chance for a hide
out. I glanced at the ceiling and confirmed the evi
dence of my eyes. There was a skylight, and through
it had come that curious glow that first attracted my
attention to the place.
Then I gave Worth room to wield his tools on the
barred door, while I ran quickly back to the house,
into the kitchen, and plumped down in the chair where
I had sat before. The light showed on the fog,
brightened and dimmed as the mist drifted past.
There was no possibility of a mistake: some one had
been in the study, had turned on the table lamp, had
projected his shadow against the patched panel of the
door, and had somehow left the room, one door bolted,
the only other exit barred and nailed.
I went back and rejoined Worth who was standing
where a brownish stain on the rug marked a spot a
little nearer the corner of the table than it was to the
outer door. A curious place for a suicide to fall.
Behind the table was the library chair in which Thomas
Gilbert worked when at his desk; beside it a small
cabinet with a humidor on its top and the open door
A SHADOW IN THE FOG 115
below revealing several decanters and bottles, whisky
and wine glasses, a tray; between the desk and the
fireplace were two other chairs, large and comfortable;
but in front of the table between it and the door
was barren floor.
It is a fact that most men who shoot themselves do
so while sitting; some lying in a bed; few standing.
The psychology of this I must leave to others, but
experience has taught me to question the suicide of
one who has seemingly placed the muzzle of a revolver
against him while on his feet. Thomas Gilbert had
stood; had chosen to take his life as he was walking
from door to desk, or from desk to door.
"Worth," I said. "There was somebody in here
"Couldn t have been, Jerry," he answered absently;
then added, his eyes on that stain, "I never could
calculate what my father would do. But when I
talked to him last night, right here in this room, he
didn t seem to me a man ready to take his own life."
"We always quarreled, whenever we met."
"But this quarrel was more bitter than usual?"
"The last quarrel would seem the bitterest, wouldn t
it, Jerry?" he asked. Then, after a moment, "Poor
I caught my tongue to hold back the question.
Worth went on,
"When I phoned him just now, he hadn t heard a
word about it. Seemed terribly upset."
"Hadn t heard?" I echoed. "How was that?"
"You know we saw him at Tait s last night. He
took the Pacheco Pass road from San Francisco;
n6 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
drove straight to his ranch without hitting Santa
I wanted another look at that man Edwards. I
was to have it. Worth went on absently,
He ll be along presently to stay here while I m
away Alonday. Told me it would be the first time
he d put foot in the house for four years. As boys
up in Sonoma county, he and father always disagreed,
but sometime these last years there was a big split
over something. They were barely on speaking terms
and good old Jim took my news harder than
as though I d been telling him the death of a near
"Works like that with us humans," I nodded. "Let
some one die that you ve disagreed with, and you
remember every row you ever had with them ; remem
ber it and regret it which is foolish."
"Which is foolish," Worth repeated, and seemed
for the first time able to get away from the spot at
which he had stopped.
He went over to the empty, fireless hearth and stood
there, his back to the room, elbows on the mantel
propping his head, face bent, oblivious to anything that
I might do. It oughtn t to be hard to find the way
this place could be entered and left by a man solid
enough to cast a shadow, with quick fingers to snap
the light on and off. But when I made a painstaking
examination of a corner grate with a flue too small
for anything but a chimney swallow to go up and
down, a ceiling solidly beamed and paneled, the glass
that formed the skylight set in firmly as part of the
roof, when I d turned up rugs and inspected an un
broken floor, even tried the corners of book cases to
A SHADOW IN THE FOG 117
see if they masked a false entrance, I owned myself,
for the moment, beaten there.
"Give me your torch or go with me, Worth," I
said. "I d like to take a scoot around outside."
He didn t speak, only indicated the flashlight by a
motion, where it lay on the shelf beside his hand. I
took it, unbolted the door, and stepped into the garage.
Everything all right here. My roadster; a much
handsomer small machine beyond it; a bench, portable
forge and drill made a repair shop of one corner, and
as my light flashed over these, I checked and stared.
Why had Worth gone to the shed hunting a crowbar
to open the door? Here were tools that would have
served as well. I put from me the hateful thought,
and damned Cummings and his suspicions. The
shadow didn t have to be Worth. Certainly he had
not first lit that lamp, for I had seen it from the kitchen
with him beside me. Some one other than Worth
had been in there when Worth put up the roadster.
I d find the man it really was. But even as I crossed
to Eddie Hughes s door, something at the back of my
head was saying to me that Worth could have been in
that room that there was time for it to be, if he had
taken the crowbar from the garage and not from the
shed as he said he did.
At this I took myself in hand. The lie would have
been so clumsy a one that there was no way but to
accept this statement for the truth ; and some one else
had made that shadow on the canvas.
I tried the chauffeur s door and found it locked ;
called, shook it, and had set my shoulder against it to
burst it in, when the rolling door on the street side
moved a little, and a voice said.
ii8 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"H-y-ah! What you doin there?"
I turned and flashed my light on the six-inch crack
of the sliding door. It gave me a strip of man, a
long drab face at top, solid, meaty looking, yet some
how slightly cadaverous, a half shut eye, a crooked
mouth if I d met that mug in San Francisco, I d have
labeled it "tough," and located it South of Market
Slowly, it seemed rather reluctantly, Eddie Hughes
worked the six-inch crack wider by working himself
"What the hell do you want in my room for?" he
demanded. The form of the words was truculent, but
the words themselves slid in a sort of spiritless fashion
from the corner of that crooked mouth of his, and he
added in the next breath, "I ll open up for you, when
I ve lit the blinks."
There was a central lamp that made the whole place
as bright as day. Eddie fumbled a key out of his
pocket, threw the door of his room open, and stepped
back to let me pass him.
"Capehart tells me Worth s here," he said as we
"When?" I gave him a sharp look. He seemed
not to notice it.
"Just now. I came straight from there."
He came straight from there? Did he supply an
alibi so neatly because of that shadowy head on the
door panel ? For a long minute we each took measure
of the other, but Eddie s nerves were less reliable than
mine; he spoke first.
"Well?" he grunted, scarcely above his breath.
And when I continued to stare silently at him, he
A SHADOW IN THE FOG 119
writhed a shoulder with, "What s doing? What
d yuh want of me?"
Still silently, I pulled out with my thumb through
the armhole of my vest the police badge pinned to the
suspender. His ill-colored face went a shade nearer
the yellow white of tallow.
"What for?" he asked huskily. "You haven t got
nothin on me. It was suicide cor ner s jury says
so. Lord ! It has to be, him lay in there, all hunched
up on the floor, his gun so tight in his mitt that they
had to pry the fingers off it!"
"So you found the body?"
He nodded and gulped.
"I told all I knowed at the inquest," he said dog
"Tell it again," I commanded.
Standing there, working his hands together as
though he held some small, accustomed tool that he
was turning, shifting from foot to foot, with long
breaks in his speech, the chauffeur finally put me into
possession of what he knew or what he wished me
to know. He had been out all night. That was usual
with him Saturdays. Where ? Over around the can
neries. Had friends that lived there. He got into
this place about dawn, and went straight to bed.
"Hold on, Hughes," I stopped him there. "You
never w r ent to bed that night, or any other night
until you d had a jolt from the bottle inside."
He gave me a surly, half frightened glance, then
"Not a chance. Bolts on the doors, locks every
where; all tight as a jail. Take it from me, he wasn t
the kind you want to have a run-in with any time.
120 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
Always just as cool as ice himself; try to make you
believe he could tell what you were up to, clear across
town. Hold it over you as if he was God almighty
that stuck folks together and set em walkin around
and thinkin things."
He broke off and looked over his shoulder in the
direction of the study. The walls were thick con
crete; the door heavy. No sound of Worth s moving
in there could be heard in this room. Apparently it
was the old terror of his employer, or the new terror
of the employer s death, that spoke when he said,
"I got up this morning late with a throat like the
back of a chimney. Lord! I never wanted a drink
so bad in my life had to have one. The chink leaves
my breakfast for me Sundays; but I knew I couldn t
eat till I d had one. So I so I"
It was as though some recollection fairly choked off
his voice. I finished for him.
"So you went in there " I pointed at the study
door, "and found the body."
"Naw ! How the hell could I ? I told you locked.
I crawled up on the roof, though; huntin a way in,
and I looked through the skylight. There he was.
On the floor. His eyes weren t open much, but they
was watchin me sort of sneerin . I come down off
that roof like a bat outa hell, and scuttled over to Van-
deman s where his chink was on the porch, I bellerin
at him. I telephoned from there. For the bulls ; and
the cor ner; and everybody. Gawd! I was all in."
I caught one point in the tale.
"So the way into the study is through the skylight,
Hughes?" and he shook his head vaguely, fumbling
his lips with a trembling hand as he replied,
A SHADOW IN THE FOG 121
Honest to God, Cap n, I don t know. I never
tried. I gave just one look through it, and " He
broke off with a shudder.
"Get a ladder," I commanded. "I want to see that
While he was gone on his errand to the shed, I in
vestigated the outer walls of the study with the torch,
hunting some break in their solidity. They were con
crete; a hair-crack would have been visible in the
electric glow; there was no break. Then, as he placed
the ladder against the coping, I climbed to the roof
and stepped across its firmness to the skylight. I
Worth, kneeling on the hearth, was laying a fire in
the corner grate. As he did not glance up, I knew he
had not heard me. Evidently the study had been built
to resist the disturbance of sound from without.
That meant that the report of the revolver inside had
not been heard by any one outside the walls.
Directly below me was the library table and upon
its top a blue desk blotter; a silver filagreed inkstand
stood open; penholders, pencils, paper knife were on a
tray beside it, one pen lying separate from the others
with a ruler, upon the blotting pad ; books and a maga
zine neatly in a pile. The walls, as I circled them with
my eyes, were book-lined everywhere except for the
grate and the two doors.
Then I inspected the skylight, frame and glass, feel
ing it over with my hands. There was no entrance
here. Even should a pane of glass be removable-
all seemingly solid and tight the frame between and
the sash were of steel, and the panes were too small
for the passage of a man. I crept back to the ladder
122 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
as Worth was striking a match to light the pitch-pine
"What about this Vandeman chink?" I asked of
Hughes as I rejoined him at the foot of the ladder.
"Does he hang around here much?"
"Him and Chung visit back and forth a bit. I hear
em talkin hy-lee hy-lo sometimes when I go by the
"Take me over there," I said.
The fog was beginning to blow away in threads;
moonlight somewhere back of it made a queer, gray,
glimmering world around us. We circled the garden
by the path, passing a sort of gardener s tool shed
where Hughes left the ladder, and from which I judged
Worth had brought the bar he pried the door planks
off with, to find a gap in a hedge between this place
and the next.
There was a light in the rear of the house over
there, and a well-trodden path leading from the hedge
gap made what I took to be a servants highway.
Vandeman s house proved to be, as nearly as one
could see it in the darkness, a sprawling bungalow,
with courts, pergolas and terraces bursting out on all
sides of it. I could fairly see it of a fine afternoon,
with its showy master sitting on one of the showy
porches, serving afternoon tea in his best manner to
the best people of Santa Ysobel. Just the husband
for that doll-faced girl, if she only thought so. What
could she have done with a young outlaw like Worth ?
When I looked at the Chinaman in charge there, I
gave up my idea of questioning him. Civilly enough,
with a precise and educated usage of the English lan
guage, he confirmed what Eddie Hughes had already
A SHADOW IN THE FOG 123
told me about the telephoning from that place this
morning; and I went no further. I know the Chinese
if anybody not Mongolian can say they know the
race and I have also a suitable respect for the value
of time. A week of steady questioning of Vande-
man s yellow man would have brought me nowhere.
He was that kind of a chink; grave, respectful, placid
On the \vay back I asked Eddie about the Thornhill
servants at the house on the other side of Gilbert s,
and found they kept but one, "a sort of old lady,"
Eddie called her, and I guessed easily at the decayed
gentlewoman kind of person. It seemed that Mrs.
Thornhill was a widow, and there wasn t much money
now to keep up the handsome place.
I left Eddie slipping eel-like through the big doors,
and went into the study to find Worth sitting before
the blazing hearth. He looked up as I entered to
"Bobs said she d be over later, and I told her to
come on down here."
THE MISSING DIARY
MY experience as a detective has convinced me
that the evident is usually true ; that in a great
majority of cases crime leaves a straight trail, and am
biguities are more often due to the inability of the
trailer than to the cunning of the trailed. Such
reputation as I have established is due to acceptance of
and earnest adherence to the obvious.
In this affair of Thomas Gilbert s death, everything
so far pointed one way. The body had been found
in a bolted room, revolver in hand; on the wall over
the mantel hung the empty holster ; Worth assured me
the gun was kept always loaded; and there might be
motive enough for suicide in the quarrel last night
between father and son.
Because of that flitting shadow I had seen, I knew
this place was not impervious. Some one person, at
least, could enter and leave the room easily, quickly,
while its doors were locked. But that might be
Hughes or even Worth with some reason for doing
so not willingly explained, and some means not readily
seen. It probably had nothing to do with Thomas
Gilbert s sudden death, could not offset in my mind the
conviction of Thomas Gilbert s stiffened fingers about
the pistol s butt. That I made a second thorough in
vestigation of the study interior was not because I
questioned the manner of the death.
THE MISSING DIARY 125
I began taking down books from the shelves at
regular intervals, sounding the thick dead-wall, in
search of a secreted entrance. I came on a row of
volumes whose red morocco backs carried nothing but
"Account books?" I asked.
Worth turned his head to look, and the bleakest
thing that could be called a smile twisted his lips a
little, as he said,
"My father s diaries."
"Quite a lot of them."
"Yes. He d kept diaries for thirty years."
"But he seems to have dropped the habit. There is
no 1920 book."
"Oh, yes there is," very definitely. "He never gave
up setting down the sins of his family and neighbors
while his eyes had sight to see them, and his hand the
cunning to write." He spoke with extraordinary
bitterness, finishing, "He would have had it on the
desk there. The current book was always kept con
venient to his hand."
An idea occurred to me.
"Worth," I asked, "did you see that 1920 volume
when you were here last night?"
He looked a little startled, and I prompted,
"Were you too excited to have noticed a detail like
"I wasn t excited; not in the sense of being con
fused," he spoke slowly. "The book was there; he d
been writing in it. I remember looking at it and think
ing that as soon as I was gone, he d sit down in his
chair and put every damn word of our row into it.
That was his way. The seamy side of Santa Ysobel
126 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
life s recorded in those books. I always understood
they amounted to a pack of neighborhood dynamite."
"Got to find that last book," I said.
He nodded listlessly. I went to it, giving that room
such a searching as would have turned out a bent pin,
had one been mislaid in it. I even took down from the
shelves books of similar size to see if the lost volume
had been slipped into a camouflaging cover all to no
good. It wasn t there. And when I had finished I
was positive of two things; the study had no other
entrance than the apparent ones, and the diary of 1920
had been removed from the room since Worth saw it
there the night before. I reached for one of the other
volumes. Worth spoke again in a sort of dragging
"What do you want to look at them for, Jerry?"
"It s not idle curiosity," I told him, a bit pricked.
"I know it s not that." The old, affectionate tone
went right to my heart. "But if you re thinking you ll
find in them any explanation of my father s taking his
own life, I m here to tell you you re mistaken. Plenty
there, no doubt, to have driven a tender hearted man
off the earth. ... He was different." Eyeing the
book in my hand, the boy blurted with sudden heat,
"Those damn diaries have been wife and child and
meat and drink to him. They were his reason for
living not dying!"
"Start me right in regard to your father, Worth,"
I urged anxiously. "It s important."
The boy gave me his shoulder and continued to
stare down into the fire, as he said at last, slowly,
"I would rather leave him alone, Jerry."
I knew it would be useless to insist. Never then or
THE MISSING DIARY 127
thereafter did I hear him say more of his father s
character. At that, he could hardly have told more
in an hour s talk.
At random, I took the volume that covered the year
in which, as I remembered, Thomas Gilbert s wife had
secured her divorce from him. Neatly and carefully
written in a script as readable as type, the books, if I
am a judge, had literary style. They were much more
than mere diaries. True, each entry began with a note
of the day s weather, and certain small records of the
writer s personal affairs ; but these went oddly enough
with what followed; a biting analysis of the inner life,
the estimated intentions and emotions, of the beings
nearest to him. It was inhuman stuff. But Worth
was right; there was no soil for suicide in this matter
written by a hand guided by a harsh, censorious mind ;
too much egotism here to willingly give over the role
of conscience for his friends. Friends ? could a man
have friends who regarded humanity through such un
kindly, wide open, all-seeing eyes?
Worth, seated across from me on the other side of
the fire, stared straight into the leaping blaze; but I
doubted if that was what he saw. On his face was
the look which I had come to know, of the dignified
householder who had gone in and shut the door on
whatever of dismay and confusion might be in his
private affairs. I began to read his father s version
of the separation from his mother, with its ironic ref
erences to her most intimate friend.
"Marion would like to see Laura Bowman ship Tony
and marry Jim Edwards. I swear the modern woman
has played bridge so long that her idea of the most
serious obligation in life the marriage vow is,
128 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
Never mind. If you don t like the hand you have got,
shuffle, cut, and deal again !
I dropped the book to my knee and looked over at
"This Mrs. Dr. Bowman that we met last night at
Tait s she was a special friend of your mother s?"
"They were like sisters in more than one way." I
knew without his telling it that he alluded to their
common misfortune of being both unhappily married.
His mother, a woman of more force than the other,
had gained her freedom.
"Femiiw Priores." I came on an entry standing
oddly alone. "Marion is to secure the divorce at my
suggestion. I have demanded that our son share his
time between us."
Again I let the book down on my knee and looked
across at the silent fellow there. And I had heard him
compassionate Barbara Wallace for having painful
memories of her childhood! I believe he was at that
moment more at peace with his father than he had ever
been in his life and that he grieved that this was so.
I knew, too, that the forgiveness and forgetting would
not extend to these pitiless records. Without disturb
ing him, I laid the book I held down and scouted
forward for things more recent.
"Laura Bowman" through one entry after another
Gilbert kicked that poor woman s name like a football.
Very fine and righteous and high-minded in what he
said, but writing it out in full and calling her painful
difficulties the writhing of a sensitive, high-strung
woman, mismated with a tyrant an example notably
stupid and unoriginal, of the eternal matrimonial tri
angle. Bowman evidently kept his sympathy, so far
THE MISSING DIARY 129
as such a nature can be said to entertain that gentle
I ran through other volumes, merciless recitals, now
and again, of the shortcomings of his associates or
servants ; a cold blooded misrepresentation of his son ;
a sneer for the affair with Ina Thornhill, with the dic
tum, sound enough no doubt, that the girl herself did
the courting, and that she had no conscience "The
extreme society type of parasite," he put it. And then
the account of his break with Edwards.
Dr. Bowman, it seems, had come to Gilbert in con
fidence for help, saying that his wife had left his house
in the small hours the previous night, nothing but an
evening wrap pulled over her night wear, and that he
guessed where she could be found, since she hadn t
gone to her mother s. He asked Gilbert to be his
ambassador with messages of pardon. Didn t want
to go himself, because that would mean a row, and he
was determined, if possible, to keep the thing private,
giving a generous reason: that he wasn t willing to
disgrace the woman. All of which, after he d written
it down, the diarist discredited with his brief comment
to the effect that Tony Bowman shunned publicity
because scandal of the sort would hurt his practice,
and his pride as well, and that he didn t go out to
Jim Edwards s ranch because, under these circum
stances, he would be afraid of Jim.
Thomas Gilbert did the doctor s errand for him.
The entry concerning it occupied the next day. I read
between the lines how much he enjoyed his position
of god from the machine, swooping down on the two
he found out there, estimating their situation and
behavior in his usual hair-splitting fashion, sitting as
130 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
a court of last appeal. It was of no use for Edwards
to explain to him that Laura Bowman was practically
crazy when she walked out of her husband s house as
the culmination of a miserable scene the sort that
had been more and more frequent there of late
carrying black-and-blue marks where he had grabbed
and shaken her. The statement that it was by mere
chance she encountered Jim seemed to have made Gil
bert smile, and Jim s taking of her out to the ranch,
the assertion that it was the only thing to do, that she
was sick and delirious, had inspired Gilbert to say to
him, quite neatly, "You weren t delirious, I take it
*iot more than usual."
Then he demanded that Laura go with him, at once,
back to her husband, or out to her mother s. She
considered the matter and chose to go back to Bow
man, saying bitterly that her mother made the match
in the first place, and stood always against her daugh
ter and with her son-in-law whatever he did. Plainly
it took all of Laura s persuasions to prevent actual
blows between Gilbert and Edwards. Also, she would
only promise to go back and live under Bowman s
roof, but not as his wife and the whole situation was
I followed Mr. Thomas Gilbert s observation of this
affair : his amused understanding of how much Jim
Edwards and Laura hated him; his private contempt
for Bowman, to whom he continued to give counte
nance and moral support ; his setting down of the quar
rels, intimate, disastrous, between Bowman and his
wife, as the doctor retailed them to him, the woman
dragging herself on her knees to beg for her freedom,
and his callous refusals; backed by threat of the wide
THE MISSING DIARY 131
publicity of a -scandalous divorce suit, with Thomas
Gilbert as main witness. I turned to Worth and asked,
"When will Edwards be here?"
"Any minute now/ Worth looked at me queerly,
but I went on,
"You said he phoned from the ranch. Did he an
swer you in person from out there?"
"That s what I told you, Jerry."
My searching gaze made nothing of the boy s im
passive face ; I plunged again into the diaries, running
down a page, getting the heading of a sentence, not
delaying to go further unless I struck something which
seemed to me important, and each minute thinking of
the strangeness of a man like this killing himself.
It was in the 1916 volume, that I made a discovery
which surprised an exclamation from me.
"\Vhat would you call this, Worth? Your father s
way of making corrections?"
"Corrections?" W r orth spoke without looking
around. "My father never made corrections in any
thing." It was said without animus a simple state
ment of fact.
"But look here." I held toward him the book.
There were three leaves gone ; that meant six pages,
and the entries covered May 31 and June i. I had
verified that before I spoke to him, noticing that the
statement of the weather for May 31 remained at the
foot of the last page left, while a run-over on the
page beyond the missing ones had been marked out.
It had nothing to do with the weather. As nearly
as I could make out with the reading glass I held over
it, fhe words were, "take the woman for no other than
132 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"Worth," I urged, "give me your attention for a
minute here. You say your father did not make cor
rections, but one of the diaries is cut. The records
of two days are gone. Were those pages stolen?"
"How should I know?" said Worth, and added,
helpfully, "Pity they didn t steal the whole lot. That
would have been a relief."
There were voices and the sound of steps outside.
I shoved the diary back into its place on the shelf, and
turned to see Barbara at the broken door with Jim
Edwards. She came in, her clear eyes a little wide,
but the whole young personality of her quite composed.
Edwards halted at the door, a haggard eye roving
over the room, until it encountered the blood-stain on
the rug, when it sheered abruptly, and fixed itself on
Worth, who crossed to shake hands, with a quiet,
"Come in, won t you, Jim? Or would you rather
go up to the house?"
Keenly I watched the man as he stood there strug
gling for words. There was color on his thin cheeks,
high under the dark w eyes ; it made him look wild. The
chill of the drive, or pure nervousness, had him shak
"Thank you the house, I think," he said rather
incoherently. Yet he lingered. "Barbara s been tell
ing me," he said in that deep voice of his with the air
of one who utters at random. "Worth, had you
thought that it might have been happening down here,
right at the time we all sajt at Tait s together?"
He was in a condition to spill anything. A mo
ment more and we should have heard what it was that
had him in such .a grip of horror. But as I glanced at
Worth, I saw him reply to the older man s question
THE MISSING DIARY 133
with a very slight but very perceptible shake of the head.
It had nothing to do with what had been asked him ;
to any eye it said more plainly than words, "Don t
talk ; pull yourself together." I whirled to see how
Edwards responded to this, and found our group had
a new member. In the door stood a decent looking,
round faced Chinaman. Edwards had drawn a little
inside the threshold for him, but very little, and waited,
still shaken, perairbed, hat in hand, apparently ready
to leave as soon as the Oriental got out of his way.
"Hello," the yellow man saluted us.
"Hello, Chung," Worth rejoined, and added, "Looks
good to see you again."
I was relieved to hear that. It showed me that the
cook, anyhow, had not seen Worth last night in Santa
"Just now I hea bout Boss." Chung s eye went
straight to the stain on the rug, exactly as Edwards
had done, but it stopped there, and his Oriental im-
passiveness was unmoved. "Too bad," he concluded,
thrust the fingers of one hand up the sleeve of the
other* and waited.
"Where you been all day?" I said quickly.
"My cousin ranch."
"His cousin s got a truck farm over by Medlow
or used to have," Worth supplied, and Chung looked
to him, instantly.
"You sabbee," he said hopefully. "I go iss mo ning
all same any day not find out bout Boss. Too
bad. Too velly much bad." A pause, then, looking
around at the four of us, "I get dinner?"
"We ve all had something to eat, Chung," Worth
said. "You go now fix room. Make bed. To-night,
134 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
I stay; Mr. Boyne here stay; Mr. Edwards stay. Fix
three rooms. Good fire."
"All ite," the chink would have ducked out then,
Jim Edwards after him, but I stopped the proceedings
"Hold on a minute while we re all together tell
us about that visitor Mr. Gilbert had last night." I
was throwing a rock in the brush-pile in the chance of
scaring out a rabbit. I was shooting the question at
Chung, but my eye was on Edwards. Pie glared back
at me for a moment, then couldn t stand the strain
and looked away. At last the Chinaman spoke.
"Not see um. I go fix bed now/
"Hold on," again I stopped him. "Worth, tell him
those beds can wait. Tell him it s all right to answer
" S all ite?" Chung studied us in turn. I was
keeping an inconspicious eye on Edwards as I re
assured him. " S all ite," he repeated with a falling
inflection this time, and finished placidly, "You want
know bout lady?"
"What s all this?" Edwards spoke low.
"About a lady who came to see Mr. Gilbert last
night," I explained shortly; then, "Who was she,
"Not see um good." The Chinaman shook his
"Did she come here to the study?" I asked. He
nodded. Worth moved impatiently, and the China
man caught it. He fixed his eyes on Worth. I
stepped between them. "Chung," I said sharply.
"You knew the lady. Who was she?"
THE MISSING DIARY 135
"Not see um good," he repeated, plainly reluctant.
"She hold hand by face cly, I think."
"Good God!" Edwards broke out startlingly. "If
we re going to hear an account of all the women that
Tom lectured and made cry leave me out of it."
"One woman will do, for this time," I said to him
drily, "if it s the right one," and he subsided, turning
away. But he did not go. With burning eyes, he
stood and listened while I cross-examined the unwill
ing Chung and got apparently a straight story showing
that some woman had come to the side door of his
master s house shortly after dinner Saturday night,
walked to the study with that master, weeping, and
that her voice when he heard it, sounded like that of
some one he knew. I tried every way in the world to
get him to be specific about this voice; did it sound
like that of a young lady? an old lady? did he think
it was some one he knew well, or only a little? had he
been hearing it much lately? All the usual tactics;
but Chung s placid obstinacy was proof against them.
He kept shaking his head and saying over and over,
"No hear um good," until Barbara, standing watch
fully by, said,
"Chung, you think that lady talk like this?"
As she spoke, after the first word, a change had
come into her voice; it was lighter, higher, with a
something in its character faintly reminiscent to my
ear. And Chung bobbed his head quickly, nodding
assent. In her mimicry he had recognized the tones
of the visitor. I glanced at Edwards : he looked
"I ll go to the house, Worth," he said with more
136 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
composure in his tone than I would have thought a
few moments ago he could in any way summon.
"You ll find me there." And he followed the China
man up the moonlit path.
1 STOOD at the door and watched until I saw first
Chung s head come into the light on the kitchen
porch, then Jim Edwards s black poll follow it. I
waited until both had gone into the house and the
door was shut, before I went back to Barbara and
Worth. They were speaking together in low tones
over at the hearth. The three of us were alone ; and
the blood-stain on the rug, out of sight there in the
shadow beyond the table, would seem to cry out as a
"Barbara/ I broke in across their talk, "who was
the woman who came here to this place last night?"
She didn t answer me. Instead, it was Worth who
"Better come here and listen to what Bobs has been
saying to me, Jerry, before you ask any questions."
I crossed and stood between the two young people.
"Well," I grunted; and though Barbara s face was
white, her eyes big and black, she answered me bravely,
"Mr. Gilbert did not kill himself. Worth doesn t
think so, either."
"What!" It was jolted out of me. After a mo
ment s thought, I finished, "Then I ve got to know
who the woman was that visited this room last night."
For a long while she made no reply, studying
Worth s profile as he stared steadily into the fire.
138 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
No signal passed between them, but finally she came
to her decision and said,
"Mr. Boyne, ask Worth what he thinks I ought to
say to that."
Instead, "Who was it, Worth?" I snapped, speaking
to the back of the young man s head. The red came
up into the girl s face, and her eyes flashed ; but Worth
merely shrugged averted shoulders.
"You can search me," he said, and left it there.
I looked from one to the other of these young
people : Worth, whom I loved as I might have my own
son had I been so fortunate as to possess one; this
girl who had made a place of warmth for herself in
my heart in less than a day, whose loyalty to my boy
I was certain I might count on. How different this
affair must look to them from the face it wore to me r
an old police detective, who had bulled through many
inquiries like this, the corpse itself, perhaps, lying in
the back of the room, instead of the blood-stain we
had there on the rug; what was practically the Third
Degree being applied to relatives and friends; with
the squalid prospect of a court trial ahead of us all.
If they d seen as much of this sort of thing as I had,
they wouldn t be holding me up now, tying my hands
that were so willing to help, by this fine-spun, over
strained notion of shielding a woman s name.
"Barbara/ I began I knew an appeal to the un~
accountable Worth would get me nowhere "the facts
we ve got to deal with here are a possible murder,
with this lad the last person known by us, of course
to have seen his father alive. We know, too, that
they quarreled bitterly. We know all this. Outside
people, men who are interested, and more or less
A MURDER 139
hostile, were aware that Worth needed money needs
it yet, for that matter a large sum. I suppose it
is a question of time when it will be known that Worth
came here last night; and when it is known, do you
realize what it will mean?"
Worth had sat through this speech without the
quiver of a muscle, and no word came from him as I
paused for a reply. Little Barbara, big eyes boring
into me as though to read all that was in the back of
my mind, nodded gravely but did not speak. I crossed
to the shelves and took down the diary whose leather
back bore the date of 1916. As I opened it, finding
the place where its pages had been removed, I con
"You and I know we three here know " I in
cluded Worth in my statement "that the crime was
neither suicide nor patricide; but it is likely we must
have proof of that fact. Unless we find the mur
"But the motive there would have to be motive."
Barbara struck right at the core of the thing. She
didn t check at the mere material facts of how a
murder could have been done, who might have had
opportunity. The fundamental question of why it
should have been was her immediate interest.
"I believe I ve the motive here," I said and thrust
the mutilated volume into her hand. "Some one stole
these leaves out of Mr. Gilbert s diary. The books
are filled with intimate details of the affairs of people
things which people prefer should not be known
names, details and dates written out completely. It s
likely murder was done last night to get possession
of those pages."
140 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
She went to the desk and glanced over the book;
not the minute examination with the reading glass
which I had given it; that mere flirt of a glance which,
when I had first noticed it the night before at Tait s,
skimming across that description of Clayte, had seemed
so inadequate. Then she turned to me.
"Mr. Gilbert cut these out himself," she pronounced.
That brought Worth s head up and his face around
to stare at her.
"You say my father removed something he had
written?" he asked. Barbara nodded. "He never
changed a decision and those books were his decis
"Then this wasn t a correction, but he cut it out.
Can t you see, Mr. Boyne? Those leaves were re
moved by a man who respected the book and was as
careful in his mutilation of it as he was in its making.
It is precisely written I m referring to workman
ship, not its literary quality carefully margined,
evenly indented on the paragraph beginnings. And
so, in this removal of three leaves, the cutting was
done with a sharp knife drawn along the edge of a
ruler " I picked up from where they lay on the
blotting pad, a small pearl-handled knife, its sharp
blade open, and the ruler I had seen when looking
down from the skylight, and placed them before her.
She nodded and continued,
"There is a bit of margin left so no other leaves can
be loosened by this removal. The marking out of the
run-over has been neatly ruled, done so recently that
the ink is not yet black done with that ink in the
stand. It was blotted with this." She lifted a hand-
blotter to show me the print of a line of ink. There
A MURDER 141
were other markings on the face of the soft paper,
and I took it eagerly. Barbara smiled.
"You will get little from that," she said. I had
not even seen her give it attention. " Scattered words
and parts of words, blotted frequently as they were
written. Perhaps, with care, we might learn some
thing, but we can turn more easily to the last pages
of his diary and "
"There are no last pages," I interrupted. "The
1920 book is missing."
"Gone stolen?" she .exclaimed. It brought a smile
to my face. For the first time in my experience of
this pretty, little bunch of brains, she had hazarded
"Gone," I admitted coolly a bit sarcastically.
"I ve no reason to say stolen."
"But yes, you have you have, Mr. Boyne! If it
is gone, it was stolen. Is it gone are you sure it is
gone?" Eagerly her eyes were searching desk, cab
inet, the shelf where the other diaries made their long
row. I satisfied her on that score.
"I have searched the study thoroughly; it is not in
"Was here last night," Worth cut in. "I saw it on
"And was stolen last night," Barbara reaffirmed,
quickly. "These books are too big to be slipped into
a pocket, so we can t believe it was left upon Mr.
Gilbert s person; and he wouldn t lend it wouldn t
willingly let it go from his possession. So it was
stolen; and the man who stole it killed him." She
That was going too swift for me to follow, but I
142 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
saw on Worth Gilbert s face his acceptance of it.
Either conviction of Barbara s infallibility, or some
knowledge locked up inside his own chest, made him
certain the diary had been stolen, and the thief was
his father s murderer. In a flash, I remembered his
words, "putting every damn word of our row into
it," and I shot straight at him,
"Did you take that book, Worth?"
He only shook his head and answered,
"You heard what Bobs said, Jerry."
If he took the book he killed his father; that was
Barbara s inference, Worth s acceptance. I threw
back my shoulders to cast off the suspicion, then
reached across to place my fingers under the girl s
hand and pull from it the only record of that last
written page, the blotter.
"Will you read me that?" I asked her. "Every
word and part of a word every letter?"
Her eyes smiled into mine with a reassurance that
was like balm. Worth rose and found her a hand
glass on the mantel, passing it to her, and with this
to reverse the scrawlings, she read and I wrote down
in my memorandum book two complete words, two
broken words and five single letters picked from over
lying marks that were too confused to be decipherable
Though the three of us struggled with them, they held
Worth s interest quickly ceased.
"I ll join Jim Edwards in the house," he said, but
I stopped him.
"One minute, Worth. There was a woman visitor
here last night. It would seem she carried away with
her the diary of 1920 and three leaves from the book
A MURDER 143
of 1916. I want you you and Barbara to tell me
what you know that happened here in Santa Ysobel
on the dates of the missing pages, May 31 and June
Barbara accepted the task, turning that wonderful
cinematograph memory back, and murmured,
"I never tried recollecting on just a bare date this
way, but " then glanced around at me and finished
"nothing happened to me in Santa Ysobel then,
because I wasn t in Santa Ysobel. I was in San
Francisco and "
"And I was in Flanders, so that lets me out/ Worth
broke in brusquely. Til go into the house."
"Wait, Worth." I placed a hand on his shoulder.
"Go on, Barbara; you had thought of something."
"Yes. Father died in January of that year, and in
March I had to vacate the house. It had been sold,
and they wanted to fix it over. I left Santa Ysobel
on the eighteenth of March, but they didn t get into
the house until June first."
Again Worth interrupted.
"Which jogs my memory for an unexciting detail."
He smiled enigmatically. "I was jilted June first."
"In Flanders ?" How many times had this lad been
"No. Right here. I wasn t here of course, but the
letter which did the trick was written here, and bore
that date June one, 1916."
"How do you get the date so pat?"
"It was handed me by the mail orderly I was on
the Verdun sector then on the morning of the Fourth
of July. Remember the date the letter was written
because of the quick time it made. Most of our mail
144 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
took from six weeks to eternity. What are you smil
ing at, Bobs?"
"Just a little you don t mind, do you? at your
saying you remember Ina s letter by the quick time it
made in reaching you."
"Who bought your house, Barbara?" I asked her.
"Dr. Bowman or rather Mrs. Bowman s uncle
bought it and gave it to her."
"And they went in on the first of June, 1916?"
I was all excitement, turning the pages of the diary
to get to certain points I remembered. "What can
either one of you tell me about the state of affairs
at that time between Dr. Bowman and his wife and
that man who was just in here Jim Edwards?"
Worth turned a hostile back; Barbara seemed to
shrink in her chair. I hated like a whipping to pull
this sort of stuff on them, but I knew that Barbara s
knowledge of Worth s danger would reconcile her to
whatever painful thing must be done, and I had to
know who was that visitor of last night.
"Is that that stuff in those damnable books?" I
saw the hunch of Worth s broad shoulders.
"Some of it is some of it has been cut out," I
"And you connect Jim Edwards with this crime?"
"I don t connect him he connects himself by
them, and by his manner."
"Burn them !" He faced me, came over and reached
for the book. "Dump the whole rotten mess into the
fire, Jerry, and be done with it."
"Easy said, but that would sure be a short cut to
trouble. Tell me, I ve got to know, if you think this
A MURDER 145
man Edwards under great provocation capable of
well, of killing a fellow creature."
"Jerry," Worth took the book out of my hand and
laid.it on the table, "what you want to do is to forget
this dirt that you ve been reading, and go at this
thing without prejudice. If you open any trails and
they lead in my direction, don t be afraid to follow
them. This thing of trying to find a criminal in some
one that my father has already deeply injured some
one that he s made life a hell for so that suspicion
needn t be directed to me, makes me sick. If I d
allow you to do it, I d be yellow clear through."
That was about the longest speech I d heard Worth
Gilbert make since his return from France. And he
meant every word of it, too; but it didn t suit me.
This "Hew to the line" stuff is all right until the
chips begin whacking the head of your friend. In
this case there wasn t a doubt in my mind that when
a breath of suspicion got out that Thomas Gilbert had
not killed himself, that minute would see the first
finger point at Thomas Gilbert s son as the murderer.
So I grumbled,
"Just the same, Edwards has something on his mind
about last night."
"He has and it s pretty nearly tearing him to
pieces," Worth admitted, but would go no further.
"He was here last night, I m sure and Mrs. Bow
man was with him," I ventured.
Barbara, who had been sitting through this her
eyes on Worth, turned from him to me and pro
"Yes, he was here, and Laura was with him."
146 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"Bobs!" Worth spoke so sternly that she glanced
up startled. "I ll not stand for you throwing sus
picion on Jim."
"Did I do that?" her lip trembled. Worth s eyes
were on the fire.
"Don t quarrel with the girl," I remonstrated. Bar
bara had told me the visitor; I covered my elation
with, "She s only looking out for your safety."
"I can look out for myself," curtly. He turned
hard eyes on us. It made me feel put away from
him, chucked out from his friendship. "And I never
quarreled with anybody in my life. Sometimes "
he turned from one to the other of us, speaking slowly,
"Sometimes I seem to antagonize people, for no
reason that I can see; and sometimes I fight; but I
"No offense intended or taken," I assured him
hastily. My heart was full of his danger, and I told
myself that it was his misery spoke, and not the true
Worth Gilbert. But a very pale and subdued Bar
bara said tremulously,
"I guess I d better go home now," suggesting, after
the very slightest pause, "Mr. Hoyne can take me."
"Don t, Bobsie." Worth s voice was gentle again,
but absent. It sounded as though he had already for
gotten both of us, and our- possible cause of offense.
"Go to the house with Jerry. I ll bar the door and
"Can t I help with that?" I offered.
"No. Eddie will give me a hand if I need it. Go
on. I ll be with you in a minute."
BUT it was considerably more than a minute be
fore Worth followed us to the house. We
walked slowly, talking; when I looked back from the
kitchen porch, Worth had already come outside, and I
thought Eddie Hughes was with him, though I heard
no voices and couldn t be sure on account of the
Getting into the house we found that Chung had
the downstairs all opened up through, lights going,
heat turned on from the basement furnace ; everywhere
that tended, homelike appearance a competent servant
gives a place. On the hall table as we passed, I noticed
a doctorish top coat, with a primly folded muffler laid
"Dr. Bowman is here," Barbara said hardly above
We listened; no sound of voices from the living
room ; then I got the tramp of feet that moved back
and forth in there. We opened the door, and there
were the two men ; a queer proposition !
Bowman had taken a chair pretty well in the middle
of the room. It was Jim Edwards whose feet I had
heard as he roamed about. No word was going be
tween them; apparently they hadn t spoken to each
other at all; the looks that met or avoided were those
148 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
strange looks of persons who live in lengthened and
what might be termed intimate hostility.
"Ah Boyne isn t it?" Bowman greeted me; I
thought our coming relieved the situation. He shook
hands, then turned to Barbara with, "Mrs. Thornhill
said you were here; I told her I would bring you back
I rather wondered not to hear him insist on being
taken at once to the study, but his next words gave the
reason. He d reached Santa Ysobel too late for the
inquest itself, but not too late to make what he in
formed us was a thorough investigation of everything
it treated of.
Barbara and I found places on the davenport; Ed
wards prowled up and down the other end of the room,
openly in torment. Those stormy black eyes of his
were seldom off Bowman, while the doctor s gray,
heavy-lidded gaze never got beyond the toes of the rest
less man s moving boots. He had begun a grumbling
tale of the coroner s incompetence and neglect to re
open the inquest when he, the family physician,
arrived, as though that were important, when Worth
Instantly the doctor was on his feet, had paced up
to th new master of the house, and began pumping
his arm in a long handshake, while he passed out those
platitudes of condolence a man of his sort deals in at
such a time. The stuff I d been reading in those
diaries had told me what was the root and branch of
his friendship with the dead man; it made the hair at
the back of my neck lift to hear him boasting of it in
Jim Edwards presence, and know what I knew.
"And, my dear boy," he finished, "they tell me you ve
DR. BOWMAN 149
not been to view the body yet. I thought perhaps
you d like to go with me. I can have my machine
here in a minute. No?" as Worth declined with a
wordless shake of the head.
I hoped he d leave then; but he didn t. Instead, he
turned back to his chair, explaining,
"If Mfs. Thornhill s cook hadn t phoned me, when
Mrs. Thornhill had a second collapse last night, I
suppose I should be in San Francisco still. The
coroner seemed to think there was no necessity for
having competent medical testimony as to the time of
death, and the physical condition of the deceased. I
should have been wired for. The inquest should have
been delayed until I arrived. The way the thing was
managed was disgraceful."
"It was merciful." Jim Edwards spoke as though
unwillingly, in a muttered undertone. Evidently it
was the first word he d addressed to Bowman if he
could be said to address him now, as he finished, "I
hadn t thought of an inquest. Yet of course there d
be one in a case of suicide."
Bowman only heard and wholly misconstrued him,
snatching at the concluding words,
"Of course it was suicide. Done with his own
weapon, taken from the holster where we know it al
ways hung, fully loaded. The muzzle had been pressed
so close against the breast when the cartridge exploded
that the woolen vest had taken fire. I should say it
had smouldered for some time; there was a consider
able hole burned in the cloth. The flesh around the
wound was powder-scarred."
\Yorth took it like a red Indian. I could see by the
glint of his eye as it flickered over the doctor s face,
150 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
the smooth white hands, the whole smooth personality,
that the boy disliked, and had always disliked him.
Yet he listened silently.
I rather hoped by leading questions to get Bowman
to express the opinion that Thomas Gilbert had been
killed in the small hours of the morning. Circum
stances then would have fitted in with Eddie Hughes.
Eddie Hughes was to me the most acceptable murderer
in sight. But no nothing would do him but to stick
to the hour the coroner had accepted.
"Medical science cannot determine closer than that,"
he was very final. "The death took place within an
hour preceding midnight."
"You are positive it couldn t be this morning?" I
Well, Dr. Bowman s testimony, if accepted at the
value the doctor himself placed upon it, would clear
Worth of suspicion, for the lad was with me at Tait s
from a few minutes past ten until after one; and Jim
Edwards, now pacing the floor so restlessly, had also
been there the greater part of that time. I had had
too much experience with doctor s guesses based on
rigor mortis to let it affect my views.
In the minute of silence, we could hear Chung mov
ing about at the back of the house. The doctor spoke
"Never expect anything of a Chinaman, but I
should think when the chauffeur found the body he
might have had sense enough to summon friends of
the family. He could have phoned me I was only
in San Francisco."
DR. BOWMAN 151
"He could have phoned me at the ranch/ Jim Ed
wards deep voice came in.
"You? Why should he phone for you?" Bow
man wheeled on him at last. "I was the man s phy
sician, as well as his close friend. Everybody kno\vs
you weren t on good terms with him. Gad ! You
wouldn t be here in this house to-night, if he were
In the sort of silence that comes when some one s
been suddenly struck in the face, Worth crossed to
Edwards and laid an arm along his shoulders.
"I ve asked Jim to stay in my place, here, in my
house, while I m away over Monday and he can do
as he likes about whom he chooses to have around."
Bowman gradually got to his feet, his face a study.
"I see," hfe said. "Then I ll not trespass on your
time any longer. I felt obliged to offer my services
. . . patients of mine . . . for years ... in afflic
tion ..." a gleam of anger came into his fishy eyes.
"I ve been met with damned insolence. . . . Claiming
of the house before your father s decently in his
grave." He jerked fully erect. "Leave your affairs
in the hands of that degenerate. If he doesn t do you
dirt, you ll be the first he s let off! Come, Miss Bar
bara," to the girl who sat beside me, looking on mutely
"Thank you, doctor." She answered him as tran
quilly as though no voice had been raised in anger in
that room. "I think I ll stay a little longer. Jim
will take me home."
The doctor glared and stalked out. To the last I
think he was expecting some one to stop him and
152 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
apologize. I suppose this was what Worth described
naively as "antagonizing people without intending to."
Well, it might not be judicious; I certainly was glad
the doctor was so sure of the time at which his friend
Gilbert had met death; yet I couldn t but enjoy seeing
him get his. As soon as the man s back was turned,
Edwards beckoned Barbara to the window. Worth
and I left them talking together there in low tones, he
to get something he wanted from a case in the hall,
where he called me to the phone, saying long distance
wanted me. While I was waiting for my connection
(Central, as usual, having gotten me, now couldn t get
the other party) the two came from the living room
and Barbara said "Good night" to us in passing.
"Those two seem to have something on hand," I
commented as they went out. "The little girl gave
Bowman one for himself in the nicest possible way.
Don t wonder Edwards likes her for it."
"Poor Laura Bowman! Her friends take turns
giving that bloodless lizard she s tied to, one for him
self any time they can," Worth said. "My mother
used to handle the doctor something like that; and
now it s Barbara little Bobsie Wallace God bless
He went on into the dining room*. I looked after
his unconscious, departing figure and thought he de
served a good licking. Why couldn t he have spoken
that way to the girl herself? Why hadn t he taken
her home, instead of leaving it to Edwards? Then
I got my call and answered,
"This is Boyne. Put them through/
In a minute came Roberts voice.
"Hello, Mr. Boyne?"
DR. BOWMAN 153
"Yes. What you got?"
"Telegram Hicks Los Angeles. He s located
Steve Skeels "
".Read me the wire," I broke in.
"All right." A pause, then, " Skeels arrived here
from Frisco this morning shall I arrest ?
"Good!" I exclaimed. "Wire him to keep Steve
under surveillance and await instructions. Tell him
not to lose him. Get it, Roberts? Hustle it I ll be
in by nine. Good-by," and I hung up.
I looked around; Worth had gone into the dining
room ; I stepped to the door and saw him kneeling be
fore an open lower door of the built-in sideboard, and
noted that the compartment had been steel lined and
Yale-locked, making a sort of safe. A lamp at the
end of an extension wire stood on the floor beside
him; he looked around at me over his shoulder as I
put my head in to say,
"Stock in your old suitcase has gone up a notch,
Worth. We ve caught Skeels."
"So soon?" was all he said. But my news seemed
to decide something for him; with a sharp gesture of
finality, he put into his breast pocket the package of
papers he had been looking at.
When a little later, Edwards came in, Worth was
waiting for him in the hall.
"Do we go now?" the older man asked, wincing.
"Take your machine, Jim," he said. "We can park
it at Fuller s and walk back from there. Boyne s
roadster is in our garage."
"Anything wrong with Eddie Hughes?" Edwards
asked as he stepped in to get his driving gloves. "I
154 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
passed him out there headed for town lugging a lot of
freight, and the fellow growled like a dog when I
spoke to him."
"I fired him. Come on, Jim let s get out of this."
"Hold on, Worth," I took a hand. "Fired
"While I was fixing up that door after you and
Bobs came to the house."
"What in God s name for?" I asked in exaspera
"For giving me back talk," said the youth who
never quarreled with any one.
He and Edwards tramped out together. I realized
that the hostile son and an alienated friend had gone
for a last look at the clay that had yesterday been
Thomas Gilbert. Of course Worth would do that
before he left Santa Ysobel. But would Edwards go
in with him or was he only along to drive the ma
chine ? It might be worth my while to know. But I
could ask to-morrow; it wasn t worth a tired man s
waiting up for. We must make an early start in the
morning. I went upstairs to bed.
SEVEN LOST DAYS
INSTEAD of driving up to* San Francisco with
Worth and Barbara, the next morning, I was
headed south at a high rate of speed. Sitting in the
Pullman smoker, going over what had happened and
what I had made of it, vainly studying a small, blue
blotter with some senseless hieroglyphics reversed up
on it, I wasn t at all sure that this move of mine was
anywhere near the right one. But the thing hit me
so quick, had to be decided in a flash, and my snap
judgment never was good.
We were all at breakfast there at the Gilbert house
when I got the phone that those boobs down in Los
Angeles had let Skeels slip through their fingers. I
could see no way but to go myself. When I went
out to retrieve my hand bag from the roadster, there
was Barbara already in the seat. I delayed a minute
to explain to her. She was full of eager interest ; it
seemed to her that Skeels ducking the detectives, that
way was more than clever almost worthy of a
"Slickest thing I ever knew," I grumbled. "You
can gamble I wouldn t be going south after him if
Skeels hadn t shown himself too .many for the Hicks
agency and they re one of the best in the business."
Worth came out and settled himself at the wheel ; he
and Edwards exchanged a last, low-toned word; and
156 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
they were ready to be off. Barbara leaned towards
me with shining eyes.
"Perhaps," she said, "Skeels might even be Clayte!"
then the roadster whisked her away.
The bulk of Worth Gilbert s fortune was practically
tied up in this affair. Even as the Pullman carried
me Los Angeles-ward, that boy was getting in to
San Francisco, going to the bank, and turning over to
them capital that represented not only his wealth but
his honor. If we failed to trace this money, he was
a discredited fool. Yes, I had done right to come.
So far on that side. Then apprehension began to
mutter within me about the situation at Santa Ysobel.
How long would that coroner s verdict of suicide sat
isfy the public? How soon would some seepage of
fact indicate that the death was murder and set the
whole town to looking for a murderer? The minute
this happened, the real criminal would take alarm and
destroy evidence I might have gathered if I had stayed
by the case. I promised myself that it should be
simply "there and back" with me in the Skeels matter.
This is the way it looked to me in the Pullman ; then
once in Los Angeles I allowed myself to get hot
telling the Hicks people what I thought of them, ex-
paining how I d have run the chase, and wound up by
giving seven days to it seven precious, irreclaimable
days while everything lay wide open there in the
north, and I couldn t get any satisfactory word from
the office, and none of any sort from Worth.
That Skeels trail kept me to it, with my tongue
hanging out; again and again I seemed to have him;
every time I missed him by an hour or so; and that
convinced me that he was straining every nerve, and
SEVEN LOST DAYS 157
that he probably had the whole of the loot still with
him. At last, I seemed to have him in a perfect trap
Ensenada, on the Peninsula. You get into and out
of Ensenada by steamboat only, except back to the
mines on foot or donkey. The two days I had to wait
over in San Diego for the boat which would follow
the one Skeels had taken were a mighty uneasy time.
If I d imagined for a moment that he wasn t on the
dodge that he was- there openly I d have wired the
Mexican authorities, and had him waiting for me in
jail. But the Mexican officials are a rotten lot; it
seemed to me best to go it alone.
What I found in Ensenada was that Skeels had been
there, quite publicly, under his own name; he had
come alone and departed with a companion, Hindi
Dial, a drill operator from the mines, a transient, a
pick-up laborer, seemingly as close-mouthed as Silent
Steve himself. Steve had come on one steamer and
the two had left on the next. That north-bound boat
we passed two hours off Point Loma was carrying
Skeels and his pal back to San Diego !
Again two days lost, waiting for the steamer back.
And when I got to San Diego, the trail was stone cold.
I had sent Worth almost daily reports in care of my
office, not wanting them to lie around at Santa Ysobel
during the confusion of the funeral and all; but even
before I went to Ensenada, telegrams from Roberts
had informed me that these reports could not be de
livered as Worth had not been at the office, and tele
phone messages to Santa Ysobel and the Palace Hotel
had failed to locate him. When I believed I had
Skeels firmly clasped in the jaws of the Ensenada trap,
I had sent a complete report of my doings up to that
158 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
time, and the optimistic outlook then, to Barbara with
instructions for her to get it to Worth. She would
know where he was.
But she hadn t. Her reply, waiting at San Diego
for me, a delicious little note that somehow lightened
the bitterness of my disappointment over Skeels, told
me that she had seen Worth at the funeral, almost
a week ago now, but only for a minute; that she had
supposed he had joined me on the Skeels chase; and
she would now try to hunt him up and deliver my re
port. Roberts, too, had a line in one of his reports
that Worth had called for the suitcase on the Monday
I left and had neither returned it nor been in the office
I worried not at all over Worth; if he wanted to
play hide and seek with Dykeman s spotters, he was
thoroughly capable of looking after himself; but in
the Skeels matter, I did then what I should have done
in the first place, of course; turned the work over to
subordinates and headed straight home.
I reached San Francisco pretty well used up. It
was nearly the middle of the forenoon next day when
I got to my desk and found it piled high with mail
that had accumulated in my absence. Roberts had
looked after what he could, and sorted the rest, ready
for me. Everything concerning the Clayte case was
in one basket. As Roberts handed it to *ne, he ex
"The Van Ness bank attorney Cummings has
been keeping tabs on you tight, Mr. Boyne. Here
every day sometimes twice. Wants to know the
minute you re back."
I grunted and dived into the letters. Nothing in-
SEVEN LOST DAYS 159
teresting. Responses acknowledging receipts of my
early inquiries. Roberts lingered.
"Well?" I shot at him. He moved uneasily as he
"Did you wire him when you were coming back? *
"Cummings? No. Why?"
"He telephoned in just before you came saying that
he d be right up to see you. I told him you hadn t
returned. He laughed and hung up."
"All right, Roberts. Send him in when he comes."
I dismissed the secretary. Cummings was keeping
tabs on me with a vengeance. What was on his chest ?
I didn t need to wait long to find out. In another
minute he was at my door greeting me in an off-hand,
"Hello, Boyne. Ready to jump into your car and
go around with me to see Dykeman?"
"Just got down to the office, Cummings," I
watched him, trying to figure out where I stood and
where he stood after this week s absence. "Haven t
seen Worth Gilbert yet. What s the rush with Dyke
"You ll find out when you get there."
Not very friendly, seeing that Cummings had been
Worth s lawyer in the matter, and aside from that
queer scene in my office, there d been no actual break.
He stood now, not really grinning at me, but with an
amused look under that bristly mustache, and sug
"So you haven t seen young Gilbert?"
The tone was so significant that I gave him a quick
glance of inquiry as I said,
"No. What about him?"
"Put on your coat and come along. We can talk
160 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
on the way," he replied, and I went with him to the
street, dug little Pete out of the bootblack stand and
herded him into the roadster to drive us. Cummings
gave the order for North Beach, and as we squirmed
through and around congested downtown traffic, headed
for the Stockton Street funnel, I waited for the lawyer
to begin. When it came, it was another startling ques
"Didn t find Skeels in the south, eh?"
I hadn t thought they d carry their watching and
trailing of us so far. I answered that question with
"When did you see or hear from Worth Gilbert
"Not since the funeral," he said promptly, "the
day before the funeral a week ago to-day, to be exact.
I ran down to make my inventory then; as adminis
trator, you know."
He looked at me so significantly that I echoed,
"Yes, I know/
"Do you? How much?" His voice was hard and
dry; it didn t sound good to me.
"See here," I put it to him, as my clever little driver
dodged in and out through the narrow lanes between
Pagoda-like shops of Chinatown, avoiding the steep
hill streets by a diagonal through the Italian quarter on
Columbus Avenue. "If there s anything you think
I ought to be told, put me wise. I suppose you raised
that money for Worth the seventy-two thousand that
was lacking, I mean?"
"I did not."
I turned the situation over and over in my mind,
and at last asked cautiously,
SEVEN LOST DAYS 161
"Worth did get the money to make up the full
amount, didn t he?"
We had swerved again to the north, where the
Powell car-line curves into Bay Street, and were headed
direct for the wharves. Cummings watched me out
of the corners of his eyes, a look that bored in most
unpleasantly, while he cross examined,
"So you don t know where he raised that money
or how or when ? You don t even know that he did
raise it? Is that the idea?
I gave him look for look, but no answer. An in
decisive slackening of the machine, and Little Pete
"Where now, sir?"
"You can see it," Cummings pointed. "The tall
building. Hit the Embarcadero, then turn to your
right ; a block to Mason Street."
So close to the dock that ships lay broadside before
its doors, moored to the piles by steel cables, the West
ern Cereal Company plant scattered its mills and ware
houses over two city blocks. Freight trains ran
through arcades into the buildings to fetch and carry
its products : great trucks, some gas driven, some with
four- and six-horse teams, loaded sacks or containers
that shot in endless streams through well worn chutes,
or emptied raw materials that would shortly be break
fast foods into iron conveyors that sucked it up and
whined for more. It was a place of aggressive activity
among placid surroundings, this plant of Dykeman s,
for its setting was the Italian fisherman s home dis
trict ; little frame shacks, before which they mended
their long, brown nets, or stretched them on the side
walks to dry; Fisherman s Wharf and its lateen rigged,
1 62 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
gayly painted hulls, was under the factory windows.
We pulled up before the door of a building separate
from any of the mills or warehouses, and I followed
Cummings through a corridor, past many doors of
private offices, to the large general office. Here a
young man at a desk against the rail lent Cummings
respectful attention; the lawyer asked something in a
low tone, and was answered,
"Yes, sir. Waiting for you. Go right through."
Down the long room with its rattling typewriters,
its buzz of clerks and salesmen we went. Cummings
was a little ahead of me, when he checked a moment to
bow to some one over at a desk. I followed his glance.
The girl he had spoken to turned her back almost
instantly after she had returned his greeting; but I
couldn t be mistaken. There might be more than one
figure with that slim, half girlish grace about it, and
other hair as lustrously blue-black, but none could be
wound around a small head quite so shapely, carried
with so blossomlike a toss. It was Barbara Wallace.
So this was where her job was. Strange I had not
known this fact of grave importance. I went on past
her unconscious back, left her working at her loose-
leaf ledgers, beside her adding machine, my mind a
whirl of ugly conjecture. Dykernan s employee ; that
would instantly and very painfully clear up a score of
perplexing questions. Dykeman would need no de
tectives on my trail to tell him of my lack of success
in the Skeels chase. Lord! I had sent her as concise
a report as I could make to her, for Worth. I
walked on stupidly. In front of the last door in the
big room, Cummings halted and spoke low.
"Boyne, you and I are both in the employ of the
SEVEN LOST DAYS 163
Van Ness Avenue Bank. We re somewhat similarly
situated in another quarter; I m representing the Gil
bert estate, and you ve been retained by Worth Gil
I grunted some sort of assent.
"I brought you here to listen to what the bank
crowd has to say, but when they get done, I ve
something to tell you about that young employer of
yours. You listen to them then you listen to me
and you ll know where you stand."
"I ll talk with you as soon as I get through here,
"Be sure you do that little thing," significantly, and
we went in.
AT DYKEMAN S OFFICE
WE found Whipple with Dykeman. I had al
ways liked the president of the Van Ness
Avenue Bank well enough; one of the large, smooth,
amiable sort, not built to withstand stress of weather,
apt to be rather helpless before it. He seemed now
mighty upset and worried. Dykeman looked at me
wjth hard eyes that searched me, but on the whole he
was friendly in his greeting and inquiries as to my
While I was getting out of my coat and stowing it,
making a great deal of the process so as to gain time,
I saw Cummings was exchanging low spoken words
with the two of them. I tried to keep my mind on
these men before me and why I was with, them, but
all the while it would be running back to the knock
out blow of seeing that girl in Dykernan s place. She
was double-crossing Worth ! I might have grinned at
the idea that I d let myself be fooled by a pair of big,
expressive, wistful, merry black eyes; but I had seen
the look in those same eyes when they were turned
on my boy; to think she d look at him like that, and
sell him out, was against nature. It was hurting me
beyond all reason.
Whipple asked me about my trip south as though
it was the most public thing in the world and he knew
AT DYKEMAN S OFFICE 165
its every detail, and accepted my reply that I couldn t
take one man s pay and report to another, with,
"Just so, Mr. Boyne. But your agency is retained
regularly, year by year by our bank, And our
bank has given over none of its rights I should say
duties in regard to the Clayte case. We stand ready
to assist any one whose behavior seems to us that of
a law-abiding citizen. We don t want to advance any
criminality. We can t strike hands with outlaws "
"Tell him about the suitcase, W hipple," Dykeman
broke in impatiently, rather spoiling the president s
oratorical effect. Tell him about the suitcase."
The suitcase! Was this one of the things Barbara
Wallace had let out to her employer ? She could have
done so. She knew all about it.
"One moment, please," I snapped. "I ve been away
for a week, Mr. Whipple. I don t know a thing of
what you re talking about. Did Captain Gilbert fail
to meet his engagement with you Monday morning?"
Whipple shook his head.
"Mr. Dykeman wants you told about the suitcase,"
he said. "I d like to have Knapp here when we go
Dykeman picked up the end of a speaking-tube and
barked into it,
"Send those men in." In the moment s delay, we
all sat uneasily mute. Knapp came in with Anson.
As they nodded to us and settled into chairs, two or
three others joined us. Nothing was said about this
filling out of the numbers, but to me it meant serious
business, with Worth Gilbert its motive.
"Get it over, can t you?" I said, looking about from
one to the other of the men, all directors in the bank.
166 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"I understand that Captain Gilbert met his engage
ment with you; was he short of the sum agreed?"
Again Whipple shook his head.
" Captain Gilbert walked into the bank at exactly
ten o clock Monday morning. The uh uh unusual
arrangement contract, to call it so that we d made
with him concerning the defalcation would have ex
pired in a few seconds, and I think I may say," he
looked around at the others, "that we should not have
been sorry to have it do so. But he brought the sum
I drew a great sigh of relief. Worth s bargain
was complete; he was done with these men, anyhow.
I was half out of my chair when Whipple said, sharply
"Sit down, Mr. Boyne." And Dykeman almost
drowned it in his,
"Wait, there, Boyne! We re not through with
"There s more to tell," Whipple continued. "Cap
tain Gilbert brought that eight hundred thousand cash
and securities in a er in a very strange way."
"What d you mean, strange way? airplane or sub
marine?" I growled.
"He brought it," Whipple s words marched out of
him like a solemn procession, "in a brown, sole-leather
"With brass trimmings," Dykeman supplemented,
and leaned back in his chair with an audible "Ah-h-h !"
If ever a poor devil was flabbergasted, it was the
head of the Boyne agency at that moment. I had a
fellow feeling for that Mazeppa party who was tied
AT DYKEMAN S OFFICE 167
in his birthday suit to the back of a wild horse.
Locoed broncos were more amenable to rein than
Worth Gilbert. So that was why he wanted that
suitcase "had a use for it, he d put it; insisted on
an order to be able to get it if I wasn t at my office;
wanted it to shove back at these scary bank officials,
with his own money for the payment inside. No
wonder Whipple called him an "outlaw" !
"Get the idea, do you, Boyne?" Anson lunged at
me in his ponderous way. "The rest of us thought
twas a poor joke, but Knapp and Whipple had both
seen that suitcase before and recognized it."
"Yes," said Knapp quietly. "It chanced I saw it
go through the door that last day, when it had nearly
a million of our money in it. And here it was "
his voice broke<off.
"Certainly startling," Cummings spoke directly at
me, "for them to see it come back in \Vorth Gilbert s
hands, with the same kind of filling, less one hundred
and eighty seven thousand dollars. Of course, I didn t
know the identity of the suitcase until they d given
Gilbert his receipt and he was gone."
"Oh, they accepted his money?" I said, and every
man in the room looked sheepish, except Cummings
who didn t need to, and Dykeman who was too mad
to. He shouted at me,
"Yes, we took it ; and you re going to tell us where
he got that suitcase."
"What have your own detectives those you hired
on the side to say about it?" I countered on him,
and saw instantly that the Whipple end of the crowd
hadn t known of Dykeman s spotters and trailers.
"Well, why not?" Dykeman shrilled. "Why not?
1 68 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
Who wouldn t shadow that crook? One hundred and
eighty seven thousand dollars! Worked us like
suckers come-ons !" he choked up and began to
cough. Cummings came in where he left off.
"See here, Boyne ; we don t want to antagonize you.
You ve said from the first that this crime was a con
spiracy a big thing directed by brains on the out
side. Clayte was the tool. Whose tool was he?
That s what we want to know." And Anson trundled
"These men who have been in the war get a con
tempt for law, there s no doubt about it. Captain
"No names!" Whipple s hand went up in protest.
"No accusations, gentlemen, please; Mr. Boyne this
is a dreadful thing. But, really, Captain Gilbert s
manner was very strange. I might say he "
"Swaggered," supplied Cummings coolly as the
president s voice lapsed.
"Well," Whipple accepted it, "he swaggered in and
put it all over us. There he was, a man fresh from
the deathbed of a suicide father; that father s funeral
yet to occur. I, personally, hadn t the heart to ques
tion him or raise objections. I was dazed."
"Dazed," Dykeman snapped up the word and wor
ried it, as a dog worries a bone. "Of course, we
were all dazed. It was so open, so shameless that s
why he got by with it. Making use of his position
as heir, less than forty eight hours after his father
"After his father shot himself," Whipple s lowered
tone was a plea. "After his father shot himself."
"Huh !" snorted Dykeman. "If a man shoots him-
AT DYKEMAN S OFFICE 169
self, he s been shot, hasn t he? Hell! What s the
use of whipping the devil round the stump that way?
Boyne, you can stand with us, or you can fight us."
"Boyne s with us of course he s with us," Whipple
broke in, his words a good deal more confident than
his tone or the look of his face.
"Well, then," Dykeman ground out, "when our
thief of a teller splits that one hundred and eighty
seven thousand with his man Gilbert shut up. Whip-
pie shut up! You can t stop me we re going to
know about it. We ll get them both then, and send
them across. And we ll recover one hundred and
eighty seven thousand dollars that belongs to the Van
Ness Avenue bank."
"Good night!" I got to my feet. "This lets me
out. I can t deal with men who make a scrap of
paper of their contracts as quick as you gentlemen
"Stop, Boyne you haven t got it all," Dykeman
"Yes, wait, Mr. Boyne," Whipple came in. "You
haven t a full understanding of the enormity of this
young man s action. Mr. Cummings has something
to tell you which, I think, will "
"Nothing Mr. Cummings can say," I shut them off,
"will alter the fact that I am employed by Captain
Worth Gilbert at your recommendation at your own
recommendation that I have been away more than a
week on his business, and have not yet had an opportu
nity to report to him personally. When I ve seen him,
I ll be ready to talk to you."
"You ll talk now or never " Dykeman s shrill
threat was interrupted by the shriller bell of the tele-
1 70 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
phone. He yanked the instrument to him, and the
"Hello!" he cried into it had the snap of an oath. He
looked up and shoved the thing in my direction. "Call
ing for you, Boyne," he snarled.
There was deathly stillness in the room, so that the
whir of the great stones in the mill came to us insis
tently. I stood there, they all watching me, and spoke
into the transmitter.
"This is Boyne."
"Hold the receiver close to your ear so it won t
leak words." The warning wasn t needed; I thought
I knew the voice. "Press the transmitter close to
your chest. Listen don t talk; don t say a word in
reply to me. I m in the telephone booth outside. I
must see you just as soon as I can. I ll be at the
Little Italy restaurant you know, don t you? on Fish
erman s Wharf in ten minutes. If you can come, and
alone, find me there. I ll wait an hour. If you can t
come now, you must see me this evening after working
"I ll come now," I raised the transmitter to say,
and quickly over the wire came the answer,
"I told you not to speak in there ! This is Barbara
1WENT away from there.
Looking about me, I had guessed that pretty
much every man in the room believed that it was
Worth Gilbert with whom I had been talking over the
phone. Dykeman s trailers would be right behind me.
Yet to the last, Whipple and his crowd were offering
me the return trip end of my ticket with them; if I
would come back and be good, even now, all would be
forgiven. I sized up the situation briefly and took my
plunge, shutting the door after me, glancing across
the long room to see that Barbara Wallace s desk was
deserted. Nobody followed me from the room I had
just left. I walked quickly to the outer door.
Little Pete switched on his engine as I leaped into
the car. My "Let her go !" wasn t needed to make
him throw in his clutch, and give me a flying start
straight ahead down the broad plank way of the Em-
barcadero. Looking back as we hit the belt-line
tracks, I saw a small car with two men in it, shoot
out from one of the wide doorways of the plant ; but
as we rounded the cliff-like side of Telegraph Hill,
my view of them was cut off. Things had come for
me thick and fast. I felt pretty well balled up. But
the girl had used secrecy in appointing this interview ;
till I could see further into the thing, it was anyhow
a safe bet to drop them.
172 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"Pete," I said, "lose that car behind us. Only ten
minutes to slip them and land me at Fisherman s
Warf. Show me what-for/
He grinned. Between Montgomery and the bay,
north of California Street, there are many narrow
byways, crowded with the heavy traffic of hucksters
and vegetable men, a section devoted to the commis
sion business. Into its congestion Pete dove with a
weasel instinct for finding the right holes to slip
through, the alleys that might be navigated in safety;
in less than the ten minutes I d specified, we were free
again on Columbus Avenue, pursuit lost, and headed
back for the restaurant on the wharf.
"Boss," Little Pete was hoarse with the excitement
he loved, as he laid the roadster alongside the Little
Italy, "was it on the level, what you fed the law
yer guy? Ain t you wise to where Captain Gilbert
is? I ve saw him frequent since you ve been
"How many times is frequent, Pete?" I asked.
"And when did the last frequent happen?"
"Twice," sulkily. I d wounded his pride by not
taking him seriously; but he added as I jumped down
from the machine. "I druv him up on the hill, round
the place where you an him an her went that
Pete didn t need to use Barbara Wallace s name.
The way he salaamed to the pronoun was enough ; the
swath that girl cut evidently reached from the cradle
to the grave, with this monkey grinning at one end,
and me doddering along at the other.
I gave a moment to questioning Pete, found out all
he knew, and went into the restaurant, wondering what
A LUNCHEON 173
under heaven Barbara Wallace would say to me or ask
The Little Italy restaurant is not so bad a place
for luncheon. If one likes any eatables the western
seas produce, I heartily recommend it. Where fish
are unloaded from the smacks by the ton, fish are sure
to be in evidence, but they are nice, fresh fish, and
look good enough to eat. And the Little Italy is
clean, with white oil-clothed tables and a view from its
broad windows that down-town restaurants would
double their rent to get.
Just now it was full of noisy patrons, foreigners,
mostly; people too busy eating to notice whether I
carried my head on my shoulders or under my arm.
In a far corner, Barbara Wallace s eyes were on me
from the minute I came within her sight. She had
ordered clams for two, mostly, I thought, to defend
the privacy of our talk from the interruptions of a
waiter, and I was hardly in my chair before she burst
"Where s Worth? Why wasn t he in that office to
defend himself against what they re hinting?"
"I suppose," I said dryly, "because he wasn t given
an invitation to attend. You ought to know why.
You work for Dykeman."
"I work for Dykeman?" she repeated after me in
a bewildered tone. "I m bookkeeper in the Western
Cereal Company s employ, if that s what you mean.
You understood so from the first."
"You know I didn t," I reproached her hotly. "Do
you think I d have let you on the inside of this case
if I d known it was a pipe line direct to Dykeman?"
And on the instant I spoke there came to me a
174 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
remembrance of her saying that Sunday morning as
we pulled up before the St. Dunstan that she went past
the place on the street car every day getting to her
work at the Western Cereal Company. Sloppy of me
not to have paid better attention; I knew vaguely that
Dykeman was in one of the North Beach mills.
"Fifty-fifty, Barbara," I conceded. "I should have
known made it my business to learn. And Dyke
man has questioned you "
"He has not!" indignantly. "I don t suppose he
knows Worth and I are acquainted." I could have
smiled at that. There were detectives reports in Dyke-
man s desk that recorded date, hour and duration of
every meeting this girl had had with Worth and with
myself. Besides, Cummings knew. It must have
been through Cummings that she learned what was
about to take place in Dykeman s private office. What
had she told Cummings?
I was ready to blurt out the question, when she
fumbled in her bag with little, shaking hands, drew
out and passed to me unopened the envelope addressed
to Worth, with my detailed report of the Skeels chase.
"I did my best to deliver it," she steadied her voice
as she spoke. "He wasn t at the Palace. He wasn t
at Santa Ysobel. He didn t communicate with me
My edifice of suspicion of Barbara Wallace crum
bled. Cummings had not learned through her that I
was unsuccessful in the south; nor had she spilled a
word to him that she shouldn t, or they d have had
the dope on where Worth had found that suitcase,
and thrown it at me quick.
"Barbara," I said, "will you accept my apologies?"
A LUNCHEON 175
"Oh, yes/ she smiled vaguely. "I don t know what
you re apologizing for, but it doesn t matter. I hoped
you would bring me news of Worth of where b
"When die e him last?"
"On the day of the funeral. I hardly got to speak
Little Pete s news was slightly later. He d taken
Worth up to the Gold Xugget and dropped him there.
Thursday, Worth was at the Xugget for more than
an hour. On both occasions. Pete was told to slip
the trailers, and did. That meant that Worth was
working on the Gayte case or thought he was. I
told her of this.
Yes Oh, yes," she repeated listlessly.
where is he now? And awful things things like
ig coming up."
"What besides this meeting
"At Santa Ysobel."
4 What ? Things that have happened since the boy s
gone? You couldn t get much idea of the lay of the
land when you were down there Wednesday, could
"Oh, but I could I did/ earnestly. "Of c
it was a large funeral: it seemed to me I saw every
body I d ever known. At a time like that, nothing
would be said openly, but the drift was all in one
direction. They couldn t understand Worth, and so
nearly every one who spoke of him. picked at him,
trying to understand him. Mrs. Thornhill s cook was
already telling that Worth had quarreled with his
father and demanded money. I shouldn t wonder if
by now Santa Ysobel s set the exact hour of the quar-
1 76 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"Me for down there as quick as I can," I muttered,
and Barbara, facing me sympathetically, offered,
"I ve a letter from Skeet Thornhill," she groped in
her bag again, mumbling as women do when they re
hunting for a thing, "It came this morning . . . Mrs.
Thornhill s no better w 7 orse, I judge . . . Oh, here it
is," and she pulled out a couple of closely scribbled
sheets. "The child writes a wild hand/ she apolo
gized, as she passed these over.
The flapper dashed into her letter with a sort of
incoherent squeal. The carnival ball was only four
days off. Everybody was already dead on his, her or
its feet. The decorations they d planned were enough
to kill a horse let alone getting up costumes. "As
usual, everything seems to be going to the devil here/
she went on; "Got a cannery girl elected festival
queen this time. Ina s furious, of course. Moms had
a letter from her that singed the envelope; but I sort
of enjoy seeing the cannery district break in.
They ve got the money these days."
Nothing here to my purpose. Barbara reached for
ward and turned the sheet for me, and I saw Worth
Gilbert s name half way down it.
"Doctor Bowman is an old hell-cat, and I hate him."
Skeet made her points with a fine simplicity. "Since
mother s sick, he comes here every day, though what
he does but sit and shoot off his mouth and get her all
worked up is more than I can see. Yesterday I was
in the room when he was there, and he got to talking
about Worth the meanest, lowest-down, hinting talk
you ever heard! Said Worth got a lot of money
when his father died, and I flared up and said what of
it? Did he think Mr. Gilbert ought to have left it to
A LUNCHEON 177
him ? That hit him, because he and Mr. Gilbert used
to be good friends, and he and Worth aren t. I sassed
him, and he got so mad that just as he was leaving,
he hollered at me that I better ask Worth Gilbert
where he was at the hour his father was shot. Now,
what do you know about that? That man is spread
ing stories. A doctor can set them going. He s
making his messy old calls on people all day, and they,
poor fish-hounds, believe everything he says. Though
mother didn t. After he was gone, she just lay there in
her bed and said over and over that it was a lie, a
foolish, dangerous lie! Poor mumsie, she s so nerv
ous that when the grocer s truck had a blow-out down
in the drive, she nearly went into hysterics cried and
carried on, something about it s being the shot. I
suppose she meant the one when Mr. Gilbert killed ;
himself. Wasn t that queer? Any loud noise of the
sort sets her off that way. She lies and listens, and
listens and mutters to herself. It scares me." She
closed with, "Please don t break your promise to be
here through this infernal Bloss. Fes."
"Good advice, that last," I said slowly, as I laid the
letter on the table, keeping a hand on it. "You ll do
that, won t you, Barbara?"
"I had intended to. I was given leave from this
afternoon. But well I d thought it over, and almost
made up my mind to go back to my desk."
Barbara Wallace uncertain, halting between two
courses of action! What did it mean?
"See here, Barbara ; this isn t a time for Worth Gil
bert s friends to slacken on him."
"I hadn t slackened," she said very low. And left it
for me to remember that Worth apparently had.
1 78 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
Then you re needed at Santa Ysobel," I urged.
"But you re going, aren t you, Mr. Boyne?"
"Yes. As soon as I can get off. That doesn t keep
you from being needed. Worth s one of the most
efficiently impossible young men I ever tried to handle.
Maybe he s not any fuller of shocks than any other
live wire, but he sure does manage to plant them where
they ll do the most harm. Cummings, Dykeman and
this Dr. Bowman down there; active enemies."
"They can t hurt Worth Gilbert all of them to
"Wait a minute. I m going to Santa Ysobel to find
the murderer of Thomas Gilbert. That means a stir
ring to the depths of that little town. This underneath-
the-surface combustion will get poked into a flame
she s going to burst out, and somebody s going to get
burned. We don t want that to be Worth, Barbara."
"No. But what can I do what influence have I
with him " she was beginning, but I broke in on her.
"Barbara, you and I are going to find the real mur
derer, before the Cummings-Dykeman bunch discover
a way into and out of that bolted study. Those people
want to see Worth in jail."
There was a long pause while she faced me, the rich
color failing a little in her cheeks.
"I see/ speaking slowly, studying each word. "And
as long as we didn t find out how to enter and leave the
study, we have no way of knowing how hard or how
easy it s going to be for them to find it out. We
her voice still lower "we can t tell if they already
know it or not."
"Yes we can," I leaned forward to say. "The min-
A LUNCHEON 179
ute they know that Worth Gilbert will be charged
I hit hard enough that time to bring blood, but she
bled inwardly, sitting there staring at me, quite pale,
"Well I can t stop to think of his having followed
Ina Yandeman south on her wedding trip if he
needs me and I can help I must " she broke down
completely, and I sat there feeling big- footed and blun
dering; at this revelation of what it was that had put
that clear, logical mind of hers off the track, left her
confused, groping, just a girl, timid, distrustful of her
own judgment where her heart was concerned.
"Was that it all the time?" I asked. "Well, take it
from me. Worth s done nothing of the sort. He s
been playing detective, not chasing off after some other
man s bride.
Up came the color to her cheeks, she reached that
mite of a hand across to shake on the bargain with,
Til go straight down this evening. You ll find me
in Santa Ysobel when you come, Mr. Boyne."
"At the Thornhills ?" It might be handy to have
her there; but she shook her head, looking a little self-
"I m taking that spare room at Sarah Capehart s.
Skeet wanted me, and I have an invitation from Laura
Bowman: but if well, seeing that this investigation is
going to cover all that neighborhood, I thought I d
rather be with Sarah."
The level-headed little thing! Pete and I had the
pleasure of taking her out to her home where she had
her packing to attend to. On the way she spoke of an
i8o THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
engagement with Cummings for the theater Saturday
"And instead, I suppose I shall be at the carnival
ball. Shall I tell him that in my note, Mr. Boyne?
Is it all right to let him know?"
"It s all right," I assented. "You can bet Cummings
is due down there as soon as Worth shows up; and
that must be soon, now."
"Yes," Barbara agreed. Her face clouded a little.
"You noticed in Skeet s letter that they re expecting
Poor child she couldn t get away from it. I patted
the hand I had taken to say good-by and assured her
"Worth Gilbert hasn t been in the south. I won
der at you, Barbara, You re so clear headed about
everything else don t you see that that would be im
Then I drove back to my office, to find lying on my
desk a telegram from the young man, dated at Los
Angeles, requesting me to meet him at Santa Ysobel
the following evening!
WEDNESDAY evening I pulled into a different
Santa Ysobel: lanterns strung across between
the buildings, bunting and branches of bloom every
where, streets alive with people milling around, and
cars piled high with decorative material, crowded with
the decorators. The carnival of blossoms was only
three days ahead.
At Bill Capehart s garage they told me Barbara was
out somewhere with the crowd; and a few minutes
later on Main Street, I met her in a Ford truck. Skeet
Thornhill was at the wheel, adding to the general risk
of life and limb on Santa Ysobel streets, carrying a
half a dozen or more other young things tucked away
behind. Both girls shouted at me; they were going
somewhere for something and would see me later.
Getting down toward the Gilbert place, just beyond
the corner, I flushed from the shadows of the pepper
trees a bird I knew to be one of Dykeman s operatives.
Watching his carefully careless progress on past the
Gilbert lawn, then the Vandeman grounds, my eye was
led to a pair who approached across the green from
the direction of the bungalow. No mistaking the
woman; even at this distance, height and the clean
sweep of her walk, told me that this was the bride, Ina
Vandeman. And the man strolling beside her had
1 82 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
he come with her from the house, or joined her on the
cross-cut path? could that be Worth Gilbert?
I sat in the roadster and gaped. The evening light
behind them, and dim enough at best made their
countenances fairly indistinguishable. At the gap in
the hedge, they paused, and Mrs. Vandeman reached
out, broke off a flower to fasten in his buttonhole,
looking up into his face, talking quickly. Old stuff-
but always good reliable old stuff. Then Worth saw
me and hailed, "Hello, Jerry !" But he did not come
to me, and I swung out of the machine to the side
I heard the sobbing of the Ford truck; it went by,
missing my runningboard by an inch, stopped at Van-
deman s gate and Skeet discharged her cargo of clamor
to stream across the sidewalk and up toward the bun
galow. I saw Barbara, in the midst of the moving
figures, suddenly stop, knew she had seen the two over
there, and crossed to her, with a cheerful,
"He s here all right."
"Oh, yes," not looking toward the gap in the hedge,
or at me. "He came on the same train with with
Then some one from the porch yowled reproach fully
for her to fetch those banners pronto, and with a little
catching of breath, she ran on up the walk.
I turned back. Worth and Ina had moved on.
Bronson Vandeman, well groomed, dressed as though
he had just come in -off the golf links, his English
shoes and loud patterned stockings differentiating him
from the crude outdoor man of the Coast, had joined
them on the Gilbert lawn; his genial greeting to me
let his bride get by with a mere bow, turning at once
CLEANSING FIRES 183
back to her house by the front walk. But rather to my
annoyance, Vandeman came bounding up the steps
after us. I judged Worth must have invited him.
Chung carried my suitcase upstairs, and lingered a
minute in my room. I ll swear it wasn t merely to get
the tip for which he thanked me, but with the idea of
showing me in some recondite, Oriental fashion that he
was glad I d come. This interested me. The people
who were glad to have me in Santa Ysobel at this time
belonged on the clean side of my ledger. Then I went
downstairs to find Vandeman still in the living room,
sprawled at ease beside the window, looking round with
a display of his fine teeth, reaching a hand to pull in
the chair Worth set for me.
"Well, Jerry," that young man prompted, indicating
by a careless gesture the smokers tray on the table be
side me, "there is time before dinner for the tale of
your exploits. How s my friend Steve?"
I began to select a cigar, and said shortly,
"It s all in reports waiting for you at my office."
"Yes." Worth ignored my irritation. "Tell it.
What d you do down south?"
"Just back from the south yourself, aren t you?" I
"Sure," airily. "But I wasn t there to butt in on
your game. Did you find that Skeels was Clayte?"
I merely looked over the flame of my match at that
small-town society man, smiling back at me with a
show of polite interest.
"Go on," Worth interpreted. "Vandeman knows all
about it. I tried to sell him a few shares of stock in
the suitcase, so he ll take an interest in the game; but
he s too much the tight-wad to buy."
184 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"Oh, no," deprecated Vandeman. "Just no gambler ;
hate to take a chance." He ran his fingers through
his hair, tossing it up with a gesture I had noticed
when he came back from the dance at Tait s.
"All right apology accepted," Worth nodded.
"Anyway, you didn t. Well, Jerry?"
Vandeman waited a moment with natural curiosity,
then, as I still said nothing, giving my attention to
my smoke, moved reluctantly to rise, saying,
"That means I d better chase along and let you two
"No. Sit tight," from Worth.
I was mad clear through, and disturbed and appre
hensive, too. I managed a brief, dry statement of the
outcome in the south. Worth hailed it with,
"Skeels lurks in the jungle! Life still holds a grain
"Why the devil couldn t you keep me advised of
your movements?" I demanded.
"Dykeman s hounds," he grinned. "Had them
guessing. They d have picked me up if I d gone to
"You could have written or wired. They ve picked
you up anyway," I grunted. "One s on the job now.
Saw him as I came in."
"Eh ? What s that ?" cried Vandeman, a man snoop
ing in the shrubbery outside getting more attention
from him than one dodging pursuit three hundred
miles away. "What do you mean, hounds ?" and when
he had heard the explanation of Dykeman s trailers,
"I call that intolerable!"
"Oh, I don t know." Worth reached over my
shoulder for a cigarette^ "Lose em whenever I like."
CLEANSING FIRES 185
I wasn t so certain. There were men in my employ
he couldn t shake. Perhaps those reports in Dyke-
man s desk might have offered some surprises to this
cock-sure lad. My exasperation at Worth mounted as
I listened to Vandeman talking.
"Those bank people should do one thing or another,"
he gave his opinion. "Just because you got gay with
them and handed them their payment in the suitcase
it left in, they ve no right to have you watched like
a criminal. In a small town like this, such a thing
will ruin a man s standing."
"If he has any standing," Worth laughed.
"See here," Vandeman s smile was persuasive.
"Don t let what I said out in front embitter you."
"I ll try not to."
"Mr. Boyne" Vandeman missed the sarcasm
"when I got back to this town to-day, what do you
suppose I found? The story going around that a
quarrel with Worth, over money, drove his father to
take his own life."
"That s my business here," I nodded. And when
he looked his surprise, "To stop such stories."
He stared at me, frankly puzzled for a moment, then
"Well, of course you know, and I know, that they re
scurrilous lies; but just how will you stop them?"
I had intended my remark to stand as it was; but
Worth filled in the pause after Vandeman s question
"Jerry s here to get the truth of my father s mur
"Murder?" The mere naked word seemed to shock
Vandeman. His sort clothe and pad everything even
i86 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
their speech. "I didn t know any one entertained the
idea your father was murdered. He couldn t have
been not the way it happened."
"Nevertheless we think he was."
"Oh, but Boyne start a thing like that, and think
of the talk it ll make! They ll commence at once say
ing that there was nobody but Worth to profit by his
father s death."
"Don t worry, Mr. Vandeman." He made me hot.
"We know where to dig up the motive for the crime."
"You mean the diaries?" Worth s voice sounded
unbelievably from beside me. "Nothing doing there,
Jerry. I ve burned them."
I sat and choked down the swears. Yet, looking
back on it, I saw plainly that Jerry Boyne was the man
who deserved kicking. I ought never to have left
them with him.
"You read them and burned them?" said Vandeman.
"Burned them without reading," Worth s impatient
"Without reading!" the other echoed, startled.
Then, after a long pause, "Oh I say pardon me, but
but ought that to have been done? Surely not.
Worth if you d read your father s diaries for the past
few years I don t believe you d have a doubt that he
committed suicide not a doubt."
Worth sat there mute. Myself, I was rather curious
as to what Vandeman would say ; I had read much in
those diaries. But when it came, it was the same old
line of talk one hears when there s a suicide : Gilbert
was a lonely man; his life hadn t been happy; he cut
himself off from people too much. Vandeman said
that of late he believed he was pretty nearly the only
CLEANSING FIRES 187
intimate the dead man had. This last gave him an
interest in my eyes. I broke in on his generalities to
ask him bluntly why he was so certain the death was
"Mr. Gilbert was breaking up; had been for two
years or more. Worth s been away; he s not seen it;
but I can tell you, Boyne, his father s mind was
Wortrfi let that pass, though I could see he wasn t
convinced by Vandeman s sentimentalities, any more
than I was. After the man had gone, I turned on
Worth sharply, with,
"Why the devil did you tell that pink-tea proposition
about your dealings with the Van Ness Avenue bank?"
"Safety valve, I guess. I get up too heavy a load
of steam, and it s easy to blow it off to Vandeman.
Told him most of it in the smoker, coming up. You ll
talk about anything in a smoker."
"Oh, will you ?" I said in exasperation. "And you ll
burn anything, I suppose, that a match ll set fire to?"
"Go easy, Jerry Boyne." His chin dropped to his
chest, he sat glowering out through the window.
"Cleansing fires for that sort of garbage," he said
finally. "I burned them on the day of his funeral."
THE TORN PAGE
MY coming had thrown dinner late; we were
barely through with the meal and back once
more in the living room when the latch of the French
window rattled, the window itself was pushed open,
and a high imperious voice proclaimed,
"The Princess of China, calling on Mr. Worth
There stood Ina Vandeman in the gorgeously em
broidered robes of a high caste Chinese lady, her fair
hair covered by a sleek black wig that struck out some
thing odd, almost ominous, in the coloring of her skin,
the very planes of her features. Outside, along the
porch, sounded the patter of many feet ; Skeet wriggled
through the narrow frame under her tall sister s arm,
came scooting into the room to turn and gaze back
Doesn t shejpok the vamp?"
"Skeet!" IruThad sailed in by this time, and Ernes
tine followed more soberly. "You ve been told not to
"I think," the other twin backed her up virtuously,
"with poor mother sick and all, you might respect her
wishes. You know what she said about calling Ina
a vamp." And Skeet drawled innocently,
"That it hit too near the truth to be funny wasn t
THE TORN PAGE 189
Through the open window had followed a half dozen
more of the Blossom Festival crowd, Barbara and
Bronson Vandeman among them. Ina paid no atten
tion to any one, standing there, her height increased
by the long, straight lines of the costume, her bisque
doll features given a strange, pallid dignity by the raw
magnificence of its crusted purple and crimson and
green and gold embroidery and the dead black wig.
"Isn t it an exquisite thing, Worth? displaying her
self before him. "Bronse has a complete Mandarin
costume; we lead the grand march as the emperor and
empress of Mongolia. Don t you think it s a good
"First rate." Worth spoke in his usual unexcited
fashion, and it was difficult to say whether he meant
the oriental idea or the appearance of the girl who
stood before him. She came close and offered the
cuff of one of her sleeves to show him the embroidery,
lifting a delicate chin to display the jade buttons at
Barbara over on the other side of the room refused
to meet my eye. Mrs. Bo\vman, a big fur piece pulled
up around her throat, shivered. I met half a dozen
Santa Ysobel people whose names I ve forgotten. I
could see that Bronson Vandeman socially took the
lead here, that everybody looked to him. The room
was a babel of talk, when a few minutes later the door
bell rang in orthodox fashion, and Chung ushered
Cummings in upon the general confusion. Some of
the bunch knew and spoke to him; others didn t and
had to be presented; it took the first of his time and
attention. He only got a chance for one swipe at me,
a low-toned, sarcastic,
igo THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"Made a mistake to duck me, Boyne."
I didn t think it worth while to answer that.
Presently I saw him standing with Barbara. He
was evidently effecting a switch of his theater engage
ment to the ball, for I heard Skeet s,
"Mr. Cummings wants a ticket! He ll need two!
Ten dollars, Mr. Cummings five apiece."
"No, no Skeet," Barbara laughed embarrassedly.
"Mr. Cummings was just joking. He ll not be here
"I ll come back for it," hand in pocket.
"It s a masquerade " Barbara hesitated.
"Bring my costume with me from San Francisco."
"I m not sure " again Barbara hesitated; Skeet
cut in on her,
"Why, Barbie Wallace! It s what you came to
Santa Ysobel for the Bloss. Fes. ball. And to think
of your getting a perfectly good man, right at the last
minute this way, and not having to tag on to Bronse
and Ina or something like that! I think you re the
lucky girl," and she clutched Cummings offered pay
ment to stow it with other funds she had collected.
At last they got themselves out of the room and left
us alone with Cummings. He had carried through
his little deal with Barbara as though it meant con
siderable to him, but I knew that his errand with
Worth was serious, and put in quickly,
"I intended to write or phone you to-morrow, Cum
"Well," the lawyer worked his mouth a bit under
that bristly mustache and looked at Worth, "it might
have saved you some embarrassment if you d been
warned of my errand here to-night earlier, that is.
THE TORN PAGE 191
I suppose Captain Gilbert has told you that I phoned
him, when I failed to connect with you, that I was
coming here and what I was coming for?"
"I didn t tell Jerry," Worth picked up a cigarette.
"Couldn t very well tell him what you were coming
for. Don t know myself."
The words were blunt; really I think there was no
intention to offend, only the simple statement of a
fact ; but I could see Cummings beginning to simmer,
as he inquired,
"Does that mean you didn t understand my words on
the phone, or that you understood them and couldn t
make out what I meant by them?"
"Little of both," allowed Worth. Cummings
stepped close to him and let him have it direct:
"I m here to-night, Captain Gilbert, as executor of
your father s estate. I have filed the will to-day. I
might have done so earlier, but when I inventoried this
place (you remember, the day before the funeral
you were here at the time) I failed to locate a consid
erable portion of your father s estate."
"You failed to locate? All the estate s here; this
house, the down-town properties. What do you mean,
failed to locate?"
"I was not alluding to realty," said Cummings.
"It s my duty to locate and report to the court the
present whereabouts of seventy-five thousand dollars
worth of stock in the Van Ness Avenue Savings Bank.
Can you declare to me as executor, where it is ? And,
if any other person than your father placed it in its
present whereabouts, are you ready to declare to me
how and when it came into that person s possession?"
"Quite a lot of words, Cummings; but it doesn t
192 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
mean anything," Worth said casually. "You know
where that bank stock is and who put it there."
Officially, I do not know. Officially, I demand to
"Unofficially, answer it for yourself." Worth
turned his back on the lawyer to get a match from the
"Very well. My answer is that I intend to find out
how and when that bank stock which formed a part
of your payment to the Van Ness Avenue bank dis
appeared from this house."
I admit I was scared. Here was the first gun of the
coming battle; and I was sure this enemy, who stood
now looking through half closed eyes at the lad s back,
would have poisoned gas among his weapons. He
had emphasized the "when." He believed that the
stories of Worth s night visit to his father were true;
that the implied denial by Barbara and myself in my
office, was false; that Worth had either received the
stock from his father that Saturday night or taken
it unlawfully. I was sure that it was the stock cer
tificates which I had seen Worth take from the safe-
compartment of the sideboard in the small hours of
Monday morning; a breach of legal form which it
would be possible for a friendly executor to pass
"Cummings, Worth inherits everything under his
father s will; what s the difference about a small ir
regularity in taking possession? He "
"Never explain, Jerry," Worth shut me up. "Your
friends don t need it, and your enemies won t believe
Cummings had stood where he was since the first
THE TORN PAGE 193
of the interview. His face went strangely livid.
There was more in this than a legal fight.
"Yes, Boy ne s a fool to try to help your case with
explanations, Gilbert," he choked out. "I ll see that
both of you get a chance to answer questions elsewhere
under oath. Good evening." He turned and left.
He had the best of it all around. I endeavored for
some time to get before Worth the dangers of his
high-handed defiance of law, order, probate judges,
and the court s officers, in the person of Allen G.
Cummings, attorney and his father s executor. He
listened, yawned and suggested that it must be nearly
bedtime. I gave it up, and we went I, at least, with
a sense of danger ahead upon me to our rooms.
Along in the middle of the night I waked to the
knowledge that a casement window was pounding
somewhere in the house. For a while I lay and listened
in that helpless, exaggerated resentment one feels at
such a time. I d drop off, get nearly to sleep, only to
be jerked broad awake again by the thudding. Lis
tening carefully I decided that the bothersome window
was in Worth s room, and finally I got up sense and
spunk enough to roll out of bed, stick my feet into
slippers, and sneak over with the intention of locking
The room was dimly lighted from the street lamps,
far away as they were; I made my way across it.
Worth s deep, regular breathing was quite undisturbed.
I had trouble with the catch, went and felt over the
bureau and found his flashlight, fixed the window by
its help, and returning it, remembering how near I
came to knocking it off the bureau top, thought to put
it in a drawer which stood half open.
194 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
As I aimed it downward, its circle of illumination
showed something projecting a corner from beneath
the swirl of ties and sheaf of collars a book a red
morocco-bound book. Mechanically I nudged the stuff
away with the torch itself. What lay there turned me
cold. It was the 1920 diary!
My fingers relaxed ; the flashlight fell with a thump,
as I let out an exclamation of dismay. A sleepy voice
inquired from the bed,
"Hi, you Jerry! What you up to in here?"
For answer, I dragged out the book, went over to the
bed, and switched on the reading lamp there. Worth
scowled in the glare, and flung his arms up back of his
head for a pillow to raise it a bit.
"Yeah," blinking amiably at the volume. "Meant
to tell you. Found it to-day when I was down in the
repair pit at the garage. It had been stuck in the
"And I suppose," I said savagely, "that if I hadn t
come onto it now, you d have burned this, too."
"Don t get sore, Jerry," he said. "I saved it," and
I had an uncontrollable impulse to have a look at
that last entry, which would record the bitter final
quarrel between this boy and his father. No difficulty
about finding the spot ; as I raised the book in my
hands it fell open of itself at the place. I looked and
what I saw choked me got cross-wise in my throat
for a moment so no words could come out. I stuck
the book under his nose, and held it there till I could
"Worth, did you do this?"
The last written page was numbered 49; on it was
THE TORN PAGE 195
recorded the date, March sixth; the weather, cloudy,
clearing late in the afternoon; the fact that the sun had
set red in a clgudless sky ; and it ended abruptly in the
middle of a phrase. The leaf that carried page 50 had
been torn out; not cut away carefully as were those
leaves in the earlier book, but ripped loose, grabbed
with clutching fingers that scarred and twisted the leaf
He shoved my hand away and stared at me. For a
moment I thought everything was over. Certainly I
could not be a very appealing sight, standing there
sweating with fear, my hair all stuck up on my head
where I d clawed it, shivering in my nightclothes more
from miserable nervousness than from cold ; but some
how those eyes of his softened ; he gave me one of the
looks that people who care for Worth will go far to
get, and said quietly,
"You see what you re doing? I told you I didn t
steal the book, so that clears me in your mind of being
the murderer. Now you re after me about this torn-
out page. If I d torn it out and stolen it you and I
would know what it would mean."
"But, boy ," I began, when he suffered a change of
"Get out of here ! Take that damn book and leave."
He heaved himself over in the bed, hunching the
covers about his ears, turning his back on me. As I
crept away, I heard him finish in a sort of mutter as
though to himself
"I m sorry for you, Jerry Boyne."
ON THE HILL-TOP
MORNING dawned on the good ship Jerry Boyne
not so dismasted and rudderless as you might
have thought. I d carried that 1920 diary to my room
and, before I slept, read the whole of it. This was
the last word we had from the dead man; here if any
where would be found support for the suggestions of
a weakening mind and suicide.
Nothing of that sort here; on the contrary, Thomas
Gilbert was very much his clear-headed, unpleasant,
tyrannical self to the last stroke of the pen. But I
came on something to build up a case against Eddie
Hughes, the chauffeur.
I didn t get much sleep. As soon as I heard Chung
moving around, I went down, had him give me a cup
of coffee, then stationed him on the back porch, and
walked to the study, shut myself in, and discharged my
heavy police revolver into a corner of the fireplace;
then with the front door open, fired again.
"How many shots?" I called to Chung.
One time shoot."
Worth s head poked from his upstair s window as he
"What s the excitement down there?"
"Trying my gun. How many times did I fire?"
"Once, you crazy Indian!" and the question of
sound-proof walls was settled. Nobody heard the
ON THE HILL-TOP 197
shot that killed Gilbert twenty feet away from the
study if the door was closed. Mrs. Thornhill s rav
ings, as described in Skeet s letter to Barbara, were
I walked out around the driveway to the early
morning streets of Santa Ysobel. The little town
looked as peaceful and innocent as a pan of milk. In
an hour or so, its ways would be full of people rush
ing about getting ready for the carnival, a curious
contrast to my own business, sinister, tragic. It seemed
to me that two currents moved almost as one, the
hidden, dark part under for there must be those in
the town who knew the crime was murder; the mur
derer himself must still be here and the foam of
noisy gayety and blossoms riding atop. A Blossom
Festival; the boyhood of the year; and I was in the
midst of it, hunting a murderer!
An hour later I talked to Barbara in the stuffy
little front room at Capehart s, brow-beaten by the
noise of Sarah getting breakfast on the other side of
the thin board partition ; more disconcerted by the girl s
manner of receiving the information of how I had
found the 1920 diary hidden in Worth s bureau
drawer. There was a swift, very personal anger at
me. I had to clear myself instantly and thoroughly
of any suspicion of believing for a moment that Worth
himself had stolen or mutilated the book, protesting,
"I don t I don t! Listen, Barbara be reason
"That means Barbara, be scared! And I won t.
When they re scared, people make mistakes."
"You might see differently if you d been there last
night when Cummings made his charge against Worth.
198 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
That seventy two thousand dollars Worth carried up
to the city Monday morning, he had taken from his
father s safe the night before."
For a minute she just looked at me, and not even
Worth Gilbert s dare-devil eyes ever held a more in
clusively defiant light than those big, soft, dark ones
"Well wasn t it his?"
"All right," I said shortly. "I m not here to talk
of Worth s financial methods ; they re scheduled to get
him into trouble; but let that pass. Look through
this book and you ll see who it is I m after."
She had already opened the volume, and began to
glance along the pages. She made a motion for me
to wait. I leaned back in my chair, and it was only
a few moments later that she looked up to say,
"Don t make the arrest, Mr. Boyne. You have
nothing here against Eddie for murder."
Because I doubted myself, I began to scold, wind
"All the same, if that gink hasn t jumped town,
I ll arrest him."
"It would be a good deal more logical to arrest
him if he had jumped the town," Barbara reminded
me. "If you really want to see him, Mr. Boyne,
you ll find him at the garage around on the highway.
He s working for Bill."
That was a set-back. A fleeing Eddie Hughes
might have been hopeful ; an Eddie Hughes who gave
his employer back-talk, got himself fired, and then
settled down within hand-reach, was not so good a
bet. Barbara saw how it hit me, and offered a sug
ON THE HILL-TOP 199
"Mr. Boyne, Worth and I are taking a hike out to
San Leandro canyon this afternoon to get ferns for
the decorating committee. Suppose you come along
anyhow, a part of the way and have a quiet talk,
all alone with us. Don t do anything until you have
"All right I ll go you/ I assented, and half past
two saw the three of us, Worth in corduroys and
puttees, Barbara with high boots and short, dust-
brown skirt, tramping out past the homes of people
toward the open country. At the Vandeman place
Skeet s truck was out in front, piled with folding
chairs, frames, light lumber, and a lot of decorative
stuff. The tall Chinaman came from the house with
"You Barbie Wallace !" the flapper howled. "Aren t
you ashamed to be walking off with Worth and Mr.
Boyne both, and good men scarce as hen s teeth in
Santa Ysobel to-day!"
"I m not walking off with them they re walking
off with me," Barbara laughed at her.
"Shameless one!" Skeet drawled. "I see you let
Mr. Cummings have a day off aren t you the kind
little boss to em!"
I just raised my brows at Barbara, and she explained
a bit hastily,
"Skeet thinks she has to be silly over the fact that
Mr. Cummings has gone up to town, I suppose."
She added with fine indifference, "He ll be back in
"You bet he ll be back in the morning," Worth
assured the world.
"Now what does he mean by that, Mr. Boyne?"
200 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"He means Cummings is out after him."
"I don t," Worth contradicted me personally. "I
mean he s after Bobs. She knows it. Look at her."
She glanced up at me from under her hat-brim, all
the stars out in those shadowy pools that were her
eyes. The walk had brought sumptuous color to her
cheeks, where the two extra deep dimples began to
"You both may think," she began with a sobriety
that belied the dimples and shining eyes, "looking on
from the outside, that Mr. Cummings has an idea
of, as Skeet would say, rushing me; but when we re
alone together, about all he talks of is Worth."
"Bad sign," Worth flung over a shoulder that he
pushed a little in advance of us. "Takes the old
fellows that way. Their notion of falling for a girl
is to fight all the other Johnnies in sight. Guess
you ve got him going, Bobs."
I walked along, chewing over the matter. She d
estimated Cummings fairly, as she did most things
that she turned that clear mind of hers on; but her
lack of vanity kept her from realizing, as I did, that
he was in the way to become a dangerous personal
enemy to Worth. His self-interest, she thought, would
eventually swing him to Worth s side. She didn t as
yet perceive that a motive more powerful than self-
interest had hold of him now.
"Why, Mr. Boyne," she answered as though I d
been speaking my thoughts aloud, "I ve known Mr.
Cummings for years and years. He never "
"You said a mouthful there, Bobs." Worth halted,
grinning, to interrupt her. "He never none what
ever. But he has now."
ON THE HILL-TOP 201
"He hasn t/
"Leave it to Jerry. Jerry saw him that first night
in at Tait s; then afterward, in the office."
"Oh, come on!" Barbara started ahead impa
tiently. "What difference would it make."
They went on ahead of me, scrapping briskly, as
a boy and girl do who have grown up together. I
stumped along after and reflected on the folly of man
kind in general, and that of Allen G. Cummings in
particular. That careful, mature bachelor had seen
this lustrous young creature blossom to her present
perfection; he d no doubt offered her safe and sane
attention, when she came to 1 live in San Francisco
where they had friends in common. But it had needed
Worth Gilbert s appearance on the scene to wake him
up to his own real feeling. Forty-five on the chase
of nimble sweet and twenty; Cummings was in for
sore feet and humiliating tumbles and we were in
for the worst he could do to us. I sighed. Worth
had more than one way of making enemies, it seemed.
At last we came in sight of the country club upon
its rise of ground overlooking the golf links. The
low, brown clubhouse, built bungalow fashion, with a
long front gallery and gravel sweep, was swarming
with people the decorators. Motors came and went.
The grounds were being strung with paper lanterns.
We skirted these, and the links itself where there were
two or three players, obstinate, defiant old men who
would have their game in spite of forty blossom fes
tivals climbed a fence, and crossed the grass up to
the crest of a little round hill, halting there for the
view. It wasn t high, but standing free as it did,
it commanded pretty nearly the entire Santa Ysobel
202 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
district. Massed acres of pink and white, the great
orchards ran one into the other without break for
miles. The lanes between the trunks, diamonded like
a harlequin s robe in mathematical primness, were
newly turned furrows of rich, black soil, against which
the gray or, sometimes, whitewashed trunks of apricot,
peach and plum trees gave contrast. Then the cap of
glorious blossoms, meeting overhead in the older or
chards, with a warm blue sky above and puffs of
clouds that matched the pure white of the plum trees
The spot suited me well; we had left the town be
hind us; here neither Dykeman s spotter nor any one
he hired to help him could get within listening distance,
I dropped down on a bank; Worth and Barbara dis^
posed themselves, he sprawling his length, she sitting
cross-legged, just below him.
It wasn t easy to make a beginning. I knew it
wouldn t do me any particular good with Worth to
dwell on his danger. But I finally managed to lay
fairly before them my case against Eddie Hughes, and
I must say that, as I told it, it sounded pretty strong.
I didn t want to put too much stress on having
found my evidence in the diaries ; I knew Worth was
as obstinate as a mule, and having said that he would
not stand for any one being prosecuted on their evi
dence, he d stick to it till the skies fell. I called on
my memory of those pages, now unfortunately ashes
and not get-atable, and explained that Worth s father
hired Hughes directly after a jail-break at San Jose
had roused the whole country. Three of the four
escapes were rounded up in the course of a few days,
but the fourth known to us as Eddie Hughes was
ON THE HILL-TOP 203
safe in Thomas Gilbert s garage, working there as
chauffeur, having been employed without recommen
dation on the strength of what he could do.
"And the low wages he was willing to take," Worth
put in drily. "Old stuff, Jerry. I wasn t sure till
you spilled it just now that my father was wise to
it But I knew. What you getting at?"
"Just this. When I talked to Hughes that first
night I came down here with you, while we all sup
posed the death a suicide, he couldn t keep his resent
ment against your father, his hatred of him, from
boiling over every time he was mentioned."
"Get on," said W T orth wearily. "Father hired a
jail-bird that came cheap. Probably put it to him
self that he was giving the man a chance to go
I glanced up. This was just about what I remem
bered Thomas Gilbert to have said in the entry that
told of the hiring of Eddie. Worth nodded grimly
at my startled face.
"Eddie s gone straight since then/ he filled in.
"That is, he s kept out of jail, which is going straight
for Eddie. He d certainly hate the man who held him
as he s been held for five years. Not motive enough
for murder though."
"There s more. The 1920 diary you gave me last
night tells when and why the extra bolts were put on
the study doors. Your father had been missing
liquor and cigars and believed Hughes was taking
"Pilfering!" with an expression of distaste. "That
doesn t "
"Hold on!" I stopped him. "On February twelfth
204 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
your father left money, marked coin and paper money,
as if by accident, on the top of the liquor cabinet;
not exposed, but dropped in under the edge of the
big ash tray so it might look as though it were for
gotten in a sense, lost there."
"How much?" came the quick question.
"Fifty one dollars/ He looked around at me.
"Just one dollar above the limit of petty larceny;
a hundred cents added to put it in the felony class
that meant state s prison. So he could have sent
Eddie to the pen, eh? I guess you ve got a motive
"Well er I squirmed over my statement,
blurting out finally. "Hughes didn t take the money."
"Knew it was a trap," Worth s laugh w T as bitter.
"And hated the man who cold-bloodedly set it to catch
him. If he didn t take it, don t you think he counted
"Worth," I said sharply. "Your father put those
bolts on and continued to find that he was being
robbed. He was mad about it. Any man would be.
Say what you will, no one likes to find that persons
in his employ are stealing from him. The aggravat
ing thing was that he couldn t bring it home to
Hughes, though he was sure of the fact."
"So he went back to what he had known of Eddie
when he hired him? After profiting by it for five
years, he was going to rake that up?"
"He was," a bit nettled "and well within his
rights to do so. Three weeks before he was shot, he
wrote that he d started the inquiry. There was no
further mention of the matter in the book as it stands,
but don t you see that the result of the inquiry must
ON THE HILL-TOP 205
have been on that torn-out last page? Eddie s Sat
urday night alibi won t hold water. His cannery girl,
of course, will swear he \vas with her; but there s no
corroborating testimony. No one saw them together
from nine till twelve."
Dead silence dropped on us, with the white clouds
standing like witnesses in the blue above, the wind
bringing now and again on its scented wings little
faint echoes of the noise down at the clubhouse.
"What more do you want?" Both young faces
were set against me, cold and hostile. "Here was
motive, opportunity, a suspect capable of the deed.
My theory is that Mr. Gilbert came in on Hughes,
caught him in the act of stealing from the cabinet.
Hughes jumped for the pistol over the fireplace, got
it, fired the fatal shot, and placed the dead man s
fingers about the butt of the gun. Then he picked
up the diary lying on the table, tore out the leaf about
himself, and poked the rest of the book down the
"And the shot?" Worth resisted me. "Why didn t
the shot bring Chung on the run?"
"Because he couldn t hear it. Nobody d hear it ten
paces away. That s what I was trying out this morn
ing. You told me I d fired once. Well, I fired twice;
once with the door shut, and neither you nor Chung
heard it; afterward, with the door open the report
"The blotter and it had been used on that last
page showed no words to strengthen this theory of
yours," said Barbara as confidently as though the
little blue square had been clear print, instead of
broken blurring. Perhaps it was clear to her. I was
206 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
glad I d given it a thorough reexamination the night
"I think it does," I struggled against the tide, man
fully, buoying myself up with the tracing of the blot
ter. "Here s the word demanded, reasonably con
nected with the affair. The letters Her may be the
last end of caller, or possibly fuller ; I noticed Gilbert
spoke in a former entry of the bottle in the cabinet
and Hughes snitching from it, and used the word
fuller. Here s the word Avenue, complete, and
Lizzie Watkins, Hughes girl, lives on Myrtle Av
The silence after that was fairly derisive. Worth
broke it with an impatient,
"And the fact of the bolted doors throws all that
"Well," I grunted, "Barbara deduced the slipping
of some bolts to please you once why can t she
"Mr. Boyne," the girl spoke quickly, "it wouldn t
help you a bit to be assured that Eddie Hughes could
enter the study and leave it bolted behind him when
he went out help you to the truth, I mean. These
facts you ve gathered are all wabbly; they ll never
in the world fit in trim and true. They re hardly
facts at all. They re partial facts."
"Wouldn t help me?" I ejaculated. "It would
cinch a case against him. We ve got to have some
one in jail, and that shortly. We re forced to."
"Forced?" Worth had sat up a little and reached
far forward for a stone that lay among the weeds
down there. He spoke to me sidewise with a challeng-
ON THE HILL-TOP 207
ing flicker of the eye. Barbara kept her lips tight
"I need a prisoner," trying to correct my error;
then burst out, "My Lord, children! An arrest isn t
going to hurt a man like Hughes, even if he proves
to be innocent. It s an old story to him. Barbara,
you said yourself that the man who stole the 1920
diary was the murderer."
"But I didn t say Eddie Hughes stole it." Her
tone was significant, and it checked me. I couldn t
remember what thei deuce she had said that night.
There recurred to me her mimicry of a woman s voice
Laura Bowman s as I believed to determine through
Chung who Thomas Gilbert s feminine visitor had
been. Should that clue have been followed up before
I moved on Eddie Hughes? Even as I got to this
point, I heard Worth, punctuating his remarks with
the whang of his rock on the bit of twig he was
pounding to pieces,
"Boyne, I won t stand for any arrest being made
except in all sincerity the person you honestly believe
to be the criminal."
"Does that mean you forbid me, in so many words,
to proceed against Hughes on what I ve got?
"It does," Worth said. "You re not convinced
yourself. Leave it alone."
" Nough said! 1 I jumped to my feet. If he
wouldn t let me lay hands on Hughes there was
nothing to do but go after the next one. "You two
run along. Get your ferns. There s a man at the
club here I have to see."
Barbara was afoot instantly; Worth lay looking at
208 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
her for a moment, then heaved himself up, shook his
shoulders, and stood beside her.
"Race you to the foot of the hill," she flashed up
"You re on/ he chuckled. "I ll give you a running
start to the tree down there and beat you."
They were off. She ran like a deer. Worth got
away as though he was in earnest. He caught her up
just at the finish ; I couldn t see which won ; but they
walked a few rods hand in hand.
Something swelled in my throat as I watched them
away: life s springtime and the year s; boy and girl
running, like kids that had never known a fear or a
mortal burden, over an earth greener than any other,
because its time of verdure is brief, dreaming already
of the golden-tan of California midsummer, under
boughs where tree blooms made all the air sweet.
For sake of the boy and the girl who didn t know
enough to take care of their own happiness, I wheeled
and galloped in the direction of the country club.
There, is an institution known and respected in
police circles as the Holy Scare. I was determined to
make use of it. I d throw a holy scare into a man I
knew, and see what came out.
AT THE COUNTRY CLUB
THE country club, when I walked up its lawn,
was noisy with the hammering and jawing of
its decoration committee. Out in the glass belvedere,
like superior goods on display, taking it easy while
every one else worked, I saw a group of young matrons
of the smart set, Ina Vandeman among them, drink
ing tea. The open play she was making at Worth
troubled me a little. He was the silent kind that keeps
you guessing. She d landed him once; what was to
hinder her being successful with the same tactics
whatever they d been a second time?
Then I saw Edwards car was still out in the big,
crescent driveway, showing by the drift of twigs and
petals on its running board that it had been used to
bring in tree blooms from his ranch; the man himself
crossed the veranda, and I hailed,
"Any place inside where you and I could have a
private word together? *
"I I think so, Boyne," he hesitated. "Come on
He led me straight across the big assembly room
which was being trimmed for the ball. From the top
of a stepladder, Skeet Thomhill yelled to us,
"Where you two going? Come back here, and get
on the job."
She had a dozen noisy assistants. I waved at her
210 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
from the further door as we ducked. Strange that
honest, sound little thing should be own sister to the
doll-faced vamp out there in the showcase.
Edwards made for a little writing room at the end
of a corridor. I followed his long, nervous stride.
If the man had been goaded to the shooting of
Thomas Gilbert, it would have been an act of passion,
and by passion he would betray himself. When I
had him alone, the door shut, I went to it, told him we
knew the death was murder, not suicide, and that the
crime had been committed early Saturday night. Be
fore I could connect him with it, he broke in on me,
"Is Worth suspected? *
"Not by me," I said. "And by God, not by you,
Edwards! You know better than that."
I held his eye, but read nothing beyond what might
have been the flare of quick anger for the boy s sake.
"Who then?" he said. "Who s dared to lisp a,
word like that? That hound Cummings chasing
around Santa Ysobel with Bowman is that where it
comes from? I. told Worth the fellow was knifing
him in the back." He began to stride up and down
the room. "The boy s got other friends that ll go
their length for him. I m with him till hell freezes
over. You can count on me "
"Exactly what I wanted to find out," I cut in, so
significantly that he whirled at the end of his beat and
"Meaning you are the one man who could clear
Worth Gilbert of all suspicion."
"What do you know?"
The big voice had come down to a mere whisper.
AT THE COUNTRY CLUB 211
Plenty of passion now a passion of terror. I spoke
"We know you were in the study that night, with a
companion," and I piled out the worst of his affair, as
I d read it in the diaries, winding up,
"Plain what brought you there. Quarrel? Mo
tive? Don t need to look any further."
Before I \vas done Jim Edwards had groped over
to a chair and slumped into it. A queer, toneless
"Worth sent you to me a detective with this?"
"No," I said. "I m acting on my own."
"And against his will," it came back instantly.
"What of it?" I demanded. "Are you the cow
ard to take advantage of his sense of honor? to let
his generosity cost him his life?"
"His life." That landed. Watching, I saw the
struggle that tore him. He jumped up and started
toward me; I hadn t much doubt that I was now go
ing to hear a plea for mercy a confession, of sorts
as he stopped, dropped his head, and stood scowl
ing at the floor.
"Talk," I said. "Spill it. Now s your time."
He raised his eyes to mine and spoke suddenly.
"Boyne I have nothing to say."
"And Worth Gilbert can hang and be damned to
him is that it?" I took another step toward him.
"No, Edwards, that nothing to say stuff won t go in
a court of law. It won t get you anywhere."
"They ll never in the world try Worth for that
"I m expecting his arrest any hour."
"A trial! Those cursed diaries of Tom s brought
212 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
into court My God! I believe if I d known he d
written things like that, I could have killed him for it !"
I stared. He had forgotten me. But at this speech
I mentally dropped him for the moment, and fastened
my suspicions on the woman who went with him to the
"All right," I said brutally. "You didn t kill
Thomas Gilbert. But you took Mrs. Bowman to the
study that night to have it out with him, and get six
pages from the 1916 book. She got em and you
know what she had to do to get em."
"Hold on, Boyne!" he said sternly. "Don t you
talk like that to me."
"Well," I said, "Mrs. Bowman; was there after
those diary leaves. I heard Barbara Wallace imitate
her voice and Chung recognized the imitation. You
know that night at the study the first night."
He took a bewildered moment or two for thought,
then broke out,
"It wasn t Laura s voice Barbara imitated. Did
she say so?"
"No, but she imitated the voice of a woman who
came weeping to get those pages from the diary; and
who else would that be? Who else would want
"You re off the track, Boyne," he drew a great,
shuddering sigh of relief. "Tom was always playing
the tyrant to those about him ; no doubt some woman
did come crying for that stuff but it wasn t Laura."
"By Heaven !" I exclaimed as I looked at him. "You
know who it was! You recognized the voice that
night but the woman isn t one you re interested in."
"I m interested in all women, so far as their getting
AT THE COUNTRY CLUB 213
a decent show in the world is concerned," he main
tained sturdily. "I d go as far as any man to defend
the good name of a woman whether I thought much
of her or not."
"This other woman," I argued, not any too keen
on such a job myself, "hasn t she got some man to
speak for her?"
Edwards looked at me innocently.
"She didn t have, then " he began, and I finished
"But she has now. I ve got it!" As I jumped up
and hurried to the door, his eyes followed me in
wonder. There I turned with, "Stay right where you
are. I ll be back in a minute," ducked out into the
hall and signaled a passing messenger, then stepped
quickly back into the writing room and said, "I ve
sent for Bronson Vandeman."
He settled deeper in his chair with,
"I ll stay and see it out. If you get anything from
Vandeman, I miss my guess."
A MATTER OF TASTE
UPON our few moments of strained waiting, Van-
deman breezed in, full of apologies for his shirt
sleeves. I remember noticing the monogram worked
on the left silken arm, the fit and swing of immaculate
trousers, as smoothly modeled to the hip as a girl s
gown; his ever smiling face; the slightly exaggerated
way he wiped fingers already clean on a handkerchief
pulled from a rear pocket. He was the only uncon
strained person in the room; he hardly looked sur
prised; his glance was merely inquiring. Edwards
apparently couldn t stand it. He jumped up and
began his characteristic pacing of one end of the
constricted place, jerking out as he walked,
"Bronse, it s my fault that Boyne sent for you.
He s working on this trouble of Worth s, you know.
He s had me in here, grilling me, shaking me over
hell; and something I said God knows why sent
him after you."
"Trouble of Worth s !" Vandeman had been about
to sit; his half bent knees straightened out again; he
stood beside the chair and spoke irritably. "Told you,
Boyne, if you meddled with that coroner s verdict
you d get your employer in the devil of a tight place.
Nobody had any reason for wanting Worth s father
out of the way except Worth, himself. Frankly,
A MATTER OF TASTE 215
I think you re wrong. But everything that I can do
of course "
"All right," I said, letting it fly at him. "Where
was your wife from seven to half past nine on the
evening of Gilbert s murder?"
Back went his head; out flashed all the fine teeth;
the man laughed in my face.
"Excuse me, Mr. Boyne. I understand that this
is serious nothing funny about it but really, you
know, recalling the date, what you ve said is amusing.
My dear man," he went on as I stared at him, "please
remember, yourself, where Ina was on that particular
"The wedding and reception were done with by
seven o clock," I objected. This ground was familiar
with me. I d been over it in considering what op
portunity Laura Bowman would have had for a call
on Thomas Gilbert at the required hour. If she could
slip away for it, why not Ina Vandeman? As though
he read my thoughts and answered them, Vandeman
"A bride, you know, is dead certain to have at least
half a dozen persons with her every minute of the
time until she leaves the house on her wedding trip.
Ina did, I m sure. We ll just call her in, and she ll
give you their names."
He was up and starting to bring her ; I stopped him.
"We ll not bother with those names just new. I d
rather have you or Mrs. Vandeman tell me what
you suppose would be the entry in Thomas Gilbert s
diary for May 31 and June i, 1916. I have already
identified it as the date on which the Bowmans first
moved into the Wallace house. I think Mr. Edwards
216 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
knows something more, but he s not so communicative
as you promise to be."
He looked as if he wished he hadn t been so liberal
with his assurances. I saw him glance half sulkily
at Edwards, as he exclaimed,
"But those diaries are burned they re burned.
Worth told us the other night that he burned them
At the words, Edwards stopped stock-still, some
thing almost humorous at the back of the suffering
gaze he fastened on my face. I met it steadily, then
"Doesn t make any difference to anybody that those
books are burned. I d read them; I know what was
in them; and I know that three leaves six pages-
covering the entries of May 31 and June I, 1916,
were cut out."
"But what the deuce, Boyne?" Vandeman wrinkled
a smooth brow. "What would some leaves gone from
Mr. Gilbert s diary four years ago have to do with
us here to-day or even with his recent death?"
"Pardon me," I said shortly. "The matter s not as
old as that. True, the stuff was written four years
ago; it recorded happenings on those dates; but the
ink that was used in marking out a run-over on the
next following page was fresh. Anyhow, Mr. Van
deman, we know that a woman came weeping to Mr.
Gilbert on the very night of his death, only a short
time before his death as nearly as medical science
can determine that and we believe that she came after
those leaves out of the diary, and got them what
ever she had to do to secure them."
A MATTER OF TASTE 217
I was struck with the difference in the way these
two men took inquiry. Edwards had writhed, changed
color, started to speak and caught himself back,
showed all the agony of a clumsy criminal who dreads
the probing that may give him away : temperament ;
the rotten spot in his affairs. Vandeman, younger,
not entangled with an unhappy married woman, sat
looking me in the eye, still smiling. The blow I had
to deal him would be harder. It concerned his bride;
but he d take punishment well. I proceeded to let him
"I can see that Mr. Edwards has an idea what the
entries on those pages covered. He has inadvertently
shown me that your wife was the woman who came
and got them from Thomas Gilbert on the night he
At that he turned on Edwards, and Edwards an
swered the look with,
"I didn t. On my honor, Bronse, I never men
tioned your name or Ina s. The Chinaman told him
that about some woman coming that evening "
"Mr. Vandeman," I broke in, "there s no use beat
ing about the bush. Chung recognized your wife s
voice. She was the woman who came weeping to get
those diary leaves."
He took that with astonishing quietness, and,
"Suppose you were shown that she wasn t out of
her mother s house?"
"Wouldn t stop me. Allow that her alibi s perfect.
Yet you men have something. There s something
here I ought to know."
"Something you ll never find out from me," Jim
218 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
Edwards deep voice was full of defiance. "Bronse,
I owe you an apology; but you can depend on me to
keep my mouth shut."
After a minute s consideration Vandeman said,
"I don t know why we should any of us keep our
Jim Edwards looked utterly bewildered as the man
sat there, thinking the thing over, glanced up pleas
antly at me and suggested,
"Edwards has a little different slant on this from
me. I don t know why I shouldn t state to you ex
actly what happened right there in Gilbert s study
on the date you mentioned."
"Oh, there did something unusual happen; and
you ve just remembered it."
"There did something unusual happen, and I ve
just remembered it, aided thereto by your questions
and Edwards queer looks. Cheer up, old man; we
haven t all got your southern chivalry. From a plain,
commonsense point of view, what I have to tell is not
in the least to my wife s discredit. In fact, I m proud
of her all the way through."
Jim Edwards came suddenly and nervously to his
feet, strode to the further corner of the room and sat
down at as great a distance from Vandeman as its
dimensions would permit. He turned his face to the
small window there, and through all that Vandeman
said, kept up a steady, maddening tattoo with his
fingernails on the sill.
"This has to do with what I told you the first night
I ever talked with you, Boyne. You thre\v doubt on
Thomas Gilbert s death being suicide. I gave as a
A MATTER OF TASTE 219
reason for my belief that it was, a knowledge and
conviction that the man s mind was unhinged."
Edwards tattoo at the window ceased for a minute.
He stared, startled, at the speaker, then went back to
it, and Vandeman proceeded,
"I m not telling Jim Edwards anything he doesn t
know, and what I say to you, Boyne, that s discredit
able to the dead, I can t avoid. Here it is: on the
evening of June first, 1916, I had dinner alone at
home. You ll find, if you look at an old calendar,
that it falls on a Sunday. Jim Edwards had dined
informally at the Thornhills . As he told it to me
later, they were all sitting out on the side porch after
dinner, and nobody noticed that Ina wasn t with them
until they heard cries coming from somewhere over
in the direction of the Gilbert place. At my house,
I d heard it. and we both ran for the garage, where
the screams were repeated again and again. We got
there about the same time, found the disturbance was
in the study, and Edwards who \vas ahead of me
rushed up and hammered on its door."
Again Jim Edwards stopped the nervous drumming
of his fingers on the window-sill while he stared at the
younger man as at some prodigy of nature. Finally
he seemed unable to hold in any longer.
"Hammered on the door!" he repeated. "If you re
going to turn out the whole damn thing to Boyne,
tell it straight ; door was open ; we couldn t have heard
a yip out of Ina if it hadn t been. Tom there in full
sight, sitting in his desk chair, cool as a cucumber,
letting her scream."
"I m telling this," Vandeman snapped. "Gilbert
220 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
looked to me like an insane man. Jim, you re crazy
as he was, to say anything else. Never supposed for
a minute you thought otherwise that poor girl there,
dazed with fright, backed as far away from him as she
could get, hair flying, eyes wild."
I looked from one to the other. What Edwards had
said of the cold, contemptuous old man; what Van-
deman told of the screaming girl; no answer to such
a proposition of course but an attempted frame-up.
To let the bridegroom get by would best serve my
"All right, gentlemen," I said. "And now could
you tell me what action you took, on this state of
"Action?" Vandeman gave me an uneasy look.
"What was there to do? Told you I thought the
man was crazy."
"And you, Edwards?"
"Let it go as Bronse says. I cut back to Mrs.
Thornhill s, scouting to see what the chance was for
getting Ina in without the family knowing anything."
"That s right," Vandeman said. "I stayed to fetch
her. She was fine. To the last, she let Gilbert save
his face actually send her home as though she were
the one to blame. Right then I knew I loved her
wanted her for my wife. On the way home, I asked
her and was accepted."
"In spite of the fact that she was engaged to Worth
"Boyne," he said impatiently, "what s the matter
with you? Haven t I made you understand what
happened there at the study? She had to break off
A MATTER OF TASTE 221
with the son of a man like that. Ina Thornhill
couldn t marry into such a breed."
"Slow up, Vandeman!" Edwards tone was soft,
but when I looked at him, I saw a tawny spark in his
black eyes. Vandeman fronted him with the flam
boyant embroidered monogram on his shirt sleeve,
the carefully careless tie, the utterly good clothes, and,
most of all, at the moment, the smug satisfaction in
his face of social and human security. I thought of
what that Frenchman says about there being nothing
so enjoyable to us as the troubles of our friends.
"Needn t think you can put it all over the boy when
he s not here to defend himself jump on him because
he s down! Tell that your wife discarded him cast
him off for disgraceful reasons! Damnitall! You
and I both heard Tom giving her her orders to break
with his son, she sniffling and hunting hairpins over
the floor and promising that she would."
"Cut it out!" yelled Vandeman, as though some
one had pinched him. "I saw nothing of the sort.
I heard nothing of the sort. Neither did you.
I think they had forgotten me, and that they remem
bered at about the same instant that they were talking
before a detective. They both turned, mum and star
tled looking, Edwards to his window, Vandeman to
a nervous brushing of his trouser edges, from which
he looked up, inquiring doubtfully,
"What next, Boyne? Jim s excited; but you un
derstand that there s no animus; and my wife and I
are entirely at your disposal in this matter."
"Thank you," I said.
"Would you like to* talk to her?"
222 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"Here or let the lady say."
Vandeman gave me a queer look and went out.
When he was gone, I found Jim Edwards scrabbling
for his hat where it had dropped over behind the desk.
I put my back against the door and asked,
"Is Bronson Vandeman a fatuous fool; or does he
take me for one?"
"Some men defend their women one way, and some
another. Let me out of this, Boyne, before that girl
"She won t come in a hurry," I smiled. "Her hus
band s pretty free with his promises; but more than
likely I ll have to go after her if I want her."
"Well?" he looked at me uncomfortably.
"Blackmail s a crime, you know, Edwards. A
woman capable of it, might be capable of murder."
"YouVe got the wrong word there, Boyne. This
wasn t exactly blackmail."
"The girl I never liked her never thought she
was good enough for Worth but she was engaged to
him, and in this I think she was fighting for her
He searched my face and went on cautiously,
"You read the diaries. They must have had com
plaints of her."
"They had," I assented.
"Anything about money ?"
I shook my head.
A MATTER OF TASTE 223
"You said there were two entries gone; the first
would have told you, I suppose Before we go further,
Boyne, let me make a little explanation to you for the
girl s sake."
"Shoot," I said.
"It was this way," he sighed. "Thornhill, Ina s
father, made fifteen or twenty thousand a year I would
say, and the family lived it up. He had a stroke and
died in a week s time. Left Mrs. Thornhill with her
daughters, her big house, her fine social position and
mighty little to keep it up on. Ina is the eldest. She
got the worst of it, because at the first of her being a
young lady she was used to having all the money she
wanted to spend. The twins were right on her heels ;
the thing for her to do was to make a good marriage,
and make it quick. But she got engaged to Worth;
then he went to France. There you were. He
might never come back. Tom always hated her;
watched her like a hawk; got onto something she
"Out with it," I said. "What? Come down to
"Money." He uttered the one word and stood
I made a long shot, with,
"Mr. Gilbert found she d been getting money from
other men "
"Borrowing, Boyne they used the word bor
rowed/ " Edwards put in. "It was always Tom s way
to summon people as though he had a little private
judgment bar, haul them up and lecture them; I
suppose he thought he had a special license in her
224 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"And she went prepared to frame him and bluff
him to a standoff. Is that the way you saw it ?"
"My opinion what I might think," said Mr. James
Edwards of Sunnyvale ranch, "wouldn t be testimony
in a court of law. You don t want it, Boyne."
"Maybe not," I grunted. "Perhaps I could make
as good a guess as you could at what young Mrs. Van-
deman s capable of; a dolly face, and behind it the
courage of hell."
"Boyne," he said, as I left the door free to him,
"quit making war on women."
"Can t," I grinned and waved him on out. "The
detective business would be a total loss without em."
A DINNER INVITATION
44 T OOK what s after you, man," Skeet warned me
L/ from her lofty perch as I went out through the
big room in quest of Ina Vandeman. "Better you
stay here. I gif you a yob. Lots safer only run
the risk of getting your neck broken."
I grinned up into her jolly, freckled face, and waited
for the woman who came toward me with that elastic,
swinging movement of hers, the well-opened eyes
studying me, keeping all their secrets behind them.
"Mr. Boyne, a hand on my arm guided me to a
side door; we stepped together out on to a small bal
cony that led to the lawn. "My husband brought me
your message. Nobody over by the tennis court;
let s go and walk up and down there."
Her fingers remained on my sleeve as we moved off ;
she emphasized her points from time to time by a slight
"Such a relief to have a man like you in charge of
this investigation." She gave me an intimate smile;
tall as she was, her face was almost on a level with
my own, yet I still found her eyes unreadable, none of
those quick tremors under the skin that register the
emotions of excitable humanity. She remained a
handsome, perfectly groomed, and entirely unruffled
"Thank you," was all I said.
226 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"Mr. Vandeman and I understand how very, very
serious this is. Of course, now, neighbors and inti
mates of Mr. Gilbert are under inspection. Every
body s private affairs are liable to be turned out.
We ve all got to take our medicine. No use feeling
Fine; but she d have done better to keep her hands
off me. An old police detective knows too much of
the class of women who use that lever. I looked at
them now, white, delicate, many-ringed, much more
expressive than her face, and I thought them capable
"Here are the names you ll want/ she fumbled in
the girdle of her gown, brought out a paper and passed
it over. "These are the ones who stayed after the
reception, went up to my room with me, and helped
me change or rather, hindered me."
"The ones," I didn t open the paper yet, just looked
at her across it, "who were with you all the time from
the reception till you left the house for San Fran
"It s like this," again she smiled at me, "the five
whose names are on that paper might any one of them
have been in and out of my room during the time. I
can t say as to that. But they can swear that / wasn t
out of the room because I wasn t dressed. As soon
as I changed from my wedding gown to my traveling
suit, I went down stairs and we were all together till
we drove to San Francisco and supper at Tait s, where
I had the pleasure of meeting you, Mr. Boyne."
"I understand," I said. "They could all speak for
you but you couldn t speak for them." Then I
opened and looked. Some list! The social and
A DINNER INVITATION 227
financial elect of Santa Ysobel : bankers ladies ; prune
kings daughters; persons you couldn t doubt, or buy.
But at the top of all was Laura Bowman s name.
We had halted for the turn at the end of the court.
I held the paper before her.
"How about this one? Do you think she was in
the room all the time? Or have you any recollection?"
The bride moved a little closer and spoke low.
"Laura and the doctor were in the middle of one of
their grand rows. She s a bunch of temperament.
Mamma was ill ; the girls were having to start out with
only Laura for chaperone; she said something about
going somewhere, and it wouldn t take her long she d
be back in plenty of time. But whether she went or
not Mr. Boyne, you don t want us to tell you our
speculations and guesses? That wouldn t be fair,
"It wouldn t hurt anything," I countered. "I ll
only make use of what can be proven. Anything you
say is safe with me."
"Well, then, of course you know all about the situa
tion between Laura and Jim Edwards. Laura was
determined she wouldn t go up to San Francisco with
her husband or if she did, he must drive her back
the same night. She wouldn t even leave our house to
get her things from home; the doctor, poor man,
packed some sort of bag for her and brought it over.
When he came back with it, she wasn t to be found;
and she never did appear until we were getting into the
I listened, glancing anxiously toward the skyline of
that little hill over which Worth and Barbara might
be expected to appear almost any moment now. Then
228 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
we made the turn at the end of the court, and my view
of it was cut off.
"Laura and Jim they re the ones this is going to
be hard on. I do feel sorry for them. She s always
been a problem to her family and friends. A great
deal s been overlooked. Everybody likes Jim; but
he s a southerner; intrigue comes natural to them."
Five minutes before I had been listening to Ed
wards pitiful defense of this girl; I recalled his
"scouting" for a chance to get her home unseen and
save her standing with her family. That could be
classed as intrigue, too, I suppose. We were strolling
slowly toward the clubhouse.
"I don t give Dr. Bowman much," I said delib
erately. A quick look came my way, and,
"Mr. Gilbert was greatly attached to him. Every
body s always believed that only Mr. Gilbert s influence
held that match together. Now he s dead, and Laura s
freed from some sort of control he seemed to have
over her, of course she hopes and expects she ll be
able to divorce the doctor in peace and marry Jim."
"No movement of the sort yet?"
She stopped and faced round toward me.
"Dr. Bowman he s our family physician, you
know is trying for a very fine position away from
here, in an exclusive sanitarium. Divorce proceedings
coming now would ruin his chances. But I don t know
how long he can persuade Laura to hold off. She s in
a strange mood; I can t make her out, myself. She
disliked Gilbert ; yet his death seems to have upset her
"You say she didn t like Mr. Gilbert?"
"They hated each other. But he was so peculiar
A DINNER INVITATION 229
of course that wasn t strange. Many people de
tested him. Bron never did. He always forgave him
everything because he said he was insane. Bron told
you my experience the one that made me break with
She looked at me, a level look; no shifting of color,
no flutter of eyelid or throat. We were at the club-
"Here comes the boy himself," I warned as Worth
and Barbara, their arms full of ferns, rounded the turn
from the little dip at the side of the grounds where
the stream went through. We stood and waited for
"You two," Ina spoke quickly to them. "Mr.
Boyne s just promised to come over to dinner to-mor
row night." Her glance asked me to accept the fib and
the invitation. "I want both of you."
"I m going to be at your house anyhow, Ina,"
Barbara said, "working with Skeet painting those big
banners they ve tacked up out in your court. You ll
have to feed us; but we ll be pretty messy. I don t
know about a dinner party."
"It isn t," Ina protested, smiling. "It s just what
you said feeding you. Nobody there besides your
self and Skeet but Mr. Boyne and Worth if he ll
"I have to go up to San Francisco to-morrow," said
"But you ll be back by dinner time?" Ina added
"If I make it at all."
"Well, you can come just as you are, if you get in
at the last minute," she said, and he and Barbara went
230 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
on to carry their ferns in. When they were out of
hearing, she turned and floored me with,
"Mr. Vandeman has forbidden me to say this to
you, but I m going to speak. If Worth doesn t have
to be told about me and his father I d be glad."
"If the missing leaves of the diary are ever found,"
I came up slowly, "he d probably know then." I
watched her as I said it. What a strange look of
satisfaction in the little curves about her mouth as she
spoke next :
"Those leaves will never be found, Mr. Boyne. I
burned them. Mr. Gilbert presented them to me as a
wedding gift. He was insane, but, intending to take
his own life, I think even his strangely warped con
science refused to let a lying record stand against an
innocent girl who had never done him any harm."
We stood silent a moment, then she looked round at
me brightly with,
"You re coming to dinner to-morrow night? So
glad to have you. At seven o clock. Well if this is
all, then ?" and at my nod, she went up the steps, turn
ing at the side door to smile and wave at me.
What a woman! I could but admire her nerve. If
her alibi proved copper-fastened, as something told me
it would, I had no more hope of bringing home the
murder of Thomas Gilbert to Mrs. Bronson Vandeman
of Santa Ysobel than I had of readjusting the stars in
their courses !
A BIT OF SILK
I MUST admit that when Worth and Barbara
walked up and found me talking to Ina Vandeman,
I felt caught dead to rights. The girl gave me one
long, steady look. I was afraid of Barbara Wallace s
eyes. Then and there I relinquished all idea of having
her help in this inquiry. She could have done it much
better than I, attracted less attention but no matter.
The awkward moment went by, however; I heaved a
sigh of relief as they carried their ferns on into the
clubhouse, and Mrs. Vandeman left me with gracious
I had the luck to cover my first inquiry by getting
a lift into town from Mrs. Ormsby, young wife of the
president of the First National. Alone with me in her
little electric, she answered every question I cared to
put, and said she would be careful to speak to no one
of the matter. Three others I caught on the wing,
as it were, busy at blossom festival affairs; the fete
only one day off now, things were moving fast. I
glimpsed Dr. Bowman down town and thought he
rather carefully avoided seeing me. His wife was
taking no part; the word went that she was not able;
but when I called at what had been the Wallace and
was now the Bowman home, I found the front door
open and two ladies in the hall.
One of them, Laura Bowman herself, came flying
232 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
out to meet me or rather, it seemed, to stop me, with
a face of dismay.
"My mother s here, Mr. Boyne!" Her hand was
clammy cold ; she d been warned of me and my errand.
"I don t want to take you through that way."
I stood passive, and let her do the saying.
"Around here," she faltered. "We can go in at the
We skirted the house by a narrow walk; she was
leading the way by this other entrance, when, spread
out over its low step, blocking our progress, I saw a
small Japanese woman ripping up a satin dress.
"Let us pass, Oomie."
"Wait. We can talk as well here," I checked her.
We moved on a few paces, out of earshot of the girl ;
but before I could put my questions, she began with a
sort of shattered vehemence to protest that Thomas
Gilbert s death was suicide.
"It was, Mr. Boyne. Anybody who knew the
scourge Thomas had been to those he must have loved
in his queer, distorted way, and any one who loved
them, could believe he might take his own life."
"You speak freely, Mrs. Bowman," I said. "Then
you hated the man?"
"Oh, I did! For years past I ve never heard of a
death without wondering that God took other human
beings and let him live. Now that he s killed himself,
it seems dreadful to me that suspicion should be cast
"Mrs. Bowman," I interrupted. "Thomas Gilbert s
death was murder. All persons who could have had
motive or might have had opportunity to kill him will
A BIT OF SILK 233
be under suspicion till the investigation clears them of
it. I m now ascertaining the whereabouts of Ina Van-
deman that evening/
A shudder went through her; she looked at me
feelingly, twisting her hands together in the way I
remembered. Despite her distress, she was very simple
and accessible. She gave me no resistance, admitted
her absence from the Thornhill house at about the time
the party was ready to start for San Francisco
Edwards, of course. I got nothing new here. She
seemed thankful enough to go into the house when I
I lingered a moment to have a word with the little
Japanese woman on the step.
"How long you work this place?"
"Two hours af-noon, every day," ducking and
giggling like a mechanical toy.
Just a piece-worker, not a regular servant.
"Pretty dress," I touched the satin on the step.
"Mine." Grinning, she spread a breadth out over
her knees. "Lady no like any more. Mine." It was
a peculiar shade of peacock blue; unless I was mis
taken, the one Mrs. Bowman had worn that night at
"Hello what s this?" I bent to examine a smaJl
hole in the hem of that breadth Oomie was so delight
"O-o-o-o! I think may-may burn m. Not like
There was a small round hole. Just so a cigarette
might have seared or a bullet.
234 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"Not can use," I said to Oomie, indicating the
injured bit. "Cut that off. Give me." And I laid
a silver dollar on the step.
Giggling, the little brown woman snipped out the bit
of hem and handed it to me. I glanced up from tuck
ing it into my pocket, and saw Laura Bowman s white
face staring at me through the glass of that side entry
A suggestive lead, certainly; but it s my way to
follow one lead at a time : I went on to the Thornhill
Everybody there would know my errand; for
though, with taste I could but admire, Ina had put no
name of any member of the family on her list, she of
course expected me to call on them, and would never
have let her sisters leave the country club without a
The three were just taking their hats off in the hall
when I arrived. I did my questioning there, not
troubling to take them separately. Cora and Ernes
tine, a well bred pair of Inas, without her pep, perhaps
a shade less good looking, made their replies with none
of the usual flutter of feminine curiosity and excite
ment, then went on in the living room. Skeet of
course was as practical and brief as a sensible boy.
"I don t know whether she s fit to see you," she
said when I spoke of her mother. And on the instant,
Ina Vandeman s clear, high voice called down the stair,
"Bring Mr. Boyne up now."
Skeet stepped aside for me to pass. I suppose I
looked as startled as I felt, for on my way to the
house, I had seen Mrs. Vandeman drive past toward
A BIT OF SILK 235
town. I stood there at a loss, and finally said aim
"Your sister thinks it s all right?"
"My sister?" Skeet wrinkled her brows at me, and
glanced to where the twins were in sight in the living
room. "That was mother herself who called you."
All the way up the stairs, Skeet following, I was
trying to swing my rather heavy wits around to take
advantage of this new development. So far, Ina Van-
deman s voice, imitated by Barbara Wallace, and rec
ognized by Chung and Jim Edwards, possibly by
Worth, had been my lead in this direction. If more
than one woman spoke in that voice where would it
I d got no adjustment before I was ushered into a
large dim room, and confronted by a figure in a re
clining chair by the window. Here, in spite of years
and illness, were the same good looks and thorough
bred courage that seemed to characterize the women
of this family. Mrs. Thornhill greeted me in Ina
Vandeman s very tones, a little high-pitched for real
sweetness, full of a dominating quality, and she
showed a composure I had not expected. To Skeet,
standing by, watching to see that her mother didn t
overdo in talking to me, she said,
"Dear, go down stairs. Jane s left her dinner on
the range and gone to the grocery. You look after it
while she s away."
When we were alone, she lay back in her chair,
eyes closed, or seemingly so, and made her statement.
She d been in her daughter s room only twice between
the reception and that daughter s going away.
236 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"But the room was full of other people," a glimmer
between lashes. "I could give you the names of those
Thank you," I said. "Mrs. Vandeman has already
done that. I ve seen them all."
"You ve seen them all?" a long, furtively drawn
breath. Then her eyes flashed open and fixed them
selves on me. Relief was there, yet something
stricken, as they traveled over me from my gray
thatch to my big feet.
"Now, Mrs. Thornhill," I said, "aside from those
two visits to your daughter s room, where were you
A slow flush crept into her thin cheeks. The un
readable eyes that were traveling over Jerry Boyne
stopped suddenly and held him with a quiet stare.
"I understood it was my daughter s movements on
that evening you wished to trace, Mr. Boyne," she
said slowly. "It would be difficult to trace mine.
Really, I had so much on my hands with the reception
and inefficient help " She broke off, her eyes never
leaving my own, even as she added smoothly, "It
would be very, very difficult."
There is an effect in class almost like the distinction
of race. These women spoke a baffling language;
their psychology was hard for me. If there was some
thing hid up amongst them that ought to be uncovered
by diplomacy and delicate indirection, it would take a
smarter man than the one who stood in my number
tens to do it.
"Mrs. Thornhill," I said, "you did leave the house.
You went to Mr. Gilbert s study. The shot that killed
him left you a nervous wreck, so that you can t hear
A BIT OF SILK 237
a tire blow-out without reenacting in your mind the
scene of that murder. You ll talk now."
"You think I will? Talk to you?" very low and
quiet, eyes once more closed.
"Why not? It s got to come; here in your own
home, with me or I ll have to put you where you ll
be forced to answer questions."
"Oh, you threaten me, do you?" Her eyes flashed
open, and looked at me, hard as flint. "Very well.
I ll answer no questions as to what happened on the
evening of Thomas Gilbert s death, except in the
presence of Worth Gilbert, his son."
My retirement down the Thornhill stairs, made with
such dignity as I could muster, was in fact, a panic
flight. Halfway, Cora Thornhill all but finished me
by looking out from the living room, and calling in
Ina Vandeman s voice,
"Erne, show Mr. Boyne out, won t you?"
Ernestine completed the job when she answered
in Ina Vandeman s voice, also
"Yes, dear; I will." It was only the scraps of me
that she swept out through the front door.
I stood on the porch and mopped my brow. Across
there at the Gilbert place was Worth himself, charg
ing around the grounds with Vandeman and a lot of
other decorators, pruning shears in hand, going for a
thicket of bamboos that shut off the vegetable garden.
At one side Barbara stood alone, looking, it seemed
to me, rather depressed. I made for her. She met
"I know what you ve been doing. Skeet came to
me about it while Ina was phoning home from the
238 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"Well she should worry! I ve just finished with
her list. Got an unbreakable alibi."
"She would have," Barbara said listlessly. "She
wasn t at the study that evening."
"Huh! I worked on your tip that she was."
Barbara had pulled off the little stitched hat she
wore; yet the deep flush on her cheeks was neither
from sun nor an afternoon s hard work. It, and the
quick straightening of her figure, the lift of her chin,
had to do with me and my activities.
"Mr. Boyne," the black eyes came around to me with
a flash, "do you suspect me of trying to pay off a
spite on Ina Vandeman?"
"Good Lord no!" I exploded. "And anyhow,
I ve just found that what you imitated and Chung
recognized, might as well have been the mother s voice
as the daughter s."
"Yes," she assented. "Any one of the family
under stress of emotion." Then suddenly, "And why
do I tell you that? You ll not get from it what I
do. I ought never to have mixed up my kind of
mental work with other people s. I d promised my
own soul that I would never make another deduction.
Then Worth came and asked me that night at Tait s.
I might say now that I never will any more. ..."
She broke off, storm in her eyes and in her voice as
she finished, "But I suppose if he wanted me to again
I d make a little fool of myself for his amusement
just as I did this time and have done all these other
"I ll not ask anything more of you, Barbara," I
said to her hastily, confused and abashed before the
glimpse she d given me of her heart. "Except that
A BIT OF SILK 239
I beg you to stay good friends with Cummings. That
man hates Worth. If you turned him down now
say, for the ball, or anything like that he d be twice
as hard for us to handle. Keep him a passive enemy
instead of an active one, as long as he seems to find
it necessary to hang around Santa Ysobel."
"You know what s holding Mr. Cummings here,
don t you?" She glanced somberly past the bamboo
gatherers to where we saw a gray corner of the study
with its pink ivy geranium blossoms atop. "Mr. Cum
mings is held here by two steel bolts the bolts on
those study doors. Until he finds how they can be
moved through an inch of planking he ll not leave
She d put it in a nutshell. And I couldn t let him
beat me to it. I d got to get the jump on him.
1HAD all set for next morning: my roadster at
Capehart s for repair, old Bill tipped off that I
didn t want any one but Eddie Hughes to work on it ;
and to add to my satisfaction, there arrived in my
daily grist from the office, the report that they had
Skeels in jail at Tiajuana.
"Well, Jerry, old socks," Worth hailed my news as
I followed out to his car where he was starting for
San Francisco, and going to drop me at the Capehart
garage, "Some luck! If Skeels is in jail at Tiajuana,
and what I m after to-day turns out right, we may
have both ends of the string."
Pink-and-white were the miles of orchards sur
rounding Santa Ysobel, pink-and-white nearly all the
dooryards, every tree its own little carnival of bloom
with bees for guests. Already the streets were full
of life, double the usual traffic. As we neared the
Capehart cottage, on its quiet side street about half
a block from the garage, there was Barbara under the
apple boughs at the gate, talking to some man whose
back was to us. She bowed ; I answered with a wave
toward the garage; but Worth scooted us past with
out, I thought, once glancing her way, sent the road
ster across Main where he should have stopped and
let me out, went on and into the highway at a clip
which rocked us.
THE MAGNET 241
"Was that Cummings ?" holding my hat on. No
answer that I could hear, while we made speed toward
San Francisco. And still no word was spoken until
we had outraged the sensibilities of all whose bad
luck it was to meet us, those whom we passed going
at a more reasonable pace, scared a team of work
horses into the ditch, and settled down to a steady
We were getting away from Santa Ysobel a good
deal further and a good deal faster than I felt I could
afford. I took a chance and remarked, to nobody in
particular, and in a loud voice,
"I asked Barbara not to make a break with Cum
mings; it would be awkward for us now if she did/
"Break?" Worth gave me back one of my words.
"Yes. I was afraid she might throw him down
for the carnival ball."
Without comment or reply, he slowed gently for
the big turn where the Medlow road comes in, swept
a handsome circle and headed back. Then he re
"Thought I d show you what the little boat could
do under my management. Eddie had her in fair
shape, but I ve tuned her up a notch or two since."
I responded with proper enthusiasm, and would
have been perfectly willing to be let out at Main Street.
But he turned the corner there, ran on to the garage,
jumped out and followed me in. Bill, selling some
used tires to a customer in the office, nodded and let
us go past to where my machine stood. We heard
voices back in the repair shop and a hum of swift whir
ring shafts and pulleys. Worth kept with me. It em
barrassed me made me nervous. It was as though he
242 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
had some notion of my purpose there. Hughes, at
his lathe, caught sight of us and growled over his
"Yer machine s ready."
This wouldn t do. I stepped to the door, with,
"Fixed the radiator, did you?"
"Sure. Whaddye think?" Hughes was at work
on something for a girl ; she perched at one end of his
bench, swinging her feet. Worth, behind me, touched
my shoulder, and I saw that the girl over there was
She looked up at us and smiled. The sun slanting
through dirt covered windows, made color effects on
her silken black hair. Eddie gave us another scowl
and went on with his work.
"Hello, Bobs," Worth s greeting was casual.
"Thought I d stop and tell you I was on my way
you know." A glance of understanding passed be
tween them. "Better come along?"
"I d like to," she smiled. "You ll be back by din
ner time. If it wasn t the last day, and I hadn t
Neither of them in any hurry.
"Hughes," I said, "there s another thing needs do
ing on that car of mine "
"Can t do nothing at all till I finish her job," he
shrugged me off.
"All right," and I stepped through into the grassy
back yard, put a smoke in my face, and began walking
up and down, my glance, each time I turned, en
countering that queer bunch inside : Worth, hands
in pockets ; the chauffeur he had discharged and that
I was waiting to get for murder bending at his vise;
THE MAGNET 243
Barbara s shining dark head close to the tousled un-
kemptness of his poll, as she explained to him the
pulley arrangement needed to raise and anchor the
banner she and Skeet were painting.
Suddenly, at the far end of my beat, I was brought
up by a little outcry and stir. As I wheeled toward
the door, I saw Bobs and Worth in it, apparently
wrestling over something. Laughing, crying, she hung
to his wrist with one hand, the other covering one of
"Let me look!" he demanded. "I won t touch it,
if you don t want me to. You have got something in
But when she reluctantly gave him his chance, he
treacherously went for her with a corner of his hand
kerchief in the traditional way, and she backed off,
uttering a cry that fetched Hughes around from the
lathe, roaring at Worth, above the noise of the machin
" What s the matter with her?"
"Steel splinter in her eye," Worth shouted.
With a quick oath, the belt pole was thrown to stop
the lathe; down the length of the shop to the scrap
heap of odds and ends at the rear Hughes raced, re
turning with a bit of metal in his hand. Barbara
was backed against the bench, her eyes shut, and tears
had begun to flow from under the lids.
"Now, Miss Barbie," Hughes remonstrated. "You
let me at that thing. This ll pull it out and never
touch you." I saw it was a horse-shoe magnet he
"Do you think it will?"
"Sure," and Eddie approached the magnet to her
244 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
face. "It won t hurt you a-tall. She ll begin to pull
before she even touches. Now, steady. Want to
come as near contact as I can. Don t jump
Barbara had sprung away from him. But for
Worth s quick arm, she would have been into the
"No!" she said between locked teeth, tears on her
cheeks, "I can t let him."
"Why, Barbara!" I said, astonished; and poor
Eddie almost blubbered as he begged,
"Aw, come on, Miss Barbie. It was my fault in the
first place leavin that damned lathe run. Yuh got
to let me"
"But if it doesn t work?"
"Sure it ll work. Would I offer to use it for you
if I hadn t tried it out lots o times to pull splinters
"Give me that magnet," Worth reached the long
arm of authority, got what he wanted, shouldered
Hughes aside, and took hold of the girl with, "Quit
being a little fool, Barbara. That thing s only caught
in your lashes now. Let it get in against the eye
ball and you ll have trouble. Hold still."
The command was not needed. Without a word,
Barbara raised her face, put her hands behind her
Delicately, Worth caught the dark fringe of the
closed eye, turned back the lid so that he could see
just what he was at, brought the horse-shoe almost
in touch, then drew it away and there was the tiny
steel splinter that could have cost her sight, clinging
to the magnet s edge.
THE MAGNET 245
"Here you are," he smiled. "Wasn t that enough
to call you names for?"
"You didn t call me names," dabbing away with a
small handkerchief. "You told me to quit being a
little fool. Maybe I will. How would you like that ?
Apparently Hughes did not resent Barbara s refus
ing his help and accepting Worth s. He went back
to his vise; the two others strolled together through
the doorway into the garage, talking there for a
moment in quick, low tones; then Barbara returned
to perch on the end of Eddie s bench, play with the
magnet and watch him at work. I lit up again and
I could see Barbara gather some nails, screws and
loose pieces of iron, hold a bit of board over them,
and trail the magnet back and forth along its top.
Though a half inch of wood intervened, the metal
trash on the bench followed the magnet to and fro.
I got nothing out of that except that Barbara was still
a child, playing like a child, till I looked up suddenly
to find that she had ceased the play, brought her feet
up to curl them under her in the familiar Buddha
pose, while the busy hands were dropped and folded
before her. Her rebellion of yesterday evening
and now her taking up the concentration unasked
she wouldn t want me to notice what she was doing;
I ducked out of sight. I had walked up and down
that yard a half dozen times more, when over me
with a rush came the significance of those moving
bits of iron, trailing a magnet on the other side of a
board. Three long steps took me to the door.
"Hughes," I shouted, "I m taking my machine now.
Be back directly."
246 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
The man grunted without turning around. I had
forgotten Barbara, but as I was climbing into the
roadster, I heard her jump to the floor and start after
"Mr. Boyne! Wait! Mr. Boyne!"
I checked and sat grinning as she came up, the
magnet in her hand. I reached for it.
"Give me that," I whispered. "Want to go along
and see me use it?"
"No no " in hushed protest. "You re making a
mistake, Mr. Boyne."
"Mistake? I saw what you did in there. Said you
never would again then went right to itU You sure
got something this time ! Girl girl ! You ve turned
"Oh, no! You mustn t take it like that, Mr. Boyne.
This is nothing as it stands. Just a single unrelated
fact that I used with others to concentrate on. Wait.
Do wait till Worth comes back, anyhow."
"All right." I felt that our voices were getting
loud, that we d talked here too long. No use of
flushing the game before I was loaded. "First thing
to do is to verify this." I felt good all over.
"Yes, of course," she smiled faintly. "You would
want to do that." And she climbed in beside me.
I drove so fast that Barbara had no chance to ques
tion me, though she did find openings for remonstrat
ing at my speed. I dashed into the driveway of the
Gilbert place and came to an abrupt stop at the doors
of the garage. And right away I bumped up against
my first check. I gripped the magnet, raced to the
study door with it, she following more slowly to
THE MAGNET 247
watch while I passed it along the wooden panel where
the bolt ran on the other side; and nothing doing!
Again she followed as I ran around to the outside
door, opened up and tried it on the bare bolt itself;
no stir. While she sat in the desk chair at that central
table, her elbows on its top, her hands lightly clasped,
the chin dropped in interlaced fingers, following my
movements with very little interest, I puffed and
worked, opened a door and tried to move the bolt
when it wasn t in the socket, and felt like cursing in
"A little oil " I grumbled, more to myself than
to her, arufr hurried to the garage workbench for the
can that would certainly be there. It was, but I
didn t touch it. What I did lean over and clutch from
where they lay tossed in carelessly among rubbish and
old spare parts, were three more magnets exactly the
same as the one we had brought from Capehart s. I
sprinted back with them.
Barbara," I called in an undertone. "Come here.
Held side by side, the four, working as one, moved
the bolts as well as fingers could have done, and
through more than an inch of hard wood.
"Yes," she looked at it; "but that doesn t prove
Eddie Hughes the murderer."
"No?" her opposition began to get on my nerves.
"I m afraid that ll be a matter for twelve good men
and true to settle." She stood silent, and I added,
"I know now whose shadow I saw on the broken
panel of that door there, the first Sunday night."
"Oh, it was Eddie s," she agreed rather unex
248 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"And he came to steal the 1920 diary," I supplied.
"He came to get a drink from the cellaret, and a
cigar from the case. That s the use he made of his
power to move these bolts. "
"Until the Saturday night when he killed his
employer, the man he hated, and left things so the
crime would pass as suicide. Barbara, are you just
Instead of answering, she went back to the table,
got the contraption Hughes had made for her, and
started as if to leave me. On the threshold, she
"I don t suppose there s anything I ca_ say or do
to change your mind," her tone was inert, drained.
"I know that Eddie is innocent of this. But you don t
want to listen to deductions."
"Later," I said to her, briskly. "It ll keep. I ve
something to do now."
"What? You promised Worth to make no move
against Eddie Hughes until you had his permission."
She seemed to think that settled it. I let her keep
"Run along, Barbara," I said, "get to your paint
daubing. I ll forgive you everything for deducing
well, discovering, if you like that better about these
bolts and magnets."
Skeet burst from the kitchen door of the Thorn-
hill house, caught sight of us, shouted something un
intelligible, and came racing through the grounds
toward Vandeman s.
"Been waiting for me long, angel?" she called, as
Barbara moved up with a lagging step, then, waving
two pairs of overalls, "Got pants for both of us, honey.
THE MAGNET 249
The paints and brushes are over there. We ll make
short work of that old banner, now."
Promised Worth, had I? But the situation was
changed since then. No man of sense could object to
my moving on what I had now. I locked the study
door, went back to my roadster, and headed her up
IT was a thankful if not a joyous Jerry Boyne who
crossed the front pergola of the Vandeman bun
galow that evening in the wake of Worth Gilbert,
bound for an informal dinner. The tall, unconscious
lad who stepped ahead of me had been made safe in
spite of himself. This weight off my mifcd, I felt
kindly to the whole world, to the man under whose
dining table we were to stretch our legs, whose embar
rassing private affairs I had uncovered. He d taken
it well seconding his wife s dinner invitation, meet
ing my eye frankly whenever we encountered. My
mood was expansive. When Vandeman himself
opened the door to us, explaining that he was his own
butler for the day, I saw him quite other than he had
ever appeared to me.
For one thing, here in his own house and this was
the first time I had ever been in it you got the man
with his proper background, his suitable atmosphere.
The handsome living room into which he took us,
showed many old pieces of mahogany, and some of
the finest oriental stuff I ever saw ; books in cases, sets
of standard writers, such as people of culture bought
thirty or forty years ago, some family pictures about.
This was Vandeman ; a lot behind such a fellow, after
all, if he did seem rather a lightweight,
AN ARREST 251
Ina joined us, very beautifully dressed. She also
showed the ability to sink unpleasant considerations in
the present moment of hospitality. We lingered a
moment chatting, then,
"Shall we go and look at the artists working?" she
suggested, and led the way. We followed out onto
a flagged terrace at the rear. A dozen great muslin
strips were tacked over the walls there, and two small
figures, desperate, smudged, wearing the blue overalls
Skeet Thornhill had waved at us, toiled manfully
smearing the blossom festival colors on in lettering
and ornamental designs.
"Ina!"* Skeet yawped at her sister, "Another dirty,
low Irish trick! Get yourself all dressed up like a
sore thumb, and then show us off in this fix !"
Mutely Barbara revolved on the box she occupied.
There was fire in her soft eyes ; her color was high as
her glance came to rest on Worth.
"Fong Ling s nearly ready to serve dinner," said
Ina calmly. "Stop fussing, and go wash up."
"Hello, Mr. Boyne." As Skeet passed me, she
wiped a paw on a paint rag and offered it to me with
out another \vord. I got a grip and a look that told
me there was no hangover with her from that scene
yesterday in her mother s sick-room. Vandeman was
commenting on his depleted bamboo clumps.
"Mine suffered worse than yours, Worth. Fong
Ling kicked like a bay steer about our taking so much.
He s nursed the stuff for years like a fond mother.
But we had to have it for that effect up around the
"Then he s been with you a long time?" I caught
at the chance for information on this chink informa-
252 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
tion that I d found it impossible to get from the chink
"Ever since I came in here. Chinamen, you know
not like Japs. Some loyalty. You can keep a good
one for half a lifetime."
We strolled back to the living room; the girls were
there before us, Skeet picking out bits of plum-
blossoms and bunches of cherry bloom from a great
bowl on the mantel, and sticking them in Barbara s
dark hair, wreath fashion.
"Best we could do at a splurge," she greeted us,
"was to turn in our blouses at the neck."
"And what in the world are you doing to Barbara?"
Mrs. Vandeman said sharply. "Let her alone, Skeet.
You ll make her look ridiculous."
Skeet stuck out her tongue at her sister, and went
calmly on, mumbling as she worked,
"Hold till ittle Barbie child. Yook up at pretty
mans and hold till."
Over the mantel, in front of Barbara as she stood,
her back to us all, hung an oil painting one of those
family groups same old popper; same old mommer,
and a fat baby in a white dress and blue sash. At
that, it was good enough to show that the man had
some resemblance to Vandeman as he leaned there on
the mantel below it, rather encouraging Skeet s enter
prise. From the other side, I could see Barbara s
glance go from man to picture.
"Doesn t it look like Van, Barbie?" Skeet kept up
the conversation. "Got the same ring, and all. But
it ain t Van. Him s the tootsie in there with the blue
ribbon round his tummy."
"I say, Skeeter, lay off!" Vandeman looked self-
AN ARREST 253
consciously from the painted ring in the picture to the
real ring on his own well kept hand there on the
mantel edge. "People aren t interested in family
"I am," said Barbara, unexpectedly. As the gong
sounded and we all began to move toward the dining
room, they were still on the subject and kept it up
after we were seated.
Fong Ling served us. The bride had Worth on her
right, and talked to him in lowered tones. Barbara,
between Vandeman and myself, continued to show an
almost feverish attention to Vandeman. It was plain
enough from where I sat that nothing Ina Vandeman
could say gave the lad any less interest in his plate.
But I suppose with a girl, the mere fact of some other
girl being allowed to show 7 intentions counts. Did the
flapper get what was going on, as she looked proudly
across at her handiwork, and demanded of me,
"Say, Mr. Boyne, you saw how Ina tried to do us
dirt? And now, honest to goodness, hasn t Barbie
with the plum-blossoms got Ina and her artificial
flowers skun a mile?"
I didn t wonder that young Mrs. Vandeman saved
me the necessity of answering, by taking her up.
"Skeet, you re too outrageous!"
There she sat, quite a beauty in a very superior
fashion ; and Worth at her side, was having his atten
tion called to this dark young creature across the table,
whose wonderful still fire, the white blossoms crown
ing her hair, might well have made even a lovelier than
Ina Vandeman look insipid. And Worth did take his
time admiring her ; I saw that ; but all he found to say
254 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"Bobs, I suppose Jerry s told you that he s treed
Clayte at Tiajuana?"
"No," said Barbara, "he hasn t said a word. But
I m just as much surprised at Clayte s being caught
as I was at Skeels escaping capture."
"Say that over and say it slow," Vandeman was
good natured. "Or rather, put it in plain American,
so we all can understand."
"Mr. Boyne knows what I mean." Barbara gave
me a faint smile. "Mr. Boyne and I add up Skeels
and Clayte, and get a different result. That s all."
"Bobs doesn t think that Skeels is Clayte, caught or
uncaught," Worth said briefly and went on eating his
dinner. Apparently he didn t give a hang which way
the fact turned out to be.
"Why don t you?" Vandeman gave passing atten
tion. She shook her head and put it.
"Skeels, at liberty, was quite possibly Clayte; Skeels
captured cannot be Clayte. Mr. Boyne, do you call
that a paradox?"
"No an unkind slam at a poor old man s ability in
his profession. I started out to find a gang ; but Clayte
and Skeels are so exactly one, mentally, morally and
physically, that I don t see why we should seek fur
"Back up, Jerry," Worth tossed it over at me. "Let
Barbara" he didn t often use the girl s full name that
way "give you a description of Clayte before you re
"How could I?" The girl s tone was defensive.
"I never saw him."
"I want you," Worth paid no attention to her
AN ARREST 255
objections, "to describe the man you thought you were
asking for that day at the Gold Nugget, when Jerry
butted in, and your ideas got lost in the excitement
about Skeels. Deduce the description, I mean."
"Deduce it?" Barbara spoke stiffly, incredulously,
her glance going from Worth to the well-gowned, well-
groomed woman beside him. I remembered her mo
ment of rebellion yesterday evening on the lawn, when
she said so bitterly that if he asked it again, she d do it
again, as she finished, "Deduce here?"
"Here and now." Worth s laconic answer sent the
blood of healthy anger into her face, made her eyes
shine. And it brought from Ina Vandeman a petulant,
"Oh, Worth, please don t turn my dinner table into
"Ina, dear." Vandeman raised his eyes at her, then
quite the cordial host urging a guest to display
talent, "They say you re wonderful at that sort of
thing, and I ve never seen it."
Barbara was mad for fair.
"Oh, very well," she spoke pointedly to Vandeman,
and left Worth out of it. "If you think you d really
enjoy seeing me make a side-show of Ina s dinner
She stopped and waited. Vandeman played up to
the situation as he saw it, with one of his ready smiles.
Worth threw no lifetime. Ina didn t think it worth
while to apologize for her rudeness. Skeet was openly
in a twitter of anticipation. There was nothing for
me to do. A little commotion of skirts told us that
she was drawing up her feet to sit cross-legged in her
256 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"She s going to! Oh, golly!" Skeet chortled.
"Haven t seen Bobsy do one of those stunts since I
was a che-ild !"
Arms down, hands clasped, eyes growing bigger,
face paling into snow, we watched her. To all but
Vandeman, this was a more or less familiar perform
ance. They took it rather as a matter of course. It
was the Chinaman, coming in with the coffee tray, who
seemed most strangely affected by it. He stopped
where he was in the doorway, rigid, staring at our
girl, though with a changeful light in his eye that
seemed to me to shift between an unreasonable admira
tion and an unreasonable fear. Orientals are super
stitious; but what could the fellow be afraid of in the
beautiful young thing, Buddha posed, blossoms in her
hair? The girl had gone into her stunt with a sort of
angry energy. He seemed to clutch himself to still
ness for the brief time that it held. Only in the
moment that she relaxed, and we knew that Barbara
had concentrated, Barbara was Barbara again, did he
move quietly forward, a decent, competent servant,
stepping around the table, placing our cups.
"Just two facts to go on," she said coldly. "My
results will be pretty general."
"Nothing to go on in the way of a description of
Clayte," I tried to help her out. "I d call that one
we had of him as near nothing as it well could be."
"Yes, the nothingness of it was one of my facts,"
she said, and stopped.
"Let s hear what you did get, Bobs," Worth
prompted; and Skeet giggled, half under her breath,
"At the Gold Nugget whatever he called himself
AN ARREST 257
there Edward Clayte was ten years younger than he
had seemed at the bank ; he appeared to weigh a dozen
pounds more; threw out his chest, walked with his
head up, and therefore would have been estimated quite
a bit taller. This personality was an opposite of the
other. Bank clerk Clayte was demure, unobtrusive;
this man wore loud patterns. The bank clerk was
silent ; this man talked to every one around him, tilted
his hat over one eye, smoked cigars just as those men
were doing that day in the lobby ; acted like them, was
one of them. In the Gold Nugget, Clayte was a very
average Gold Nugget guest don t you see? Com
monplace there, just as the other Clayte had been
commonplace in a bank or an office."
Her voice ceased. On the silence it left, Worth
spoke up quietly.
"Bull s eye as usual, Bobs. Every word you say is
true. And at the Gold Nugget, his name was Henry
J. Brundage. He had room thirty on the top floor."
Skeet clapped her hands, jumped up and came
around the table to kiss Barbara on the ear, and tell her
she was the most wonderfullest girl in the world.
"Heh!" I flared at Worth. "Find that all out to
day in San Francisco?"
"Oh, it was the Brundage clew that took you
"Yep. Left Louie on the job at the hotel while I
was away. To-day, I went after Brundage s auto
mobile. Found he d kept one in a garage on Jackson
"It s gone, of course and no trace," Barbara mur
258 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"Gone since the day of the bank theft," Worth
nodded. "He and the money went in it."
"Say," I leaned over toward him, "wouldn t it have
saved wear and tear if you d told me at the first that
you knew Skeels couldn t be Clayte?"
"Oh, but, Jerry, you were so sure! And Skeels
wasn t possible for a minute never in his little, pik
ing, tin-horn life!"
I don t believe I had seen Worth so happy since he
was a boy, playing detective. I glanced around and
pulled myself up; we certainly weren t making our
selves very entertaining for the Vandemans. There
they sat, at their own table, like handsome figureheads,
smiling politely, pretending a decent interest.
"All this must be a bore to you people," I apolo
"Not at all not at all," Vandeman assured us.
"Well then if you don t mind Worth, I ll go and
use Vandeman s phone put my office wise to these
Brundage clews of yours."
Worth nodded. No social scruples were his. I had
by no means given up the belief that Skeels in jail at
Tiajuana, would still turn out to be one of the gang.
I had just got back to the table from my phoning
when the doorbell rang; we saw the big Chinese slip
noiselessly through the rear into the hall to answer it,
coming back a moment later, announcing in his
weighty, correct English,
"Two gentlemen calling to see Captain Gilbert."
"Ask for me ?" Worth came to his feet in surprise.
"Who told them I was here?"
"I do not know," the Chinaman spoke unnecessarily
AN ARREST 259
as Worth was crossing to the door. "I did not ask
"Use the living room, Worth," Vandeman called
after him. "We ll wait here."
With the closing of the door, conversation lan
guished. Even Skeet was quiet and seemed depressed.
My ears were straining for any sound from in there.
As I sat, hand dropped at my side, I suddenly felt
under shelter of the screening tablecloth, cold, nervous
fingers slipped into mine. Barbara wasn t looking at
me, but I gave her a quick glance as I pressed her
gripping small hand encouragingly.
She was turned toward Vandeman. Pale to the
lips, her great eyes fixed on the eyes of our host, I
saw with \vonder how he slowly stirred a spoon about
in his emptied coffee cup, and stared back at her with
a face almost as colorless as her own. The bride
glanced from one to the other of them, and spoke
"What s the matter with you two ? You re not un
easy about Worth s callers, are you?"
"No-no-no " Vandeman was the first to come
out of it, responding to her voice a good deal as if
she dashed cold water in his face, his eyes breaking
away from Barbara s, his lips parted in a nervous
smile. He ran a hand through his hair an inelegant
gesture for him at table and laughed a little.
"We ought to be in there," Barbara said to me, a
curious stress in her voice.
"How funny you talk, Barbie," Skeet quavered.
"What do you think s wrong?" And Ina spoke decid
2<5o THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"Worth is one person in the world who can cer
tainly take care of himself, and would rather be let
"If you think there is anything we should do ?"
Vandeman began anxiously, and Skeet took a look
around at our faces and fairly wailed,
"What is it? What s the matter? What do you
think they re doing to Worth in there, Barbie?"
"I d think they were arresting him," Barbara said
in a low, choked tone, "Only they don t know
"Arresting him !" I broke in on her, startled, getting
halfway to my feet ; then as remembrance came to me,
sinking back with, "Certainly not. The murderer of
Thomas Gilbert is already in the county jail. I
arrested Eddie Hughes this morning."
"You arrested Eddie Hughes!" It was a cry
from Barbara. The cold little hand was jerked from
mine. Twisting around in her chair, she stared at me
with a look that made me cold. "Then you ve moved
those two steel bolts for Cummings."
I jumped to my feet. On the instant the door
opened, and in it stood Worth, steady enough, but his
brown tanned face was strangely bleached.
"Jerry," he spoke briefly. "I want you. The
sheriff s come for me."
MRS. BOWMAN SPEAKS
MIDNIGHT in the sheriff s office at San Jose.
And I had to telephone Barbara. She d be
waiting up for my message. The minute I heard her
voice on the wire, I plunged in :
"Yes, yes, yes; done all I could. A horse can do
no more. They ve got Worth. I " The words
stuck in my throat ; but they had to come out "I left
him in a cell."
A sound came over the wire ; whether speech or not,
it was something I couldn t get.
"He s taking it like a man and a soldier, girl," I
hurried. "Not a word out of him about my having
gone counter to his express orders, arrested Hughes,
and pulled this thing over on us."
"Oh, Mr. Boyne! Of course he wouldn t blame
you. Neither would I. You acted for what you
thought was his good. The others "
"Vandeman s already gone home. Tell you he
stood by well, Barbara that tailor s dummy ! Sur
prised me. No, no. Didn t let Jim Edwards come
with us; so broken up I didn t want him along only
hurt our case over here, the way he is now."
"Your case?" she spoke out clearly. "What is the
"A murder charge against Worth on the secret files.
262 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
Hughes is out Cummings got him took him, don t
know where. Can t locate him."
"Do you need to?"
"Perhaps not, Barbara. What I do need is some
one who saw Thomas Gilbert alive that night after
Worth left to go back to San Francisco."
"And if you had that some one?"
"If we could produce before Cummings one credible
witness to that, it would mean an alibi. I d have
Worth out before morning."
"Then, Mr. Boyne, get to the Fremont House here as
quickly as you can. Mr. Cummings is there. Get
him out of bed if you have to. I ll bring the proof
"But, child!" I began.
"Don t waste time talking! How long will it
take you to get here;?"
"Half an hour."
"Oh ! You may have to wait for me a little. But
I ll surely come. Wait in Mr. Cummings room."
Half past twelve when I reached the Fremont
House, to find it all alight, its lobby and corridors surg
ing with the crowd of blossom festival guests. No
body much in the bar; soft drinks held little interest;
but in the upper halls, getting to Cummings room, I
passed more than one open door where the hip-pocket
cargoes were unloading, and was even hailed by name,
with invitations to come in and partake. Cummings
was still up. The first word he gave me was,
"Dykeman s here."
"Glad of it," I said. "Bring him in. I want you
It took a good deal of argument before he brought
MRS. BOWMAN SPEAKS 263
the Western Cereal man from the adjoining room
\vhere he had evidently been just getting ready for bed.
He came to the conference resentful as a soreheaded
"Maybe you think Worth Gilbert will sleep well to
night in jail?" I stopped him, and instantly differ
entiated the two men before me. Cummings took it,
with an ugly little half smile; Dykeman rumpled his
hair, and bolstered his anger by shouting at me,
This country ll go to the dogs if we make an exempt
class of our returned soldiers. Break the laws
they ll have to take the consequences, just as a man
that was too old or too sickly to fight would have to
take em. If I d done what Captain Gilbert s done I
wouldn t expect mercy."
"You mean, if you d done what you say he s done,"
I countered. "Nothing proved yet."
"Nothing proved? Dykeman huddled in his chair
and shivered. Cummings shook out an overcoat and
helped him into it. He settled back with a protesting
air of being about to leave us, and finished squeakily,
"Didn t need to prove that he had Clayte s suitcase."
"Good Lord, Mr. Dykeman! You re not lending
yourself to accuse a man like Worth Gilbert of so
grave a crime as murder, just because you found his
ideas irregular maybe reckless in a matter of
"Don t answer, Dykeman !" Cummings jumped in.
"Boyne s trying to get you to talk."
The old chap stared at me doubtfully, then broke
loose with a snort,
"See here, Boyne, you can t get away from it; your
man Gilbert has embarked on a criminal career: mixed
264 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
up in the robbery of our bank, with Clayte to rob us;
had our own attorney go through the form of raising
money to buy us off from the pursuit of Clayte
"How about me?" I stuck in the question as he
paused for breath. "Do you think Worth Gilbert
would put me on the track of a man he didn t want
Cummings cut in ahead to answer for him,
"Just the point. You ve not done any good at the
inquiry; never will, so long as you stand with Worth
Gilbert. He needed a detective who would believe in
him through thick and thin. And he found such a
man in you."
I could not deny it when Dykeman yipped at me,
"Ain t that true? If it was anybody else, wouldn t
you see the connection ? Captain Gilbert came here to
Santa Ysobel that Saturday night as we ve got wit
nesses to testify had a row with his father we ve
got witnesses for that, too the word money passed
between them again and again in that quarrel and
then the young man had the nerve to walk into our
bank next morning with his father s entire holdings of
our stock in Clayte s suitcase Boyne, you re crazy!"
"Maybe not," I said, reckoning on something human
in Dykeman to appeal to. "You see I know where
Worth got that suitcase. It came out of my office
vault evidence we d gathered in the Clayte hunt.
Getting it and using it that way was his idea of humor,
"Sounds fishy." Dykeman made an uncomfortable
shift in his chair. But Cummings came close, and
standing, hands rammed down in the pockets of his
coat, let me have it savagely.
MRS. BOWMAN SPEAKS 265
"Evidence, Boyne, is the only thing that would give
you a license to rout men out at this time of night
new evidence. Have you got it? If not "
"Wait." I preferred to stop him before he told me
to get out. "Wait." I looked at my watch. In the
silence we could hear the words of -a yawp from one
of the noisy rooms when a passerby was hailed :
"There she goes ! There look at the chickens !"
A minute later, a tap sounded on the door. Cum-
mings stood by while I opened it to Barbara, and a
slender, veiled woman, taller by half a head in spite of
bent shoulders and the droop of weakness which made
the girl s supporting arm apparently necessary.
At sight of them, Dykeman had come to his feet,
biting off an exclamation, looking vainly around the
bare room for chairs, then suggesting,
"Get some from my room, Boyne/
I went through the connecting door to fetch a couple.
When I came back, Barbara was still standing, but her
companion had sunk into the seat the shivering, un
comfortable old man offered, and Cummings was
bringing a glass of water for her. She sipped it, still
under the shield of her veil. This was never Ina Van-
deman. Could it be that Barbara had dragged Mrs.
Thornhill from her bed? I saw Barbara bend and
whisper reassuringly. Then the veil was swept back,
it caught and carried the hat with it from Laura Bow
man s shining, copper colored hair, and the doctor s
wife sat there ghastly pale, evidently very weak, but
more composed than I had ever seen her.
"I m all right now," she spoke very low.
"Miss Wallace," Dykeman demanded harshly.
"Who is this lady?"
266 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"Mrs. Bowman," Barbara looked her employer very
straight in the eye.
"Heh?" he barked. "Any relation to Dr. Bowman
any connection with him?"
"His wife." Cummings bent and mumbled to the
older man for a moment.
"Laura," Barbara said gently, "this is Mr. Dyke-
man. You re to tell him and Mr. Cummings."
"Yes," breathed Mrs. Bowman. "I ll tell them.
I m ready to tell anybody. There s nothing in dodg
ing, and hiding, and being afraid. I m done with it.
Now what is it you want to know?"
Cummings expression said plainer than words that
they didn t want to know anything. They had their
case fixed up and their man arrested, and they didn t
wish to be disturbed. She went on quickly, of her-,
"I believe I was the last person who saw Mr. Gilbert
alive. I must have been. I d rushed over there, just
as Ina told you, Mr. Boyne, between the reception and
our getting off for San Francisco."
"All this concerns the early part of the evening/
put in Cummings.
"Yes but it concerns Worth, too. He was there
when I came in. ... It was very painful."
"The quarrel between Captain Gilbert and his father
d ye mean?" Dykeman asked his first question.
Mrs. Bowman nodded assent.
"Thomas went right on, before me, just as though
I hadn t been there. Then, when it came my turn, he
would have spoken out before Worth of of my pri^
vate affairs. That was his way. But I couldn t stand
it. I went with Worth out to his machine. He had
MRS. BOWMAN SPEAKS 267
it in the back road. We talked there a little while,
and Worth drove away, going fast, headed for San
"And that was the last time you saw Thomas Gilbert
alive?" Cummings summed up for her.
"I hadn t finished," she objected mildly. "After
Worth was gone, I went back into the study and
pleaded with Thomas for a long time. I pointed out
to him that if I d sinned, I d certainly suffered, and
what I asked was no more than the right any human
being has, even if they may be so unfortunate as to be
born a woman."
Dykeman looked exquisitely miserable; but Cum
mings was only the lawyer getting rid of an unwanted
witness, as he warned her,
"Not the slightest need to go into your personal
matters, Mrs. Bowman. We know them already.
We knew also of your visit to Mr. Gilbert s study that
night, and that you didn t go there alone. Had the
testimony been of any importance to us, we d have
called in both you and James Edwards."
I could see that her deep concern for another steadied
"How do you know all this?" she demanded.
"Who told you?"
"Your husband, Doctor Bowman."
Up came the red in her face, her eyes shone with
"He did follow me, then? I thought I saw him
creeping through the shrubbery on the lawn."
"He did follow you. He has told us of your being
at the study the two of you when young Gilbert
268 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"See here, Cummings," I put in, "if Bowman was
around the place, then he knows that Worth left before
the crime was committed. Why hasn t he told you
"He has," Cummings said neatly; and I felt as
though something had slipped. Barbara kept a brave
front, but Mrs. Bowman moaned audibly.
"And still you ve charged Worth Gilbert ? Why not
Bowman himself? He was there. As much reason
to suspect him as any of the others. Do you mean to
tell me that you won t accept Mrs. Bowman s testimony
and Dr. Bowman s as proving an alibi for Worth
Gilbert? I m ready to swear that he was at Tait s
at five minutes past ten, was there continuously from
that time until a little after midnight, when you your
self saw him there."
"A little past midnight!" Cummings repeated my
words half derisively. "Not good enough, Boyne.
We base our charge on the medical statement that Mr.
Gilbert met his death in the small hours of Sunday
I looked away from Barbara; I couldn t bear her
eye. After a stunned silence, I asked,
"Whose? Who makes that statement?"
"His own physician. Doctor Bowman swears "
"He?" Mrs. Bowman half rose from her chair.
"He d swear to anything. I "
"Don t say any more," Cummings cut her off. And
"Had the whole history of your marital infelicities
all over the shop. Too bad such things had to be
dragged in. Man seems to be a worthy person "
"Doctor Bowman told me positively," I broke in,
MRS. BOWMAN SPEAKS 269
"on the Sunday night the body was found, that death
must have occured before midnight."
"Gave that as his opinion his opinion then,"
Cummings corrected me.
"Yes," I accepted the correction. "That was his
opinion before he quarreled with Worth. Now he "
"Slandering Bowman won t get you anywhere,
Boyne/ Cummings said. "He wasn t here to testify
at the inquest. Man alive, you know that nothing but
sworn testimony counts."
"I wouldn t believe that man s oath," I said shortly.
"Think you ll find a jury will," smirked Cummings,
and Dykeman croaked in,
"A mighty credible witness a mighty credible wit
While these pleasant remarks flew back and forth, a
thumping and bumping had made itself heard in the
hall. Now something came against our door, as
though a large bundle had been thrown at the panels.
The knob rattled, jerked, was turned, and a man
appeared on the threshold, swaying unsteadily. Two
others, who seemed to have been holding him back,
let go all at once, and he lurched a step into the room.
Doctor Anthony Bowman.
A minute he stood blinking, staring, then he caught
sight of his wife and bawled out,
"She s here all right. Tol you she was here. Can t
fool me. Saw her go past in the hall."
I looked triumphantly at Dykeman and Cummings.
Their star witness drunk as a lord! So far he
seemed to have sensed nothing in the room but his
wife. Without turning, he reached behind him and
slammed the door in the faces of those who had
270 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
brought him, then advanced weavingly on the woman,
"Get up from there. Get your hat. I ll show you.
You come long home with me! Ain t I your hus
"Doctor Bowman," peppery little old Dykeman
spoke up from the depths of his chair. "Your wife
was brought here to a to a "
"Meeting," Cummings supplied hastily.
"Huh?" Bowman wheeled and saw us. "Why-ee!
Di n know so many gen lemen here."
"Yes," 1 the lawyer put a hand on his shoulder.
"Conference over the evidence in the Gilbert case.
No time like the present for you to say "
"HoP on a minute," Bowman raised a hand with
"Cummings," said Dykeman disgustedly, "the man s
"No, no," owlishly. " m not ntoxicated. Over
come with motion." Hetook a brace. "That woman
there f I sh d tell you walk into hotel room, find her
with three men! Three of em!"
"How much of this are these ladies to stand for?"
"Ladies?" Bowman roared suddenly. "She s m
wife. Where s th other man? Nothing gainst you
gen lmen. Where s he? I ll settle with him. Let
that thing go long nough. Too long. Bring 1 him
out. I ll settle him now!"
He dropped heavily into the chair Cummings shoved
up behind him, stared around, drooped a bit, pulled
himself together, and looked at us; then his head went
forward on his neck, a long breath sounded
MRS. BOWMAN SPEAKS 271
"And you ll keep Worth Gilbert in jail, run the
risk of a suit for false imprisonment on that! 1 I
wanted to know.
"And plenty more," the lawyer held steady, but I
saw his uneasiness with every snore Bowman drew.
Barbara crossed to speak low and earnestly to Dyke-
man. I heard most of his answer shaken, but dis
posed to hang on,
"Girl like you is too much influenced by the man in
the case. Hero worship all that sort of thing. An
outlaw is an outlaw. This isn t a personal matter.
Mr. Cummings and I are merely doing our duty as
At that, I think it possible that Dykeman \vould have
listened to reason; it was Cummings who broke in
"Barbara Wallace, I was your father s friend. I m
yours if you ll let me be. I can t stand by while
you entangle yourself with a criminal like Worth Gil
bert. For your sake, if for no other reason, I would
be determined to show him up as what he is : a thief
and his father s murderer."
Silence in the room, except the irregular snoring of
Bowman, a rustle and a deeply taken breath now and
again where Mrs. Bowman sat, her head bent, quietly
weeping. On this, Barbara who spoke out clearly,
"Those were the last words you will ever say to me,
Mr. Cummings, unless you should some time be man
enough to take back your aspersions and apologize for
He gave ground instantly. I had not thought that
dry voice of his could contain what now came into it.
"Barbara, I didn t mean vou don t understand "
272 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
But without turning her head, she spoke to me:
"Mr. Boyne, will you take Laura and me home?"
gathering up Mrs. Bowman s hat and veil, shaking the
latter out, getting her charge ready as a mother might
a child. "She s not going back to him ever again/
Her glance passed over the sleeping lump of a man in
his chair. "Sarah ll make a place for her at our house
"See here," Cummings got between us and the door^
"I can t let you go like this. I feel "
"Mr. Dykeman," Barbara turned quietly to her em
ployer, "could we pass out through your room?"
"Certainly," the little man was brisk to make a way
for us. "I want you to know, Miss Wallace, that I,
too, feel I, too, feel "
I don t know what it was that Dykeman felt, but
Cummings felt my rude elbow in his chest as I pushed
him unceremoniously aside, and opened the door he
had blocked, remarking,
"We go out as we came in. This way, Barbara."
It was as I parted with the two of them at the Cape-
hart gate that I drew out and handed Mrs. Bowman
a small piece of dull blue silk, a round hole in it,
such as a bullet or a cigarette might have made, with,
"I guess you ll just have to forgive me that."
"I don t need to forgive it," her gaze swam. "I
saw your mistake. But it was for Worth you were
fighting even then; he s been so dear to me always
I d have to love any one for anything they did for
THE BLOSSOM FESTIVAL
TWO hours sleep, bath, breakfast, and I started
on my early morning run for the county seat.
Nobody else was going my way ; but even at that hour,
the road was full of autos, buggies, farm wagons,
pretty much everything that could run on wheels,
headed for the festival, all trimmed and streaming with
the blossoming branches of their orchards. These
were the country folks, coming in early to make a
big day of it; orchardists; ranchers from the cattle
lands in the south end of the county; truck and vege
table farmers; flower-seed gardeners; the Japs and
Chinese from their little, closely cultivated patches;
this tide streamed past me on my left hand, as I made
my way to Worth and the jailer s office, trying with
every mile I put behind me, to bolster my courage.
Why wasn t this shift of the enemy a blessing in dis
guise? Let their setting of the hour for the murder
stick, and wouldn t Worth s alibi be better than any we
should have been able to dig up for him before mid
From time to time I was troubled by recollection of
Barbara s crushed look from the moment they sprung
it on us, but brushed that aside with the obvious ex
planation that her efforts in bringing Mrs. Bowman
to speak out had just been of no use; surely enough
to depress her.
274 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
Worth met me, fit, quiet, not over eager about any
thing. They let us talk with a guard outside the door.
Once alone, he listened appreciatively while I told him
of our interview with Cummings and Dykeman as fast
as I could pile the words out.
"Nobody on earth like Bobs," was his sole comment.
"Never was, never will be."
"And now," I reminded him nervously, "there s the
question of this alibi. You went straight from the
restaurant to your room at the Palace and to bed
"No-o," he said slowly. "No, I didn t."
"Well well," I broke in. "If you stopped on the
way, you can remember where. The people you spoke
to will be as good as the clerks and bell-hops at the
Palace for your alibi." He sat silent, thoughtful, and
I added, "Where did you go from Tait s, Worth?"
"To a garage in the Tenderloin where they keep
good cars. I d hired machines from them before."
"Oh, they knew you there? Then their testimony
"I don t believe you want it, Jerry. It only accounts
for the half hour or less right after I left you ; all
I did was to hire a car."
"A car," I echoed vaguely. "What kind of a car?
Hired it for when?"
"I asked them for the fastest thing they had in the
shop. Told em to fill it all round, and see that it
was tuned up to the last notch. I wanted speed."
"My God, Worth ! Do you know what you re tell
"The truth, Jerry." His eye met mine unflinch
ingly. "That s what you want, isn t it?"
THE BLOSSOM FESTIVAL 275
"Where did you go?" I groaned. "You must have
seen somebody who could identify or remember you?"
"Not a solitary human being to identify me. Those
I passed there were people out of course, late as it
was saw my headlights as I went by. But I was
moving fast, Jerry. I was working off a grouch; I
"Where did you go?"
"Straight down the peninsula on the main high
way to Palo Alto, made the sweep across to the sea,
and then up the coast road. I ran into the garage
"No stops anywhere?"
He shook his head.
"And that s your alibi?"
"That s my alibi." Worth looked at me a long
while before he said finally,
"Don t you see, Jerry, that the other side had all
this before they encouraged Bowman to change his
mind about when father was shot?"
I did see it ought to have known from the first.
This was what they had back of them last night in
Cummings room; this explained the lawyer s smug
self-confidence, Dykeman s violent certainty that
Worth was a criminal. A realization of this had
whitened Barbara s face, set her lips in that pitiful,
straight line. As to their momentary chagrin over
Bowman; no trouble to them to get other physicians
to bolster any opinion he d given. Medical testimony
on such a point is notoriously uncertain. All the
jury would want to know was that there could be such
a possibility. I sat there with bent head, and felt my
self going to pieces. Cummings was right I was no
276 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
fit man to handle this job. My personal feelings
were too deeply involved. It was Worth s voice that
"Cheer up, Jerry, old man. Take it to Bobs,"
Take it to Bobs the idea of a big, husky old police
detective running to cast his burden on such shoulders !
I couldn t quite do it then. I went and telephoned the
little girl that I was doing the best I could and then
ran circles for the rest of the day, chasing one vain
hope after another, and finally, in the late afternoon,
sneaked home to Santa Ysobel.
Now I had the road more to myself; only an oc
casional handsome car, where the wealthy were getting
in to the part of the festival they d care for. In the
orchards near town where the big picnic places had
been laid out with rough board tables and benches,
seats for thousands, there were occasional loud basket
lunch parties scattered. All at once I was hungry
enough to have gone and asked for a handout.
I went by back streets down to the house to get my
mail. There seemed no human reason that I should
feel it a treachery to have Worth in jail at San Jose,
and be able to walk into his house at Santa Ysobel a
free man. The place was empty; Chung had the day
off, of course. It was possible Worth s cook, even,
didn t know what had happened to his employer.
Santa Ysobel had no morning paper. In the confu
sion of the blossom festival, I ventured to guess that
not more than a score of people did as yet know of
the arrest. Our end of town was drained, quiet ; no
body over at the Vandeman bungalow; looking down
at the Square as I made my sneak through, I had
caught a glimpse of Bronson Vandeman, a great ro-
THE BLOSSOM FESTIVAL 277
sette of apricot blossoms on his coat lapel, making his
speech of presentation to the cannery girl queen, while
his wife, Ina, her fair face shaded doubly by a big
flower hat and a blossom covered parasol, listened and
One of my pieces of mail concerned the Skeels
chase. If my men down there had Skeels, and Skeels
was Clayte, it would mean everything in handling
Cummings and Dykeman. I took out the report and
ran hastily through it; a formal statement; day by
"Found Skeels and Dial at Tiajuana. Negotiating
to buy saloon and gambling house. Arranged with
Jefico for arrest of S. (Expense $20.) Rurales took
S. to jail. (Expense, $4.50) I interviewed S., and
he said lie came here to open a business where he could
sell booze. D. was his partner in proposition. S.
knew nothing of bank affair. Would waive extradi
tion and come back to stand trial at our expense.
Interviewed D. He says combined capital of two is
$4500., saved from S s business and D s miner s
wages. D. said- "
Not much to show up with; but there were three
photographs enclosed that I wanted to try on Cum
mings and Dykeman. No telling where I d find either,
but the Fremont House was my best bet. Getting
back there through the crowd, I saw Skeet Thornhill
in a corner drugstore, waiting at its counter. I was
afoot, having been obliged to park my roadster in one
of the spaces set apart for this purpose. I noticed
Vandeman s car already there.
I lingered a minute on that corner*looking down the
278 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
slope that led to City Hall Square. Tent restaurants
along the way; sandwiches; hot dogs; coffee; milk;
pies; doughnuts. Part way down a hurdy-gurdy in
a tent began to get patronage again ; the school children
in white dresses with pink bows in their hair had just
finished a stunt in the Square. They and their elders
were streaming our way, headed for the snake charm
ers, performing dogs and Nigger-in-the-tank. In the
midst of them Vandeman and his wife came afoot.
He caught sight of me, hailed, and when I joined them,
asked quickly, glancing toward the drugstore entrance,
"Worth come with you?"
I shook my head. He made that little clucking
sound with his tongue that people do when they want
to offer sympathy, and find the matter hard to put into
A seller of toy balloons on the corner with a lot of
-noisy youngsters around him; the ka-lash, ka-lam of
a mechanical piano further down the block ; and young
Mrs. Vandeman s staccato tones saying,
"I tell Bron that the only thing Worth s friends
can do is to go on exactly as if nothing had happened.
Don t you think so, Mr. Boyne?"
I agreed mutely.
"Well, I wish you d say so to Barbie Wallace/ her
voice sharpened. "She s certainly acting as though
she believed the worst."
"Now, Ina," Vandeman remonstrated. And I asked
"What s Barbie done ? Where is she ?"
"Up at Mrs. Capehart s. In her room. Doesn t
come out at all. Isn t going to the ball to-night.
Skeet said she refused to speak to Mr. Cummings."
THE BLOSSOM FESTIVAL 279
"Is that all Skeet said? Vandeman, you ve told
your wife that Cummings swore to the complaint? *
"Yes, but er there s no animus. The executor of
Gilbert s estate With all the talk going around
If Worth s proved innocent, he might in the end be
glad of Cummings action."
"Oh, might he?" Skeet Thornhill had hurried out
from the drugstore, a package of medicine in her hand.
Her eyes looked as though she d been crying; they
flashed a hostile glance over the new brother-in-law,
excellently groomed, the big flower favor on his coat,
the tall, beautiful sister, all frilly white and flower
"// Worth s proved innocent!" she flung at them.
"Bronse Vandeman, you ve got a word too many in
when you say that."
"Just a tongue-slip, Skeeter," Vandeman apologized.
"I hope the boy ll come through all right same as
"You don t do anything about it the same as I do!"
Skeet came back. "I d be ashamed to hope for a
friend to be cleared of a charge like that. If I couldn t
know he was clear clear all the time I d try to for
get about it."
"See here, Skeet," Ina obviously restrained herself,
"that s what we re all trying to do for Worth : forget
about it make nothing of it act exactly as if it d
never happened. You ought to come on out to the
ball with the other girls. You re just staying away
because Barbara Wallace is."
"I m not. Some damn fool went and told mother
about Worth being arrested, and made her a lot worse.
She s almost crazy. I d be afraid to leave her alone
280 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
with old Jane. You get me and this medicine up
home or shall I go around to Capehart s and have
Barbie drive me?"
"I ll take you, Skeeter," Vandeman said. "We re
through here. We re for home to dress, then to the
country club and not leave it again till morning.
That ball out there has got to be made the biggest
thing Santa Ysobel ever saw regardless. Come on."
The crowd swallowed them up.
Making for the Fremont House, I passed Dr. Bow
man s stairway, and on impulse turned, ran up. I
found the doctor packing, very snappish, very sorry
for himself. He was leaving next day for a position
in the state hospital for the insane at Sefton. His
kind have to blow off to somebody; I was it, though
he must have known I had no sympathy to offer. The
hang-over of last night s drunk made emotional the
tone in which he said,
"After all, a man s wife makes or breaks him.
Mine s broken me. I could have had a fine position
at the Mountain View Sanitarium, well paid, among
cultured people, if she d held up her damned divorce
suit a little longer."
"And as it is, you have to put up with what Cum-
mings can land you with such pull as he has."
"I m not complaining of Cumrnings," sullenly. "He
did the best he could for me, I suppose, on such short
notice. But a man of my class is practically wasted
in a place of the sort."
I had learned what I wanted; I carried more
ammunition to the interview before me. I found
Dykeman in his room, propped up in bed, wheezing
with an attack of asthma. A sick man is either more
THE BLOSSOM FESTIVAL 281
merciful than usual, or more unmerciful. Apparently
it took Dykeman the former way; he accepted me
eagerly, and had me call Cummings from the adjoining
room. The lawyer was half into that costume he had
brought from San Francisco. He came quite modern
as to the legs and feet, but thoroughly ancient in a shirt
of mail around the arms and chest, and carrying a
Roman helmet in his hand as though it had been an
"Trying em on?" Dykeman whispered at him.
Cummings nodded with that self-conscious, half-
tickled, half -sheepish air that men display when it
comes to costume. His greeting to me was cool but
not surly. What had happened might go as all in the
day s work between detective and lawyer.
"Just seen Bowman," was my first pass at them.
"I gather he s not very well pleased with the position
you got him; seems to think it small pay for a dirty
"What s this? What s this?" croaked Dykeman.
"You been getting a place for Bowman, Cummings?"
"Certainly," the lawyer dodged with swift, practical
neatness. "I d promised him my influence in the
matter some little time ago."
"Yes," I said, "mighty little time ago the day he
promised the testimony you wanted in the Gilbert
"Anything in what Boyne says, Cummings?" Dyke
man asked anxiously. "You know I wouldn t stand
for that sort of stuff."
The lawyer shook his head, but I didn t believe it
was ended between them; Dykeman was the devil to
hang on to a point. This would come up again after
282 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
I was gone. Meantime I made haste to shove the
photographs before them. Cummings passed them
back with an indifferent, "What s the idea?"
"You don t recognize him?"
"Never saw the man in my life," and again he asked,
"What s the idea?"
"You d recognize a picture of Clayte?" I countered
with a question of my own.
"Yes I think so," rather dubiously. "But Dyke-
man would. Show them to him."
Dykeman reached for the photographs, spread them
out before him, then looked up from them peevishly to
"For the good Lord s sake! Don t look any more
like Clayte than it does like a horned toad. Is that
what you ve been wasting your time over, Boyne? If
you ask me "
"I don t ask you anything," retrieving the pictures,
planting them deep in an inner pocket. Then I got
myself out of the room.
Standing on the sidewalk in front of the Fremont
House, I felt sort of bewildered. This last crack had
taken all the pep I had left. I suddenly realized it
was long after dinner time, and I d had no dinner, no
lunch, nothing to eat since an early breakfast. Worth
had sent me to the girl and I hadn t gone. I dragged
myself around to Capehart a cottage as nearly whipped
as I ever was in my life.
I found Barbara with Laura Bowman, every ono
else off the place, out at the shows. Those girls sure
were good to me ; they fed me and didn t ask questions
till I was ready to talk. Nothing to be said really,
except that I d failed. I told them of meeting the
THE BLOSSOM FESTIVAL 283
Vandemans, and gave them Ina Vandeman s opinion
as to how Worth s friends should conduct themselves
"So they ll all be out there," I concluded, "Van-
deman and his wife leading the grand march, her sis
ters as maids of honor except Skeet, staying at home
with her mother. Cummings goes as a Roman soldier ;
Doctor Bowman as a Spanish cavalier. Edwards
didn t see it as the Vandemans do, but after I d talked
to him awhile, he agreed to be there."
And suddenly I noticed for the first time how the
relative position of these two women had shifted.
Laura Bowman wasn t red-headed for nothing; out
from under the blight of Bowman and that hateful
marriage, she had already thrown off some of her
physical frailness; the nervous tension showed itself
now in energy. She was moving swiftly about putting
to rights after my meal while she listened. But Bar
bara sat looking straight ahead of her; I knew she was
seeing streets full of carnival, every friend and
acquaintance out at a ball and Worth in a murderer s
cell. It wouldn t do. I jumped to my feet with a
"Girl, where s your hat? We ll go to the study and
look over all our points once more. Get busy get
busy. That s the medicine for you."
She gave me a miserable look and a negative shake
of the head; but I still urged, "Worth sent me to you.
The last thing he said was, Take it to Bobs/
Dumbly she submitted. Mrs. Bowman came run
ning with the girl s hat, and, "What about me, Mr.
Boyne? Isn t there something I can do?"
"I wish you d go to the country club to the ball
284 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
the same as all the others. Got a costume here, haven t
"Yes, I can wear Barbara s," she glanced to where
a pile of soft black stuff, a red scarf, a scarlet poppy
wreath, lay on a chair, "She was to have gone as The
Lady of Dreams. "
Barbara went with me out into the flare of carnival
illumination that paled the afterglow of a gorgeous
sunset No cars allowed on these down-town streets;
even walking, we found it best to take the long way
round. To our left the town roared and racketed as
though it was afire. Nothing said between us till I
"I wish I knew where Cummings was keeping Eddie
Barbara s voice beside me answered unexpectedly,
"Here. In Santa Ysobel. Eddie was at Capehart s
fifteen minutes before you got there; he came for Bill.
A gasoline engine at the city hall had broken down."
I pulled up short for a moment, and looked back at
"With Bill, to the city hall. Eddie s one of the
queen s guards. They re all to be at the country club
at ten o clock to review the grand march that opens
I mustn t let her dwell on that. I hurried on once
more, and neither of us spoke again till I unlocked the
study door, snapped on the lights, brought out and put
on the table the 1920 diary and the little blue blotter
the last bits of evidence that I felt hadn t been thor
oughly analysed. Barbara just dropped into a chair
and looked from them to me helplessly.
THE BLOSSOM FESTIVAL 285
"You ve read this all carefully?" she sighed.
It shook me. To have Barbara, the girl I d seen
get meanings and facts from a written page with a
mere flirt of a glance, ask me that. What I really
wanted from her was an inspection of the book and
blotter, and a deduction from it. As though she
guessed, she answered with a sort of wail,
"I can t I can t even remember what I did see when
I looked at these before. I can t remember!"
I went and knelt on the hearth with a pretext of lay
ing a fire there, since the shut-up room was chill. And
when I glanced stealthily over my shoulder, she had
gone to work ; not as I had ever seen her before, but
fumbling at the leaves, hesitating, turning to finger the
blotter ; setting her lips desperately, like an over-driven
school-child, but keeping right on. I spun out my fire
building to leave her to herself. Little noises of her
moving there at the table; rustle and flutter of the
leaves ; now and again, a long, sobbing breath. At last
something like a groan caused me to turn my head and
see her, with face pale as death, eyes staring across
"It was Clayte Edward Clayte who killed Mr.
Gilbert here in this room."
The hair on the back of my neck stirred; I thought
the girl had gone mad. As I ran over to the table
and looked at what was under her hand, it came again.
"He did. He did. It was Clayte the wonder
"Do do you deduce that, Barbara?"
"Did I ?" she raised to mine the face of a sick child.
"I must have. See it s here on the blotter: y-t-e/
that s Clavte. Double 1-e-r; that s teller. Avenue
286 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
is part of Van Ness Avenue Bank. Oh, yes; I de
duced it, I suppose. Both crimes end in a locked room
and a perfect alibi. But but don t you see, if it is
true and it is it is we re worse off than we were
before. We ve the wonder man against us."
"Barbara," I cried. "Barbara, come out of it!"
"See? You don t believe in me any more" and her
head went down on the table.
I let her cry, while I sat and thought. The broken
sentences she d sobbed out to me began to fit up like a
puzzle-game. By all theories of good detective work, I
should have seen from the first the similarity of these
crimes. But Clayte, slipping in here to do this murder
and why? What mixed him up with affairs here?
And then the icy pang Dykeman had seen a connec
tion Cummings had found one. With them, it was
Clayte and his gang and his gang was Worth Gilbert.
I went and touched Barbara on the shoulder.
"I m going to take you home now."
"Yes," tears running down her face as she stumbled
to her feet. "I m a failure. I can t do anything for
I wiped her cheeks with my own handkerchief and
led her out. As I turned from locking the door, it
seemed to me I saw something move in the shrubbery.
I asked Barbara Wallace about it. She hadn t noticed
anything. Barbara Wallace hadn t noticed anything!
I began to be scared for her. Solemn in the sky
above boomed out the town clock two strokes. Half
past nine. I must get this poor child home. We were
getting in toward the noise and the light when I felt
her shiver, and stopped to say,
"Did I forget your coat? Why, where s your hat?"
THE BLOSSOM FESTIVAL 287
"The hat s back there. I had no coat. It doesn t
make any difference. Come on. I can t can t I
must get home."
I looked at her, saw she was about at the end of her
strength, and decided quickly,
"We ll go straight through the Square. Save time
She offered no objection, and we started in where
the bands played for the street dances, amid the
raucous tooting of a thousand fish-horns, the clangor
of cow-bells, and the occasional snap of the forbidden
fire-cracker. As we turned from Broad Street into
Main, I found that the congestion was greater even
than I had supposed. Here, several blocks away from
the city hall, progress was so difficult that I took Bar
bara back a block to get the street that paralleled Main.
This we could navigate slowly. Here, also, every
body was masked. Confetti flew, serpentines unreeled
themselves out through the air, dusters spluttered in
faces, and among the Pierrettes, Pierrots, Columbines,
sombrero-ed cowboys, bandana-ed cow-girls, Indians,
Sambos, Topsies and Poppy Maidens, Barbara s little
white linen slip and soft white sweater, and my grey
business suit, were more conspicuous than would have
been the Ahkoond of Swat and his Captive Slave.
Even after the confetti had sprinkled her black hair
until it reminded me of Skeet s blossom wreath, in
finitely multiplied, I still saw the glances through the
eye-holes of masks follow us wonderingly.
Opposite the city hall, where we must cross to get to
the Capehart street, we were again almost stopped by
the dense crowd. The Square was a green-turfed
dancing floor; from its stand, an orchestra jazzed out
288 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
the latest and dizziest of dances ; and countless couples
one-stepped on the grass, on the asphalt of the streets,
even over the lawns of adjacent houses, tree trunks
and flower beds adding more things to be dodged. At
one corner, where the crowd was thick, we saw a big
man being wound to a pole by paper serpentines.
Yelling and capering, the masked dancers milled
around and around him, winding the gay ribbons, while
others with confetti and the Spanish cascarones, tried
to snow him under. As we came up, a big fist wagged
and Bill Capehart s voice roared,
"Hold on ! Too much is a-plenty !"
He tore himself loose, streaming with paper strips,
bent and filled his fists from the confetti at his feet.
His tormentors howled and dropped back as much as
they could for the hemming crowd; he rushed them,
heaving paper ammunition in a hail-storm, and reached
us in two or three jumps.
"Golly !" he roared, "Me for a cyclone cellar ! This
is a riot. You ain t in costume, either. Wonder they
wouldn t pick on you."
With the- words they did. I put Barbara behind me,
and was conscious only of a blinding snow of paper
flakes, the punch and slap of dusters, in an uproar of
horns and bells.
"Good deal like fighting a swarm of bees in your
shirt-tail with a willow switch," old Bill panted at my
shoulder. "Gosh!" as the snapping of firecrackers let
loose beneath our feet. "Some o these mosquito-net
skirts 11 get afire next then there ll be hell a-pop-
Close at hand there was a louder report, as of a
giant cracker, and at that Barbara sagged against me.
THE BLOSSOM FESTIVAL 289
I whirled and put an arm about her. Bill grabbed
her from me, and lifted her above the pressure of the
crowd. I charged ahead, shouting,
"Gangway! Let us through!"
Willing enough, the mob could not make room for
passage until my shoulder, lowered to strike at the
breast, forced a way, that closed in the instant Bill
gained through. It was football tactics, with me
bucking the line, Bill carrying the ball. Fortunately,
the bunch was a good-natured festival gathering, or
my rough work might have brought us trouble. As
it was, a short, stiff struggle took us to the outer fringe
of the mob.
"How is she? What happened?" I grunted, com
ing to a stop.
"Search me." Bill twisted around to look at
the white face that lay back on his shoulder, with closed
lids. Three strokes chimed from the city hall tower.
Barbara s eyes flashed open ; as the last stroke trembled
in the air, Barbara s voice came, sharp with breathless
"A quarter of ten! Quick get me to the country
"Take you there? Now, d ye mean?" I ejaculated;
and holding her like a baby, Bill s eyes flared into mine.
"Did something happen to you back there, girl? Or
did you just faint?"
"Never mind about me ! There," that glance of hers
that saw everything indicated a parking place packed
with machines half a block away up a side street.
"Carry me there. Take one of those cars. Get me to
the country club. Don t " as I opened my mouth,
"don t ask questions. 1
290 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
I turned and ran. Bill galloped behind. Barbara
had lifted her head to cry after me,
"The best one! Pick the fastest!"
I plunged down the line of cars, looking for a good
machine and one with whose drive I was familiar.
The guard rushed up to stop me; I showed him my
badge, leaped into the front seat of a speed-built
Tarpon, and had it out by the time Bill came up with
the girl in his arms. I turned and swung open the
tonneau door. Almost with one movement, he lifted
her in. and -climbed after. I started off with bray
ing horn, and at that I had to use caution. Making
my way toward the corner of the street that led to
Bill s house, I felt a small hand clutch the slack of my
coat between the shoulders, and Barbara s voice, faint,
but with a fury of determination in it, demanded,
"Where are you going? I said the country club."
"All right; I ll go. I ll look after whatever you
want out there when I ve got you home."
"Oh, oh," she moaned. "Won t you this one time
I went on past* the corner. She had a right to put
it just that way. I gave the Tarpon all I dared in town
"What time is it?" I heard her whispering to Bill.
"Eight minutes to ten?* I have to be there by ten, or
it s no use. Can he make it? Do you think he can
"Yes," I growled, crouching behind the wheel. "I ll
make it. May have to kill a few but I ll get you
By this, we d come out on the open highway, better,
but not too clear, either. There followed seven min-
THE BLOSSOM FESTIVAL 291
utes of ripping through the night, of people who ran
yelling to get out of our way and hurled curses behind
us, only a* few cars meeting us like the whirling of
comets in terrifying glimpses as we shot past; and, at
last, the country club; strings of gay lanterns, winking
ruby tail-lights of machines parked in front of it, the
glare from its windows, and the strains of the
orchestra in its ballroom, playing "On the Beach at
Waikiki." When she heard it, Barbara thanked God
"We re in time!"
I took that machine up to the front steps over space
never intended for automobiles, at a pace not proper
for lawns or even roads, and only halted when I was
half across the walk. Bill rolled from the tonneau
door and stood by it. I jumped down and came
"Lift me out, and put me on my feet," Barbara
ordered. "Help me one on each side. I can walk.
We crossed a deserted porch; the evening s opening
event the grand march had drawn every one, serv
ants and all, inside. So far, without challenge, meet
ing ncx one. We had the place to ourselves till we
stood, the three of us alone, before the upper entrance
of the assembly room. In there, the last strains of
Waikiki died a\vay. I looked to Barbara. She was
in commend. Her words back there in town had
settled that for me.
"What do we do now?" I asked.
White as the linen she wore, the girl s face shone
with some inner fire of passionate resolution. I saw
this, too, in the determined, almost desperate energy
292 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
with which she held herself erect, one clenched hand
pressed hard against her side.
"Take me in there, Mr. Boyne. And you," to Cape-
hart, "find a man you can trust to guard each door of
"What you say goes." Big Bill wheeled like a well
trained cart-horse and had taken a step or two, when
she called after him,
"Arrest any one who attempts to enter."
"Arrest em if they try to git in," Capehart repeated
stoically. "Sure. That goes." But I interrupted,
"You mean if they try to get out."
At that she gave me a look. No time or breath to
waste. Bill, unquestioning, had hurried to his part of
the work. I took up mine with, "Forgive me, Barbara.
I ll not make that mistake again" ; slipped my arm un
der hers to support her; dragged open the big doors;
shoved past the hallman there ; and we stepped into the
many-colored, moving brilliance of the ball-room.
THE COUNTRY CLUB BALL
THE ballroom of the country club at Santa Ysobel
is big and finely proportioned. I don t know if
anything of the sort could have registered with me at
the moment, but I remembered afterward my impres
sion of the great hall fairly walled and roofed with
fruit blossoms, and the gorgeousness of hundreds of
costumes. The mere presence of potential funds
raises the importance of an event. The prune kings
and apricot barons down there, with their wives and
daughters in real brocades, satins and velvets, with
genuine jewels flashing over them, represented so much
in the way of substantial wealth that it seemed to
steady the whole fantastic scene.
Barbara and I entered on the level of the slightly
raised orchestra stand and only half a dozen paces
from it. Nobody noticed us much ; we came in right
on the turn of things floor managers darting around,
orchestra with bows poised and horns at lips, the whole
glittering company of maskers being made ready to
weave their "Figure of Eight" across the dancing
floor. My poor girl dragged on my arm ; her small
feet scuffed; I lifted her along, wishing I might pick
her up and carry her as Bill had done. I made for
an unoccupied musicians bench; but once there, she
only leaned against it, not letting go her hold on me,
294 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
and stood to take in every detail of the confused, mov
The double doors had swung closed behind us ; the
hallman there who held the knob, now reinforced by a
uniformed policeman. The servants way, at the fur
ther end was shut ; men in plain clothes set their backs
against it. And last, Big Bill himself in overalls, a
touch of blunt blue realism, came fogging along the
side-wall to swing into place the great wooden bar that
secured the entire group of glass doors which gave on
the porch. Barbara would have seen all these arrange
ments while I was getting ready for my first glance,
but I prompted her nervously with a low-toned, "All
set, girl," and then as she still didn t speak, "Bill s got
every door guarded."
She nodded. The length of the room away, in the
end gallery, was the cannery girl queen and her guard.
Even at that distance, I recognized Eddie Hughes, in
his pink-and-white Beef Eater togs, a gilded wooden
spear in his hand, a flower tassel bobbing beside that
long, drab, knobby countenance of his. There he was,
the man I d jailed for Thomas Gilbert s murder. Be
low on the dancing floor, were the two, Cummings and
Bowman, who had put Worth behind the bars for the
same crime. At my side was the pale, silent girl who
declared that Clayte was the murderer.
Whispered tuning and trying of instruments up here ;
flutter and rush about down on the dancing floor ; and
Barbara, that clenched left hand of hers still pressed
in hard against her side, facing what problem?
Crash ! Boom ! We were so close the music fairly
deafened us, as, with a multiplied undernote of
moving feet, the march began. On came those people
THE COUNTRY CLUB BALL 295
toward us, wave behind wave of color and magnifi
cence, dotted with little black ovals of masks pierced
by gleaming eyeholes. I could sense Barbara reading
the room as it bore down on her, and reading it clearly,
getting whatever it was she had come there for. My
self, I was overwhelmed, drowned in the size and sweep
of everything, struggling along, whispering to her
when I spotted Jim Edwards in his friar s robe,
noticed that the Roman soldier who must be Cummings,
and Bowman, the Spaniard, squired the Thornhill
twins in their geisha girl dresses; the crimson poppies
of a Lady of Dreams looked odd against Laura Bow
man s coppery hair.
At the head of the procession as they swung around,
leading it with splendid dignity, came a pair who might
have been Emperor and Empress of China the Van-
demans. To go on with affairs as if nothing had
happened though Worth Gilbert was in jail had
been the laid-down policy of both Vandeman and his
wife. I d thought it reasonable then; foolish to get
hot at it now. The great, shining, rhythmically mov
ing line deployed, interwove, and opened out again
until at last the floor was almost evenly occupied w r ith
the many-colored mass. I looked at Barbara ; the
awful intensity with which she read her room hurt me.
It had nothing to do with that flirt of a glance she
always gave a printed page, that mere toss of atten
tion she was apt to offer a problem. The child was in
anguish, whether merely the ache of sorrow, or actual
bodily pain ; I saw how rigidly that small fist still
pressed against the knitted wool of her sweater, how
her lip was drawn in and bitten. Her physical weak
ness contrasted strangely with the clean cut decision,
296 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
the absolute certainty of her mental power. She
raised her face and looked straight up into mine.
"Have the music stopped."
I leaned over and down toward the orchestra leader
to catch his eye, holding toward him the badge. His
glance caught it, and I told him what we wanted. He
nodded. For an instant the music flooded on, then at
a sharp rap of the baton, broke off in mid-motion, as
though some great singing thing had caught its breath.
And all the swaying life and color on the floor stopped
as suddenly. Barbara had picked the moment that
brought Ina Vandeman and her husband squarely fac
ing us. After the first instant s bewilderment, Van
deman and his floor managers couldn t fail to realize
that they were being held up by an outsider ; with Bar
bara in full sight up here by the orchestra, they must
know who was doing it. I wondered not to have
Vandeman in my hair already ; but he and his consort
stood in dignified silence; it was his committee who
came after me, a Mephistopheles, a troubadour, an
Indian brave, a Hercules with his club, swarming up
the step, wanting to know if I was the man responsible,
why the devil I had done it, who the devil I thought I
was, anyhow. Others were close behind.
"Edwards," I called to the brown friar, "can you
keep these fellows off me for a minute?"
Still not a word from Barbara. Nothing from
Vandeman. Less than nothing: I watched in astonish
ment how the gorgeous leader stopped dumb, while
those next him backed into the couple behind, side step
ping, so that the whole line yawed, swayed, and began
to fall into disorder.
"Cummings," as I glimpsed the lawyer s chain mail
THE COUNTRY CLUB BALL 297
and purple feather, "Keep them all in place if you can.
In the instant, from behind my shoulder Barbara
"Have that man take off his mask."
A little, shaking white hand pointed at the leader.
"Mr. Vandeman," I said. "That s an order. It ll
have to be done."
The words froze everything. Hardly a sound or
movement in the great crowded room, except the little
rustle as some one tried to see better. And there, all
eyes on him, Bronson Vandeman stood with his arms
at his sides, mute as a fish. Ina fumbled nervously
at the cord of her own mask, calling to me in a fierce
"What do you mean, Mr. Boyne, bringing that girl
here to spoil things. This is spite-work."
"Off take his mask off! Do it yourself!" Bar
bara s voice was clear and steady.
I made three big jumps of the space between us
and the leading couple. Vandeman s committee-
men obstructed me, the excited yip going amongst
"Vandeman Bronse Vannie Who let this fool
in here? Do we throw him out?"
Then they took the words from Edwards ; the tune
changed to grumblings of, "What s the matter with
Van? Why doesn t he settle it one way or another,
and be done?"
Why didn t he? I had but a breath of time to won
der at that, as I shoved a way through. Darn him,
like a graven image there, the only mute, immovable
thing in that turmoil! I began to feel sore.
298 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
"You heard what she said?" I took no trouble now
to be civil. "She wants your mask oft."
No flicker of response from the man, but the Em
press of China dragged down her mask, crying,
"Heard what she said? What she wants?" Over
the shoulders of the crowd she gave Barbara Wallace
a venomous look, then came at me.
A little too late. My hand had shot out and snatched
the mask from the face of China s monarch. A mo
ment I glared, the bit of black stuff in my grasp, at
the alien countenance I had uncovered. Crowding and
craning of the others to see. Jabbering, exclaiming
all around us.
"Corking make-up ; looks like a sure-enough China
"No make-up at all. The real thing."
"What s the big idea?"
"Why did he unmask, then?"
"Didn t want to. They made him."
And last, but loudest, repeated time and again, with
wonder, with distaste, with rising anger,
"The Vandeman s Chinese cook!"
For with the ripping away of that black oval, I
had looked into the slant, inscrutable eyes of Pong-
Ling. Hemmed in by the crowd, he could but face
me; he did so with a kind of unhuman passivity.
And the committee went wild. Their own masks
came off on the run. I saw Cummings face, Bow
man s ; Eddie Hughes slid from the balcony stair and
bucked the crowd, pushing through to the seat of war.
The grand march had become a jostling, gabbling
Barbara, up there, above it all, knew what she was
THE COUNTRY CLUB BALL 299
about. I had utter confidence in her. But she was
plainly holding back for a further development, her
eyes on the entrances ; and what the devil was my
Ina Vandeman wheeled where she stood and faced
the room, both hands thrown up, laughing.
"It was meant to be a joke a great, big foolish
joke!" her high treble rang out. "Bron s here some
where. Wait. He ll tell you better than I could. At
a masquerade people do they do foolish things.
. . . They"
"Is Bronse Vandeman here?" I questioned Fong
Ling. The Chinaman s stiff lips moved for the first
time, in his "formal, precise English.
"Yes, sir. Mr. Vandeman will explain/ He
crossed his hands and resigned the matter to his em
ployer. And I demanded of Ina Vandeman, "You
tell us your husband s present in this room ? Now ?"
and when her answer was drowned in the noise, I
"Vandeman ! Bronson Vandeman ! You re wanted
No answer. Edwards took up the call after me;
the committee yelled the name in all keys and varia
tions. In the middle of our squawking, a minor dis
turbance broke out across by the porch entrance, where
Big Bill Capehart stood. As I looked, he turned over
his post to Eddie Hughes, who came abreast of him
at the moment, and started, scuffling and struggling
toward us, with a captive.
"I had my orders !" his big voice boomed out.
"Pinch any one that tried to get in. Y don t pass me
not if you was own cousin to God A mighty!"
300 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
On they came through the crowd, all mixed up ; blue
overalls, and a flapping costume whose rich, many-
colored silk embroideries, flashed like jewels. A space
widened about us for them. The big garage man spun
his catch to the center of it, so that he faced the
room, his back to the orchestra.
"Wanted in, did ya? Now yer in, what about it?"
What about it, indeed? In Bill s prisoner, as he
stood there twitching ineffectually against that ob
stinate hold, breathing loud, shakily settling his clothes,
we had, robe for robe, cap for cap, a duplicate Em
peror of China!
And the next moment, this figure took off its mask
and showed the face of Bronson Vandeman.
Dead silence all about us; Capehart loosened his
grip, abashed but still truculent.
"Dang it all, Mr. Vandeman, if you didn t want to
get mussed up, what made you fight like that?"
"Fight?" Vandeman found his voice. "Who
wouldn t? I was late, and you "
"Bron!" After one desperate glance toward the
girl up on the platform, Ina ran to him and put a
hand on his arm. "They stopped the march. . . .
Your the they spoiled our joke. But have them
start the music again. You re here now. Let s go
on with the march . . . explain afterward."
"Good business!" Vandeman filled his chest,
glanced across at Fong Ling, and gave his social circle
a rather poor version of the usual white-toothed smile.
"Jokes can wait especially busted ones. On with
the dance; let joy be unrefined!"
Sidelong, I saw the orchestra leader s baton go up.
But no music followed. It was at Barbara the baton
THE COUNTRY CLUB BALL 301
had pointed, at Barbara that all the crowded company
stared. Her little white dress clung to her slender
figure. I saw that now she was in the strange Buddha
pose. A few flecks of silver paper, still in her black
hair, made it sparkle. But it was Barbara s eyes that
held us all spellbound. In her colorless face those
wonderful openings of black light seemed to look
through and beyond us. For an instant there was no
stir. Hundreds of faces set toward her, held by the
wonder of her. Fong Ling s yellow visage moved for
the first time from its immobility with a sort of awe,
a dread. And when my gaze came back to her, I
noticed that, with the dropping of her hands to join
the fingertips, she had left, where that little, pressing
fist had been, a blur of red on the white sweater.
Over me it rushed with the force of calamity, she had
been wounded when she sank down back there in the
crowd. It was a shot not a giant cracker we had
"Vandeman," I whirled on him, "You shot this
girl. You tried to kill her."
Sensation enough among the others; but I doubt if
he even heard me. His gaze had found Barbara ; all
the bounce, all the jauntiness was out of the man, as he
stared with the same haunted fear his eyes had held
when she concentrated last night at his own dinner
She was concentrating now; could she stand the
strain of it, with its weakening of the heart action,
its pumping all the blood to the brain? I shouldered
my way to her, and knelt beside her, begging,
"Don t, Barbara. Give it up, girl. You can t stand
302 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
Her hands unclasped. Her eyes grew normal. She
relaxed, sighingly. I leaned closer while she wmV
pered to me the last addition in that problem of two
and two the full solution. Armed, I faced Vande-t
man once more.
Something seemed to be giving way in the man;
his lips were almost as pale as his face, and that had
been, from the moment he uncovered it, like tallow.
He looked withered, smaller; his hair where it had
been pressed down by mask and cap, crossed his fore
head, flat, smooth, dull brown, I saw, half con
sciously, that Fong Ling was gone. An accomplice?
No matter; the criminal himself was here Barbara s
wonder man. It was to him I spoke.
"Edward Clayte," at the name, Cummings clanked
around front to stare. "I hold a warrant for your
arrest for the theft of nine hundred and eighty seven
thousand dollars from the Van Ness Avenue Savings
Bank of San Francisco."
He made a sick effort to square his shoulders;
fumbled with his hair to toss it back from its straight-*
down sleekness, as Clayte, to the pompadoured crest of
Vandeman. How often I had seen that gesture, not
understanding its significance. Cummings, at my side,
drew in a breath, with,
"Why damn it! he is Clayte!"
"All right," I let the words go from the corner oi
my mouth at the lawyer, in the same hushed tones he d
used. "See how you like this next one," and finished,
loud enough so all might hear,
"And I charge you, Edward Clayte Bronson Van
deman with the murder of Thomas Gilbert."
DISGRACE was in the air; the country club had
seen its vice president in handcuffs. There was
a great gathering up of petticoats and raising of moral
umbrellas to keep clear of the dirty splashings. It
made me think of a certain social occasion in Israel
some thousands of years ago, when Absalom, at his
own party, put a raw one over on his brother Amnon,
and all the rest of King David s sons looked at each
other with jaws sagging, and "every man gat himself
up upon his mule and fled." Here, it was limousines;
more than one noble chariot filled with members of
the faction who d helped to rush Vandeman into office
over the claims of older members rolled discredited
down the drive.
Yet a ball is the hardest thing in the world to kill ;
like a lizard, if you break it in two, the head and tail
go right on wriggling independently. Also, behind
this masked affair at the country club was the business
proposition of a lot of blossom festival visitors from
all over the state who mustn t be disappointed. By
the time I d finished out in front, getting my prisoner
off to the lockup, sending Eddie Hughes, with Cape-
hart and the other helpers he d picked up to guard the
Vandeman bungalow, handed over to the Santa Ysobel
police the matter of finding Fong Ling, and turned
back to see how Barbara was getting on, the music
304 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
sounded once more, the rhythmic movement of many
"The boys have got it started again," Jim Edwards
joined me in the hall, his tone still lowered and odd
from the amazement of the thing. "Curious, that
business in there yesterday," a nod indicated the little
writing room toward which we moved. "Bronse step
ping in, brisk and cool, for you to question him;
pleasant, ordinary looking chap. Would you say he
had it in his head right then to murder you or Bar
bara if you came too hot on his trail?"
"Me?" I echoed sheepishly. "He never paid me
that compliment. He wasn t afraid of me. I think
Barbara sealed her own fate, so far as he was con
cerned, when she let Worth pique her into doing a
concentrating stunt at Vandeman s dinner table last
night. The man saw that nothing she turned that
light on could long stay hidden. He must have de
cided, then, to put her out of the way. As for his
wife well, however much or little she knew, she d
not defend Barbara Wallace."
At that, Edwards gave me a look, but all he said
"Cummings has suffered a complete change of
heart, it seems. I left him in the telephone booth,
just now, calling up Dykeman. He ll certainly keep
the wires hot for Worth."
"He d better," I agreed; and only Edwards s slight,
dark smile answered me.
"There s a side entrance here," he explained mildly,
as we came to the turn of the hall. "I ll unlock it;-
and when Barbara s ready to be taken home, we can
get her out without every one gaping at her."
He was still at the lock, his back to me, when a
door up front slammed, and a Spanish Cavalier came
bustling down the corridor, pulling off a mask to show
me Bowman s face, announcing,
"I think you want me in there. That girl should
have competent medical attention."
"She has that already," I spoke over my shoulder.
"And if she hadn t, do you think she d let you touch
her, Bowman? Man, you ve got no human feeling.
If you had a shred, you d know that to her it is as
true you tried to take Worth s life with your lying
testimony as it is that Vandeman murdered Worth s
father with a gun."
"Hah!" the doctor panted at me; he was fairly
sober, but still a bit thick in the wits. "You people
ain t classing me with this crook Vandeman, are you?
You can t do that. No of course Laura s set you
all against me."
Edwards straightened up from the door. With his
first look at that fierce, dark face, the doctor began to
back off, finally scuttling around the turn into the
main hall at what was little less than a run.
They had Barbara sitting in the big Morris chair
while they finished adjusting bandages and garments.
Our young cub of a doctor, silver buttoned velveteen
coat off, sleeves rolled up, hailed us cheerily,
"That bullet went where it could get the most blood
for the least harm, I d say. Have her all right in a
jiffy. At that, if it had been a little further to one
And I knew that Edward Clayte s bullet Bronson
Vandeman s had narrowly missed Barbara s heart.
"This wonderful girl!" the doctor went on with
306 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
young enthusiasm, as he bandaged and pinned. "Sit
ting up there, wounded as she was, and forgetting it,
she looked to me more than human. Sort of effect as
though light came from her."
"I was ashamed of myself back there in the Square,
Mr. Boyne," Barbara s voice, good and strong, cut
across his panegyric. "Never in my life did I feel
like that before. My brain wasn t functioning nor
mally at all. I was confused, full of indecision." She
mentioned that state, so painfully familiar to ordinary
humanity, as most people would speak of being raving
crazy. "It was agonizing," she smiled a little at the
others. "Poor Mr. Boyne helping me along we d got
somehow into a crowd. And I was just a lump of
flesh. I hardly knew where we were. Then suddenly
came the sound of the shot, the stinging, burning feel
ing in my side. It knocked my body down; but my
mind came clear; I could use it."
"I ll say you could," I smiled. "From then on,
Bill Capehart and I were the lumps of flesh that you
heaved around without explanation."
"There wasn t time; and I was afraid you d find
out what had happened to me, and wouldn t bring me
here," she said simply. "I knew that the one motive
for silencing me was the work I d been doing for Mr.
"Sure," I said, light breaking on me. "And every
possible suspect in the Gilbert murder case was under
this roof or supposed to be the grand march would
be the show-down as to that. And just then the clock
struck! Poor girl!"
"It was a race against time," Barbara agreed. "If
we could get here first, hold the door against who-
ever came flying to get in, we d have the one who
"But, Barbara child," Laura Bowman was working
at a sweater sleeve on the bandaged side. "You did
get here and caught Bronson Vandeman ; it had worked
out all right. Why did you risk sitting up in that
strained pose, wounded as you were, to concentrate?"
"For Worth. I had to relate this crime to the one
for which he d been arrested. Within the hour, I d
gathered facts that showed me Edward Clayte killed
Worth s father. When I brought that man and his
crime to stand before me, and Bronson Vandeman and
his crime to stand beside it as I can bring things
when I concentrate on them I found they dove-tailed
the impossible was true these two were one man."
She looked around at the four of us, wondering at her,
and finished, "Can t they take me home now, doctor?"
"Sit and rest a few minutes. Have the door open,"
the young fellow said. And on the instant there came
a call for me from the side entrance.
"Mr. Boyne are you in there? May I speak to
It was Skeet Thornhill s voice. "I went out into the
entry. There, climbing down from the old Ford truck,
leaving its engine running, was Skeet herself. Her
glance went first to the door I closed behind me.
"Yes," I answered its question. "She s in there."
Then, moved by the frank misery of her eyes, "She ll
be all right. Very little hurt."
She said something under her breath; I thought it
was "Thank God!" looked about the deserted side en
trance, seemed to listen to the flooding of music and
movement from the ballroom, then lifting to mine a
308 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
face so pale that its freckles stood out on it, faltered
a step closer and studied me.
They phoned us," scarcely above a whisper.
"Mother sent me for the girls and Ina, Mr. Boyne,"
a break in her voice, "am I going to be able to take
Ina back with me? Or is she do they ?"
"Wait," I said. "Here she comes now," as Cum-
mings brought young Mrs. Vandeman toward us. She
moved haughtily, head up, a magnificent evening wrap
thrown over her costume, and saw her sister without
"Skeet," she crossed and stood with her back to
me, "there s been some trouble here. Keep it from
mother if you can. I m leaving but we ll get it all
fixed up. How did you get here? Can I take you
back in the limousine?"
The big, closed car, one of Vandeman s wedding
gifts to her, purred slowly up the side drive, circling
Skeet s old truck, and stopped a little beyond. Skeet
gave it one glance, then reached a twitching hand to
catch on the big silken sleeve.
"You can t go to the bungalow, Ina. As I came
past, they were placing men around it to to watch it."
"What!" Ina wheeled on us, looking from one to
the other. "Mr. Boyne Mr. Cummings who had
"Does it matter?" I countered. She made me tired.
"Does it matter?" she snapped up my words v "Am
I to be treated as if as though "
Even Ina Vandeman s effrontery wouldn t carry her
to a finish on that. I completed it for her, explicitly,
"Mrs. Vandeman, whether you are detained as an
accomplice or merely a material witness, I m respon-
sible for you. I would have the authority to allow you
to go with your sister; but you ll not be permitted to
even enter the bungalow."
"It s nearly midnight," she protested. "I have no
clothes but this costume. I must go home."
"Oh, come on!" Skeet pleaded. "Don t you see that
doesn t do any good, Ina? You can get something at
our house to wear."
She gave me a long look, her chin still high, her
eyes hard and unreadable. Then, "For the present, I
shall go to a hotel." She laid a hand on Skeet s shoul
der, but it was only to push her away. "Tell mother,"
evenly, "that I ll not bring my trouble into her house.
Oh you want Ernestine and Cora? Well, get them
and go." And with firm step she walked to her car.
I nodded to Cummings.
"Have one of Dykeman s men pick her up and hang
tight," I said, and he smiled back understandingly,
"Already done, Boyne. I want to speak to Miss
Wallace if I may. Will you please see for me?"
A moment later, he marched shining and jingling,
in through a door that he left open behind him, pulled
off his Roman helmet as though it had been a hat, and
stood unconsciously fumbling that shoe-brush thing
they trim those ancient lids with.
"Barbara," he met the eyes of the girl in the chair
unflinchingly, "you told me last night that the only
words T ever could speak to you would be in the way
of an apology. Will you hear one now? I m ready
to make it. Talk doesn t count much; but I m going
the limit to put Worth Gilbert s release through."
There was a long silence, Barbara looking at him
310 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
quite unmoved. Behind that steady gaze lay the facts
that Worth Gilbert s life and honor had been threat
ened by this man s course; that she herself was only
alive because the bullet of that criminal whom his
action unconsciously shielded missed its aim by an
inch: Worth s life, her life, their love and all that
might mean and Barbara had eyes you could read
I didn t envy Cummings as he faced her. Finally
she said quietly,
"I ll accept your apology, Mr. Cummings, when
Worth is free."
IN the dingy office of the city prison, with its sand
boxes and barrel stove, its hacked old desks, dusty
books and papers, I watched Bronson Vandeman, and
wondered to see how the man I had known played in
and out across his face with the man Edward Clayte,
whom I had tried to imagine, whom nobody could
Helping to recover Clayte s loot for Worth Gilbert
looked to the opposition their best bet for squaring
themselves. Dykeman from his sick bed, had dug us
up a stenographer; Cummings had climbed out of his
tin clothes and come along with us to the jail. They
wanted the screws put on; but I intended to handle
Vandeman in my own way. I had halted the lawyer
on the lock-up threshold, with,
"Cummings, I want you to keep still in here. When
I m done with the man, you can question him all you
want if he s left anything to be told." I answered
a doubtful look, "Did you see his face there in the
ball room as he looked up at Barbara Wallace? He
thinks that girl knows everything, like a supreme being.
He s still so shaken that he d spill out anything every
thing. He ll hardly .suppose he s telling us anything
we don t know."
And Vandeman bore out expectations. Now, pro
vided with a raincoat to take the place of his Man-
312 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
darin robe, his trousers still the lilac satin ones of that
costume, he surveyed us and our preparations with a
half smile as we settled our stenographer and took
"I look like hell what?" He spoke fast as a man
might with a drink ahead. But it was not alcohol
that was loosening his tongue. "Why can t some one
go up to my place and get me a decent suit of clothes?
God knows I ve plenty there closets full of them."
"Time enough when th Shurff gets here," Roll Win-
chell, the town marshall grunted at him. "I m not
taking any chances on you, Mr. Vandeman. You ll
do me as you are."
"Stick a smoke in my face, Cummings," came next
in a voice that twanged like a stretched string. "Damn
these bracelets! Light it, can t you? Light it." He
puffed eagerly, got to his feet and began walking up
and down the room, glancing at us from time to time,
raising the manacled hands grotesquely to his cigar,
drawing in a breath as though to speak, then shaking
his head, grinning a little and walking on. I knew the
mood; the moment was coming when he must talk.
The necessity to reel out the whole thing to whomever
would listen was on him like a sneeze. It s always
so at this stage of the game.
For all the hullabaloo in the streets, we were quiet
enough here, since the lock-up at Santa Ysobel lurks
demurely, as such places are apt to do, in the rear of
the building whose garbage can it is. Our pacing
captive could keep silent no longer. Shooting a side
long glance at me, he broke out,
"I m not a common crook, Boyne, even if I do come
of a family of them, and my father s in Sing Sing. I
A CONFESSION 313
put him there. They d not have caught him without.
He was an educated man never worked anything but
big stuff. At that, what was the best he could do
or any of them? Make a haul, and all they got out
of it was a spell of easy money that they only had the
chance to spend while they were dodging arrest.
Sooner or later every one of them I knew got put away
for a longer or shorter term. Growing up like that,
getting my education in the public schools daytimes,
and having a finish put on it nights with the gang, I
decided that I was going to be, not honest, but the
hundredth man the thousandth who can pull off a
big thing and neither have to hide nor go to prison/
This was promising; a little different from the or
dinary brag; I signaled inconspicuously to our stenog
rapher to keep right on the job.
"When I was twenty-four years old, I saw my
chance to shake the gang and try out my own idea,"
Clayte rattled it off feelinglessly. "It was a lone hand
for me. My father had made a stake by a forgery;
checks on the City bank. I knew where the money
was hid, eight thousand and seventy nine dollars. It
would just about do me. I framed the old man I
told you he was in Sing Sing now took my working
capital and came out here to the Coast. That money
had to make me rich for life, respected, comfortable.
I figured that my game was as safe as dummy whist."
"Yeh," said Roll Winchell, the marshal, gloomily,
"them high-toned Eastern crooks always comin out
here thinkin they ll find the Coast a soft snap."
"Two years I worked as a messenger for the San
Francisco Trust Company," Clayte s voice ran right
on past Winchell s interruption, "a model employee,
314 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
straight as they come; then decided they were too big
for me to tackle, and used their recommendation to
get a clerk s job with the Van Ness Avenue concern.
I was after the theft of at least a half million dollars,
with a perfect alibi ; and the smaller institution suited
my plan. It took me four years to work up to paying
teller, but I wasn t hurrying things. I was using my
capital now to build that perfect alibi."
He glanced around nervously as the stenographer
turned a leaf, then went on,
"I d picked out this town for the home of the man
I was going to be. It suited me, because it was on a
branch line of the railway, hardly used at all by men
whose business was in the city, and off the main high
way of automobile travel; besides, I liked the place
I ve always liked it."
"Sure flattered," came the growl as Winchell stirred
in his chair.
"My bungalow and grounds cost me four thousand :
at that it was a run-down place and I got it cheap.
The mahogany old family pieces that I was supposed
to bring in from the East came high. Yet maybe
you d be surprised how the idea took with me. I used
to scrimp and save off my salary at the bank to buy
things for the place, to keep up the right scale of
living for Bronson Vandeman, traveling agent for
eastern manufacturers, not at home much in Santa
Ysobel yet, but a man of fine family, rich prospects,
and all sorts of a good fellow, settled in the place for
the rest of his days."
He turned suddenly and grinned at me.
"You swallowed it whole, Boyne, when you walked
A CONFESSION 315
into my house last night the old family furniture I
bought in Los Angles, the second-hand library, that
family portrait, with a ring on my finger, and the
same painted in on what was supposed to be my
"Sure," I nodded amiably, "You had me fooled."
"And without a bit of crude make-up or disguise,"
he rubbed it in. "It was a change of manner and
psychology for mine. As Edward Clayte and that s
not my name, either, any more than Vandeman I
was description-proof. I meant to be and I was.
It took her the girl," his face darkened and he
jerked at his cigar, "to deduce that a nonenity who
could get away with nearly a million dollars and leave
no trail was some man!"
I raised my head with a start and stared at the man
in his raincoat and lilac silk pantaloons.
"That s so," I fed it to him, "She had a name for
you. She called you the wonder man."
"Did she!" a pleased smile. "Well, I ll give her
right on that. I was some little wonder man. Listen,"
his insistent over-stimulated voice went eagerly on,
"The beauty of my scheme was that up to the very
last move, there was nothing criminal in my leading
this double life. You see as I got stronger and
stronger here in Santa Ysobel, I bought a good ma
chine, a speedster that could burn up the road. Many s
the stag supper I ve had with the boys there in my
bungalow, and been back behind the wicket as Edward
Clayte in the Van Ness Avenue bank on time next
morning. I was in that room at the St. Dunstan about
as much as a fellow s in his front hall. I walked
316 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
through it to Henry J. Brundage s room at the Nug
get; I stayed there more often than I did at the St.
Dunstan, unless I came on here.
"I d left marriage out. Then that night four years
ago when Ina had her little run-in with old Tom
Gilbert and got her engagement to Worth smashed,
I saw there might be girls right in the class I was
trying to break into that would be possible for a man
like me. The date for our wedding was set, when
Thomas Gilbert remarked to me one afternoon as we
were coming off the golf links together, that he was
buying a block of Van Ness Savings Bank stock.
For a minute I felt like caving in his head, then and
there, with the golf club I carried. What a hell of
a thing to happen, right at the last this way! Ten
chances to one I d have this man to silence; but it
must be done right. Not much room for murder in
so full a career as mine holding down a teller s job,
running for the vice presidency of the country club,
getting married in style but every time I d look up
from behind my teller s grille, and see any one near
the size of old Gilbert walk in the front door, it
gave me the shivers. I d put more than eight years
of planning and hard work into this scheme, and you ll
admit, Boyne, that what I had was some alibi. A
wedding like that in a town of this size makes a big
noise. I managed to be back and forth so much that
people got the idea I was hardly out of Santa Ysobel.
The Friday night before, I had a stag supper at my
house, and Saturday morning if any one had called,
Fong Ling would have told them I was sleeping late,
and couldn t be disturbed. On the forenoon of my
wedding day, then, I sat as Edward Clayte in my
A CONFESSION 317
teller s cage, the suitcase I had carried back and forth
empty for so many Saturdays now loaded with cur
rency and securities, not one of which was trace
able, and whose amount I believed would run close
to a million. It was within three minutes of closing
time, when some one rapped on the counter at my
wicket, and I looked straight up into the face of old
"I saw 7 a flash of doubtful recognition in his eyes,
but didn t dare to avoid them while counting bills and
silver to pay his check. If I had done so, he would
certainly have known me. As it was, I saw that I
convinced him almost. I watched him as he went
out, saw him hesitate a little at the door of Knapp s
office he wasn t quite sure enough. I knew the man.
The instant he made certain, he would act.
"The old devil wasn t on terms to attend the re
ception at the Thornhill place, but I located him in an
aisle seat, when I first came from the vestry with
my best man. All through the ceremony I felt his
eyes boring into my back. When I finally faced him,
as Ina and I walked out, man and wife, I knew he
recognized me, and almost expected him to step out
and denounce me. But no a fellow leading a double
life was all he saw in it; bigamy was the worst he d
suspect me of at the moment. He didn t give Ina
much, wouldn t lift a finger to defend her.
"Meantime, the manner of his taking off lay easy
to my hand. I d studied the situation through that
skylight, seen Ed Hughes juggle the bolts with his
magnets, and mapped the thing out. Gilbert killed
there, the room found bolted, was a cinch for suicide.
When the reception at the Thornhill house was over,
3i8 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
I made an excuse of something needed for the journey,
and started across to my bungalow. It was common
for all of us to cross through the lawns; I hid in the
"There were people with Gilbert, no chance for me
to do anything. I stood there and nearly went out of
my hide with impatience over the delays, while he
had his row with Worth, when Laura Bowman and
Jim Edwards came and braced him to let up on his
persecution of them. Mrs. Bowman finally left; he
went with her toward the front. Now was my chance ;
I dodged into the study, jerked his own pistol from its
holster, squeezed myself in behind the open door and
waited. He came back; I let him get into the room,
past me a little, and when at some sound I made, he
turned, the muzzle of the gun was shoved against
his chest and fired.
"I d barely finished pressing Gilbert s fingers around
the pistol butt when I heard a cry outside, jumped to
the door, shut and bolted it just as my mother-in-law
ran in across the lawns. I gathered that she d been
there earlier to get those three leaves out of the diary
that you were so interested in, Boyne; had just read
them and come back to have it out with old Tom.
She hung around for five minutes, I should say, beating
on the door, calling, asking if anything was wrong.
"My one big mistake in the study was that diary
of 1920. It lay open on the desk where he d been
writing. It did tell of his having identified me as
Clayte. I d not expected it, and so I didn t handle
it well. Time pressed. I couldn t carry it with me;
I tore out the leaf, stuck the book into the drainpipe,
A CONFESSION 319
"And after all," he summed up, "my plans would
have gone through on schedule; you never could have
touched me with your clumsy, police-detective methods,
if it hadn t been for the girl."
He dropped his head and stood brooding a moment,
demanded another smoke, got it, shrugged off some
thought with a gesture, and finished,
"I was in too deep to turn. It was her life or
mine. Things went contrary. We couldn t get her
to come out to the masquerade, where it would have
been easy. With those two Mandarin costumes, Fong
Ling in my place, I had my time from the hour we
put on the masks till midnight. Another perfect alibi.
Well it didn t work. They say you have to shoot
a witch with a silver bullet. And she s more than
A siren s dry shriek as the Sheriff s gasoline buggy
made its way through the crowded street outside.
Cummings raised his brows at me, got my nod of
permission, and shot his first question at the prisoner.
"Vandeman, where s the money?"
"Not within a hundred miles of here," instantly.
"You took it south with you on your wedding
trip?" Cummings would persist. But our man, so ex
pansive a moment ago, had, as I knew he would at
direct mention of his loot, turned sullen, and he started
for the San Jose jail, mum as an oyster.
THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
THE Sheriff had gone with his prisoner; Cum-
mings left; and then there came to me, in the
street there before the lock-up, riding with Jim
Edwards in his roadster, a Worth Gilbert I had never
known. Quiet he had been before; but never con
siderate like this. When I rushed up to him with my
triumph and congratulations, and he put them aside,
it was with a curious gentleness.
"Yes, yes, Jerry; I know. Vandeman turned out
to be Clayte." Then, noticing my bewilderment, "You
see, Jim let it slip that Barbara s hurt. Where is
she?" And Edwards leaned around to explain.
"When we came past Capehart s, and she wasn t
there, I "
"Oh, that s only a scratch," I hurried to assure the
boy. "Barbara ll be all right."
"So Jim said," he agreed soberly. "I m afraid
you re both lying to me."
"All right," I climbed in beside him. "We ll go
and see. She s up at your house waiting for you."
As we headed away for the other end of town, he
spoke again, half interrogatively,
"Vandeman shot her?" and when I nodded. "He s
on his way to jail. I m out. But I m the man that s
responsible for what s happened to her. Dragged her
into this thing, in the first place. She hated those
THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE 321
concentrating stunts; and I set her to do one at that
woman s table. To help play my game I risked her
I listened in wonder; sidelong, in the dimness, I
studied the carriage of head and shoulders: no diminu
tion of power; but a new use of it. This was not the
crude boy who would knock everybody s plans to bits
for a whim; Worth had found himself; and what a
"How does it look for recovering the money,
Boyne?" Edwards questioned as we drove along.
I plunged into the hottest of that stuff Clayte-Vande-
man had spilled, talked fascinatingly, as I thought, for
three minutes, and paused to hear Worth say,
"Who s with Barbara at my house?"
"Mrs. Bowman," I said in despair, and quit right
We came into Broad Street a little above the Vande-
man bungalow which lay black and silent, the lights
of Worth s house showing beyond. As we turned the
corner, a man jumped up from the shadow of the
hedge where the Vandeman lawn joined the Gilbert
place; there was a flash; the report of a gun; our
watchers had flushed some one. I d barely had time
to say so to the others when there was a second sharp
crack, then the whine of a ricochetting chunk of lead
as it zipped from the asphalt to sing over our heads.
"Beat it !" I yelled. "Stop the car and get to cover !"
Edwards slowed. A moment Worth hung on the
running board, peering in the direction of the sounds.
I started to climb out after him. There came an
other shoj from up ahead, and then a s^iout. As I
tumbled to my feet in the dark road, Worth had
322 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
started away on the jump. And I saw then, what I d
missed before, that the man who had burst from the
hedge, was running zig-zag down the open roadway to
ward us. He was making his legs spin, and dodging
from side to side as if to duck bullets. Worth headed
straight for him, as though it wasn t plain that some
one out of sight somewhere was making a target of
Not the kind of a scrap I care for; in a half light
you can t tell friend from foe ; but Worth went to it
and what was there to do but follow? I shouted and
blew my whistle, hoping our men would hear, heed,
and let up shooting. At the moment of my doing so,
Worth closed with the man, who dropped something
he was carrying, and tackled low, lunging at the boy s
knees, aiming I could see to let Worth dive over and
scrape up the pavement with his face.
No dodging that tackle ; it caught Worth square ; he
even seemed to spring up for the dive; and somehow
he carried his opponent with him to soften the fall.
They came down together in the middle of the hard
road with the shock of a railway collision ; rolled over
and over like dogs in a scrap, only there wasn t any
growling or yelping. It was deadly quiet ; not for an
instant could you tell which was which, or whether the
whirling, pelting tangle of arms and legs was man,
beast or devil. That s why, even when I got near
enough, I didn t dare plant a large, thick-soled boot in
The fight was up to Worth; nothing else for it.
Capehart came rolling from the hedge where I had seen
the pistols flash; Eddie Hughes, inconceivable in pink
puffings, bounded after; Jim Edwards chased up from
THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE 323
his car; but all any of us could do was to run up and
down as the struggle whirled about, and grunt when
the blows landed. These sounded like a pile-driver
hitting a redwood butt. Out of the melee an arm
would jerk, the fist at the end of it come back to land
with a thud on somebody s meat.
"Who the devil is it?" I bellowed at Capehart, as
the two grappled, afoot, then down, no knowing who
was on top, spinning around in a struggle where neither
boots nor knees were barred.
"He sneaked out of the bungalow just now," Cape-
hart snorted. "We d searched the place. Didn t think
there was room for a louse to be hid in it. Got by the
boys. I stopped him at the hedge and drove him into
the open. Now Worth s got him. That is Worth,
ain t it? Fights like him."
"Yes," I said, "It s Worth." But in my own mind
I wasn t sure whether Worth had the fugitive, or the
fugitive had Worth. And Jim Edwards muttered
anxiously, as we skipped and side-stepped along with
"That fellow may have a knife or a gun."
"Not where he can draw," I said, "or he d have used
it before now." And Capehart sung out,
"Sure. Leave em go. Worth ll fix him."
Edging in too close, I got a kick on the shin from a
flying heel, and was dancing around on one foot nurs
ing the other when I heard sounds of distress issue
from the tangle in the road; somebody was getting
breath in long, gaspy sighs that broke off in grunts
when the thud of blows fell, and merged in the harsh
nasal of blood violently dislodged from nose and
throat. For a while they had been up, and swapping
324 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
punches face to face, lightning swift. Sounds like
boxing, perhaps, but there wasn t any science about it.
Feint? Parry? Footwork? Not on your life!
Each of these two was trying to slug the other into
insensibility, working for any old kind of a knock-out.
I began to be a little nervous for fear the boy I was
bringing home from jail as a peace offering to Barbara
might arrive so defaced that she wouldn t recognize
him, when I saw one dark form pull away, leap back,
an arm shoot out like a piston-rod, and with a jar that
set my own teeth on edge, connect with the other man s
chin. He went down clawing the air, crumpled into a
bunch of clothes at the side of the road.
"You wanted the Chink, didn t you, Bill?" This
was Worth, facing Jim Edwards s torch, fumbling for
his handkerchief. "I heard you, and I thought you
"It s Fong Ling!" bawled Capehart. "Sure we
wanted him and whatever that was he was carrying.
Where is it? Did he drop it?"
"Sort of think he did/ Worth was dabbing off his
own face with a gingerly, respectful touch. "I know
he dropped some teeth back there in the road. Saw
him spit em out. Maybe he left it with them. You
might go and look."
The four of us drifted along the field of battle, Cape-
hart s assistant having taken charge of the unconscious
Chinaman, whom he was frisking for weapons. Half
way back to the hedge Bill stumbled on something,
picked it up, and dropped it again with a disgusted
"Nothing but a Chinaboy s keister," he said con-
THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE 325
temptuously. "Not much to that. Why in blazes did
he run so?"
"Because you were shooting him up, I d say," Jim
"Naw. Commenced to run before we turned loose
on him," Bill protested.
"Hello !" I had pounced on the unbelievable thing,
and called to Edwards for his light. "Worth, here s
your eight -hundred-thousand-dollar suitcase !"
"That!" he followed along, dusting himself off, try
ing out his joints. "Oh, yes. I left it in my closet,
and it disappeared. Told you of it at the time, didn t
"You did not," I sputtered, down on my knees,
working away at the catches. "You never told me
anything that would be of any use to us. If this thing
disappeared, I suppose Vandeman stole it to get a piece
of evidence in the Clayte case out of the way."
"Likely." Worth turned, with no further interest,
and started toward his own gate.
"Hi! Come back here," I yelled after him. For
the lock gave at that moment; there, under the pale
circle of the electric torch, lay Clayte- Vandeman s loot !
"My gosh 1" mumbled Capehart. "I didn t suppose
there was so much money in the known world."
Eddie Hughes, breathing hard ; Jim Edwards, bend
ing to hold the torch; Capehart, stooping, blunt hands
spread on knees, goggle-eyed ; my own fingers shaking
as I dragged out my list and attempted to sort through
the stuff not one of us but felt the thrill of that great
fortune tumbled down there in the open road in the
326 THE MILLION-DOLLAR SUITCASE
But Worth delayed reluctantly at the edge of the
shadows, looking with impatience across his shoulder,
eager to be on to get to Barbara. Yet I wanted that
suitcase to go into the house in his hand ; wanted him
to be able to tell his girl that she d made him a winner
in the gamble and the long chase. Roughly assured
that only a few thousands had been used by Van-
deman, I stuck the handles into his fist and trailed
along after his quick strides. Edwards followed me.
Laura Bowman opened the door to us; she stopped
Edwards on the porch.
And then I saw my children meet. I hadn t meant
to; but after all, what matter? They didn t know I
was on earth. Creation had resolved itself, for them,
into the one man, the one woman.
The suitcase thumped unregarded on the floor. She
came to him with her hands out. He took them
slowly, raised them to his shoulders, and her arms went
round his neck.
THIS BOOK IS DUE ON THE LAST DATE
AN INITIAL FINE OF 25 CENTS
DEC ?,0 1961
SEP 21 19
^F 2 01974 7
LD 21-50m-l, S;
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA LIBRARY