Jim Hanvey, Detective/Common Stock
GERALD CORWIN emerged from the elevator, glanced apprehensively about the ornate lobby of the hotel and walked swiftly toward the dining room. But as he handed hat and cane to the checker a huge, ungainly figure bulked before him and a mild, pleasant voice brought misery where a moment before there had been contentment.
“Gonna eat now, Corwin?”
Gerald sighed resignedly. Too thoroughly a gentleman to display consciously his frank distaste, he was yet too poor a dissembler wholly to conceal it. He merely nodded and strode disgustedly in the wake of the obsequious head waiter, with Jim Hanvey waddling cumbersomely in the rear.
Corwin was disgusted with the whole affair, and particularly that phase of it which placed him under the chaperonage of the ponderous and uncouth detective. Not that Jim had been obtrusive, but the man was innately crude, and Corwin despised crudeness.
One could readily understand his antipathy. The two men were as dissimilar as an orchid and a turnip. Corwin, about thirty years of age, was tall and slender and immaculate, shrieking the word “aristocrat” in every cultured gesture. He was unmistakably a gentleman, a person to whom æsthetics was all-important, and he could not fail to consider Jim Hanvey thoroughly obnoxious.
Jim was all right in his way, perhaps, but never before had Corwin been forced into intimate association with a professional detective. He was resentful, not of the fact that Jim Hanvey was a detective, but because the man was hopelessly uncouth. Jim was an enormous individual and conspicuously unwieldy. He wore cheap, ready-made clothes that no more than approximately fitted his rotund figure. He smoked vile cigars and wore shoes which rose to little peaks at the toes. But Corwin felt he could have stood all that were it not for Jim's gold toothpick.
That golden toothpick, suspended as a charm from a hawserlike chain extending across Jim's vest, had fascinated Corwin from the commencement of their journey to Los Angeles. It was a fearsome, flagrant instrument, and Jim Hanvey loved it. It had been presented to him years before by a criminal of international fame as a token of sincere regard. Otherwise unemployed, Jim was in the habit of sitting by the hour with his fat fingers toying with the toothpick. Gerald had once hinted that the weapon might better be concealed. His insinuation resulted merely in debate.
“Stick it away? Why?”
“Say, listen, Mr. Corwin; have you ever seen a handsomer toothpick?
“Well, I haven't either. That's why I'm proud to have folks see it. It’s absolutely the swellest tooth pick in captivity.”
No arguing against that, but from the first hour of the acquaintanceship Corwin reviled the fates which decreed that for two weeks he should be under Hanvey’s eye. The thing was absurd of course. Corwin, fearless and no mean athlete, was well able to take care of himself and fulfill the delicate mission with which he had been intrusted—a mere matter of securing a proxy from Col. Robert E. Warrington and returning with it to New York in time for the annual meeting of the stockholders. He was not a simpleton and there was no doubting his integrity. Why, then, this grotesque and goggle-eyed sleuth?
Matter of fact, Jim had appeared wholly disinterested since their departure from New York. All the way across country he had slouched in their drawing room, staring through the window with his great, fishy eyes. Those eyes annoyed Corwin. They seemed incapable of vision. They were inhuman, stupid, glassy eyes which reflected no intelligence. Corwin fancied himself the victim of a stupendous hoax; it was unbelievable that this man could rightfully possess a reputation to justify the present assignment.
The meal was torture to the fastidious younger man. There was no denying that Jim enjoyed his dinner, but the enjoyment was too obvious. Jim caught the disapproving glance of his companion and interpreted it rightly.
“’Sall right, Mr. Corwin. Eatin' ain't no art with me. It’s a pleasure.”
Corwin flushed. Suddenly he discovered that Jim was not listening. Hanvey had turned slightly and was gazing into a mirror which reflected a section of the huge dining room. Corwin followed the direction of his gaze and saw that the object of his scrutiny was a man of medium size but muscular figure who was searching for a table.
Hanvey was interested, and as an indication of that interest he blinked in his interminably deliberate manner, lids closing heavily over the fishy eyes, remaining shut for a second, then uncurtaining even more slowly. And finally, when the newcomer had seated himself, Jim nodded toward him and addressed Corwin.
“Yonder's the answer,” he said.
Corwin shook his head in puzzlement.
“I don’t quite understand.”
“See that feller who just come in?”
Corwin inspected the newcomer with fresh interest. The man was of a type, one of those optimistic individuals who futilely struggle to acquire gentility and who fondly believe they have succeeded. In every studied move of the man one could discern mental effort. Even the hypercorrect raiment was subtly suggestive of a disguise. There was nothing flagrantly wrong with the man, just as there was nothing quite as it should be. Corwin, himself not an overly keen student of human nature, could yet fancy the stranger's manner of speech—careful, precise, stilted, rather malapropian, with here and there a moment of forgetfulness, with its reversion to downright bad grammar. He turned back to Hanvey.
“Billy Scanlan, alias Gentleman William, alias Flash Billy, alias Roger van Dorn, alias, a half dozen other things. He's done time in Joliet and Sing Sing. He's a good friend of mine.” The faintest suggestion of a smile played about the corners of Jim's mouth. “An’ he’s why your crowd hired me to trail you out here.”
It was quite plain to Hanvey, but Corwin was puzzled.
“I don’t yet understand.”
“You don’t? Gosh, son, there couldn't anything be any plainer! We ain’t never discussed what brought you out here, but I know all about it just the same; an' since you prob'ly won't answer no questions, I'll tell you what I know. The Quincy-Scott gang started a drive recently to grab off the control of the K. R. & P. Railroad from McIntosh and his crowd. Before McIntosh woke up the Quincy bunch had coralled every loose vote, enough to give them a control in the forthcomin' stockholders’ meetin’. When McIntosh got wise he knew that his only hope was Colonel Warrington out here in Los Angeles, the colonel ownin’ about ninety thousand shares of common stock. So he telephoned the old bird and found out that he wasn’t interested in the fight one way or the other; that he'd already been approached by the Quincy-Scott combination an' had turned ’em down cold an’ final, which seemed to indicate that with a little proper persuasion he’d be willin’ to deliver a proxy to McIntosh. It bein’ ’most time for the meetin', an’ things bein’ pretty desperate, they sent you out to get the proxy from the ol' gent, his proxy gettin’ there meanin' victory for McIntosh, an its failure leavin’ the vote control with Quincy an’ Scott. Ain't it so?”
Corwin was staring at Hanvey in amazement. The pudgy detective had been speaking disinterestedly, casually, but he had the most intimate facts at his finger tips. Corwin nodded before he thought, then bit his tongue.
“I’m not at liberty to say whether or not you're correct, Mr. Hanvey.”
“Sure you ain’t. You're dead right, son. Don't you never spill no beans to nobody no time. I wasn’t tryin’ to pump you. I got the dope straight from headquarters. I was just tellin' you so you’d understand that I know why I was sent out with you, an’ so you’d understand too.”
Hanvey paused, and as though that ended the matter he extracted from an elaborately engraved and sadly tarnished silver-plated cigar case two huge black invincibles, one of which he reluctantly extended to his companion. Corwin declined, and Jim sighed relievedly as he tenderly returned the cigar to its place. He lighted the other, inhaled with gusto and blew a cloud of the smoke into the air.
“I still don't understand, Mr. Hanvey.”
Jim jerked his head toward Scanlan. “Billy's been sent out by the Quincy gang. His job is to keep that proxy from getting to New York in time for the stockholders’ meeting.”
Corwin's jaw hardened, his sinewy frame tensed and a fighting light blazed in his fine, level eyes.
“They ain't gonna try no rough stuff. That ain’t Bill Scanlan's way of workin’. He's one of the smoothest con men in the known world, but he ain’t rough—not Billy. He's smooth as butter.”
“Easy enough, son. He'll be on the same train that carries us back east, an’ before we get to Chicago he'll swipe that proxy. At least that’s what he's figurin’ he's goin’ to do.”
Matters were clarifying slightly in the brain of young Corwin. But his curiosity was still unsatisfied.
“If I may ask, Mr. Hanvey, how do you know that he is the Quincy-Scott agent?”
Jim shrugged his fat shoulders.
“Easy enough. Y'see, it’s this way: When the good Lord manufactured me he forgot to hand me out any good looks an' he slipped me entirely too much figger. But he didn’t find that out until too late, so what he did to make up for it was to give me a mem'ry. I’ve got a mem'ry like a cam'ra, son. I just naturally don't forget things, an’ I’ve sort of built up the rep of knowin' more professional crooks than any other ten men put together. McIntosh knew that the other crowd would engage a professional crook to get the proxy away from you, it not bein’ no job for an amachoor. He was sure to foller you out here, an’ the way he was plannin’ to work was to scrape an acquaintance with you, you never suspectin’ nothin', which would have made things pretty easy for Billy. I just trailed along to sort of point out to you the feller you wasn’t safe with, an’ Billy Scanlan is him.”
Gerald Corwin felt a fresh respect for the fat man with the bovine expression, and a bit of his resentment vanished at the same time, for he now understood one or two things which before had left him wholly puzzled and more than a trifle resentful.
They finished their meal in silence. The check paid, they rose and started from the dining room, but Hanvey took Corwin's arm.
“C'mon over an’ lemme introduce you to Billy. It'll sort of make things easier for him, bein’ introduced formal-like, an’ the poor feller's got a tough-enough job on his hands as it is.”
Startled but obedient, Corwin followed, and he saw the expression of incredulous amazement, not untinged with apprehension, which flashed into Scanlan's face as they paused by his table.
Scanlan rose slowly. His jaw was set and it was plain that he was struggling to orient himself to this bizarre situation. He strove to make his tone casual.
Hanvey was exceedingly gracious.
“Lemme introduce my friend Mr. Corwin. Mr. Corwin is the feller you was sent out here to watch, Billy. Mr. Corwin, shake hands with Mr. Scanlan.”
Awkwardly the two men—one an innate gentleman and the other a student at the school of gentility—shook hands. Corwin was a trifle sorry for Scanlan. The man seemed afraid of Jim Hanvey.
“I’m pleased to meet Mr. Corwin.”
“Sure you are.” The voice of Hanvey chimed in genially. “Didn't you come all the way from New York just for that? An’ wasn’t you wonderin’ how you was gonna work it? That's me—always ready to help out a friend, Billy—so I up an’ introduces you fellers.”
“It’s real kind of you, Jim”—Scanlan was choosing his words with scrupulous care—“but I don’t quite—er—comprehend what you're driving at.”
“No?” Hanvey's bushy eyebrows arched in surprise. “I’d sure hate to think that you wasn’t tellin’ me the truth, Billy.”
“I really don’t understand your—a-innuendoes. I'm in Los Angeles on a vacation and without no definite objective.”
“Sure, Billy, sure! I know that. You're a gent of leisure, you are. But if you could grab off that fat wad the Quincy-Scott people hung under your nose, you wouldn’t have no objections, would you?”
Scanlan's hand dropped on Hanvey’s shoulder and he gazed earnestly into the eyes of the detective, Corwin for the moment forgotten.
“Honest, Jim, I’m runnin' straight. I ain’t plannin' a thing. So leave me be, won't you?”
“I ain’t aimin’ to bother you none, Billy. Goodness knows, you’re too much of a gent to be in jail. Only it just struck me that I was doin' you a favor by introducin' you to Mr. Corwin, him an' you both bein’ genuine swells an’ li’ble to have a heap in common.”
Suddenly reawakened to consciousness of Corwin's presence, Scanlan pulled himself together.
“Mr. Hanvey is bound to have his little joke, Mr. Corwin. A very interesting chap, isn’t he?”
Corwin inclined his head gravely.
Hanvey regarded them amusedly.
“You fellers like each other?”
“That's fine! I'm sure glad!” He turned away, then swung back suddenly. “By the way, Billy, we're leaving on the California Limited Friday morning, ten o'clock. We've got Drawin'-room A in Car S-17. I’m tellin' you so you can get your reservations early on that train. Eastern travel is awful thick these days.”
They parted from the bewildered Scanlan. In the sanctuary of Hanvey's room Gerald Corwin voiced his displeasure.
“You are probably a very great detective, Mr. Hanvey——”
“Naw! Not me! I’m just a fat, lucky bum.”
“But it strikes me that you volunteered some valuable information unnecessarily.”
“About our reservations east. Why did you tell him the correct day?”
“I never lie to a crook,” said Jim gravely. “It ain’t fair. Besides, if they’re good enough crooks to be worth lyin' to a feller ain't gonna get away with it. Billy will check up, an’ once he found I’d lied to him he'd lose all confidence in me.”
“But I don’t see what difference it makes.”
“That's 'cause you're a business man, son. Detectives an’ crooks know the value of tellin' the truth.”
“You didn’t have to tell him who I was.”
“No-o, that's true. But it saved him a heap of trouble.”
“I don’t understand your desire to save him trouble.”
“It's this way, Mr. Corwin: The less trouble Billy has to take the more time he'll have for thinkin', an' the more he thinks the worse off he is. Thinkin', son, has ruined a heap of happy homes, an’ don't you forget it.”
Hanvey was right. At that moment Billy Scanlan was slumped in a chair in the hotel lobby, smoking cigarette after cigarette and wondering what it all meant. He knew Jim Hanvey of old, was familiar with the working methods of the ponderous, slow moving, quick-thinking detective; and he knew that Jim had told the truth. Of course he’d check up, but that was a mere formality. All the more prominent criminals knew that Jim Hanvey did not lie. That was one explanation of the high esteem in which they held him—because he played fair.
Scanlan was worried. He had been intrusted with a definite mission, one well suited to his peculiar talents. His job was to secure from Gerald Corwin the proxy which Corwin was to receive from Col. Robert E. Warrington and to deliver that proxy to the men who were fighting to wrest control of the K. R. & P. from the McIntosh interests. That was all. The sky was the limit so far as he was concerned. His professional reputation was at stake. Besides, the reward offered by the Quincy-Scott crowd was stupendous, and Billy was sadly in need of ready cash—and plenty of it.
The presence of Jim Hanvey complicated matters somewhat in the way of accomplishing a task already difficult and delicate. But Billy was game and not entirely averse to matching wits with the Gargantuan detective. So he waited patiently in the lobby, watching the elevator bank, and eventually he was rewarded when Gerald Corwin descended, walked swiftly to the street and hailed a taxi.
As he drove off, Scanlan stepped into another cab.
“Follow that cab ahead. Keep about a block in the rear. When he stops you stop.”
As Scanlan drove off, he glanced over his shoulder in time to see the ungainly figure of Jim Hanvey climb laboriously into yet a third taxi. He did not quite fathom Jim's motive in following, but he didn't care particularly. He knew that Jim knew he'd trail Corwin. So much for that.
Corwin's taxi driver, evidently aware that his fare was unfamiliar with the vastness of Los Angeles, selected a circuitous route to the Wilshire Boulevard address of Colonel Warrington. He drove through the traffic to Pico and via that important thoroughfare to Western Avenue, swinging across then to the fashionable Wilshire section, a tremendous area of spotlessly white homes, immaculate lawns, stiff and artificial gardening and aggressive affluence. Before the gates of a huge home, the grounds of which occupied an entire block, Corwin's taxi stopped. Gerald retained his man and entered the Warrington mansion. A block farther down Wilshire Boulevard Scanlan's taxi halted, and a half block behind that Jim Hanvey left his taxi.
Jim, alone of the three, dismissed his driver. And then, slowly and purposefully, puffing on a cigar, Jim waddled up the street toward Scanlan's automobile.
“Have a good ride?”
“Just wanted to let you know I follered you, Billy. All I done it for was to make sure you was watchin' young Corwin yonder. I’ll be trottin' back to town now.” He addressed Scanlan’s driver: “Which street car do I take to get back to town?”
The driver vouchsafed the desired information. Scanlan could not forbear a question:
“Where's your taxi, Jim?”
“I let it go. Taxis are terribly expensive.” And Hanvey moved heavily away.
Scanlan's vigil continued for more than an hour. Then through the gates of the Warrington home swung a limousine. It stopped briefly while Corwin alighted, paid his taxi and then returned to the big car. The route into the city was more direct this time, and Scanlan followed Corwin and Colonel Warrington into one of the larger Broadway office buildings. He saw them enter the offices of a law firm and knew that Corwin had won the first move of the game by persuading Warrington to issue his proxy in favor of the McIntosh interests.
From his vantage point in the marbled hallway Scanlan kept watch. Eventually he saw a young man emerge from the offices of the firm of lawyers and enter a smaller office down the hall which was marked “Real Estate & Insurance. Notary Public.” A second young man returned with the first and in his hand was a small notarial seal. It was obvious to Scanlan that if there was a notary in the law firm he was out at the moment. Alone again, Scanlan ascertained the name of the notary—Leopold Jones.
When Warrington and Corwin descended in an elevator a few minutes later Scanlan did not follow. Instead he produced from his pocket an income-tax blank and went with it to the office of Leopold Jones. Of that young gentleman he requested an attestation of his income-tax return. Mr. Jones found Mr. Scanlan an engaging talker and they chatted for several minutes. When Mr. Scanlan eventually departed Mr. Jones was happily unaware of the fact that in Mr. Scanlan's coat pocket reposed his, Mr. Jones', notarial seal.
From the office building Scanlan visited the city ticket office of the Santa Fe Railroad. He learned readily enough that Drawing-room A in Car S-17, California Limited, for Friday morning had been sold the day previous to a very fat gentleman. He bought Compartment C in the same car. He returned to the hotel.
Thus far things appeared propitious for Mr. Scanlan.
Jim was a hindrance, of course, and a grave one; but Scanlan operated on the theory that no vigilance is so keen that it cannot be eluded. There remained nothing now save the trip east. At some time between the departure from Los Angeles and the arrival in Chicago it was incumbent upon Mr. Scanlan to secure from Corwin the Warrington proxy.
That night—Wednesday—the three men dined together, Corwin's distaste swallowed up by his keening interest in the peculiar friendship existing between Hanvey and Scanlan. Corwin had always held the idea that criminals and detectives clashed on sight; that the former were habitually in flight and the latter constantly in pursuit. To see them chatting amiably about topics in general, reminiscing over past escapades of Scanlan and exploits of other criminals and swapping theories on unsolved crimes was astounding. Corwin found it hard to reconcile himself to the fact that at the moment thedetective and the would-be gentleman crook were engaged in a battle of wits. He later discussed the matter with Hanvey.
“Why don’t you arrest Scanlan?”
“Arrest him? He ain’t done nothin’.”
“He’s planning to.”
“You can’t arrest a man for what he's got in his head. If you could the jails’d be overflowin’.”
“You could arrest him for that McCarthy affair I heard him telling you about. He confesses he was involved in the swindle.”
“Aw, you know I wouldn't touch him for that! He just passed that dope on as a friend.”
“But I didn't know that policemen and criminals were friends.”
Hanvey smiled wistfully.
“’Bout the only friends I got in this world, son, are crooks. Most of them are servin' time. Some of 'em I put there. But we’re friends. This here solid-gold watch charm—that was given me by one of the niftiest con men in the world. I sure hated to send him up.”
They checked out of the hotel Friday morning. Billy Scanlan was at the station when they arrived. The heavy train rumbled under the shed and they settled themselves for the three-day journey to Chicago. At Hanvey’s invitation Scanlan joined them in the drawing-room and they became absorbed in a game of setback at half a cent a point.
Hanvey and Scanlan waxed violently enthusiastic over the game—— “King for high.” “Trey low?” “Well, dog-gone your ornery hide——” “You’re a rotten setback player, Mr. Corwin; y’oughta learn somethin' 'bout the fine points of the game.”
Nothing to indicate that a crisis was approaching, no outward manifestation of the drama which was imminent. Occasionally Corwin reassured himself by touching his coat, in the lining of which was sewed the envelope containing the proxy which controlled a railroad. Once Hanvey saw the gesture and he laughed.
“It’s safe all right, son. It’ll stay safe unless you lose your coat.”
Corwin flushed angrily. Hanvey rightly interpreted his anger and extended a fat and reassuring hand.
“I wasn't giving no dope away. Billy knew where you had the proxy, didn't you, Billy?”
“Sure! It's the regular place.”
Both men—detective and criminal—were vastly amused by Corwin's obviousness, and Corwin knew it. But he didn't care. Perhaps the lining of a coat was the regular place to keep a valuable document; certainly it was a safe one; and Hanvey might have been more careful than to remove the last vestige of doubt from Scanlan’s mind. Corwin knew that Scanlan could not possibly get the proxy. Such a thing was impossible during the day, and at night Corwin planned to use the coat as a pillow.
Following a light breakfast the next morning, Corwin made his way forward to the club car for a shave. He removed coat, collar and tie, for the moment unmindful of Scanlan. When the hot towel was removed from his face and fresh lather applied he noticed Scanlan sitting with two other men, awaiting his turn for a shave. Next to Scanlan was Jim Hanvey. Corwin sighed relievedly.
The barber shaved the right side of Corwin's face, then turned him in the chair to get at the other side. As he did so Scanlan cast a glance of simulated impatience at the waiting men, rose, donned coat and hat and left the club car.
But the coat which Scanlan wore on leaving the car was Corwin's.
In five minutes' time he returned. Corwin was just emerging from the chair. Hanvey was slumped in a corner immersed in the very-female pictures of a weekly periodical. Scanlan removed Corwin's coat and extended it to that young gentleman.
“Took your coat by accident, Mr. Corwin. Just discovered my mistake.”
Corwin's face blanched. He grabbed the coat and touched the spot were the proxy had been. For a single wild instant Corwin contemplated bodily assault, and only the hulking figure of Jim Hanvey and his slow, drawling voice prevented.
“What's the matter, son? What's the matter? You look all het up.”
“Whoa, son, whoa! That ain't no kind of a name to call a crook.”
Corwin whirled on Hanvey.
“You don’t know what you're talking about! This man has that proxy! He just stole it from me!”
Jim was unperturbed. He turned mildly reproving eyes upon the amused countenance of his friend.
“You didn’t go an’ do that, did you, Billy?”
“Mr. Corwin seems to think so.”
“Well, I’ll be dog-goned! Let's git together an’ kinder talk things over.”
Back through the swaying, grinding cars went the procession, Scanlan leading, Hanvey next and Corwin bringing up the rear. Corwin was in a cold fury. He felt that he was being made ridiculous—they were laughing at him. He didn’t like the looks of the whole business anyway. What assurance had he that Hanvey and Scanlan were not confederates? They were suspiciously intimate, and Hanvey must have seen Scanlan in the privacy of their drawing-room Corwin's sinewy figure towered over Scanlan.
“If you don’t give me back that proxy I’ll break every bone in your rotten body.”
Jim restrained the young man.
“Them's awful harsh words, Jack Dalton.”
Corwin shook him off.
“I think you're as crooked as he is. I’ve had my suspicions from the first, and I’m not going to allow any pair like you to make a monkey of me.”
It was Scanlan who spoke.
“Just what are you going to do about it, Mr. Corwin?”
“I’ll do aplenty!”
“Giving me a licking isn't going to get you anywhere except in jail. We're in New Mexico now; and if you lay a finger on me I’ll have you dumped in the Albuquerque lockup tonight; and you can’t do the same to me, because you haven’t got a lick of proof.”
“Will you let us search you and your compartment?”
“Surest thing you know!” He turned to the detective. “C’mon, Jim. Get busy.”
Hanvey shrugged and reached for one of his black cigars.
“Ain’t gonna waste my time, Billy. If you’ve got that proxy there ain't no use of my searchin' for it now. I’ve just got to think things over and get a hunch where you put it. Then I’ll get it.”
“Do you mean,” interrogated Corwin furiously, “that you’re not even going to search this man?”
“I do. I mean just that exact thing, son.”
“Well, I will!”
Scanlan meekly submitted to the search. Once as Corwin's trembling, clumsy fingers probed into a pocket he deliberately winked at Hanvey, and at the conclusion of the personal search Scanlan led the way to his compartment. Twenty minutes later Corwin, dispirited and dully angry, returned to the drawing room, where he found Hanvey gazing stolidly out of the window. The detective spoke without turning his head.
“When you git peeved, son, you sure git peeved all over.”
The younger man did not answer. He slouched opposite and tried to think, to piece together the ends of this tangled skein. He was distrustful of every one, particularly of the slothful Hanvey. Jim's only other remark did not add to his comfort.
“You sure was careless with that coat, Mr. Corwin—awful careless.”
Hanvey was right. He had been careless, inexcusably so. True, there had been a feeling of safety in the knowledge that Hanvey was also in the barber shop; but there was small solace in the thought that it wasn’t entirely his fault that too great confidence had been placed by his employer in Hanvey’s ability. And now, should Hanvey fail to recover the proxy, he—Corwin—was ruined, a brilliant career abruptly and ignominiously terminated.
Meanwhile, in Compartment C, behind a locked door, Scanlan was busy. He obtained a table from the porter and then proceeded to open his suitcase, to unpack it, to remove a false bottom and extract from the space disclosed a sheaf of legal appearing documents. Each of these was strikingly similar to the proxy which lay beside them on the table.
Then slowly and painstakingly Scanlan prepared a duplicate proxy, being very careful that his forging of Colonel Warrington's name should be patently a forgery. The finished job was a masterpiece. No one unfamiliar with Warrington's signature could guess that this was not genuine, yet a comparison left no room for doubt that Scanlan's work was a forgery. Carefully he inscribed the attestation, affixing thereto the impress of the notarial seal he had stolen from the office of Mr. Leopold Jones. That done, he viewed his handiwork with pardonable pride. He next destroyed the other blank proxies which had been prepared by the Quincy-Scott crowd in New York, placed the forged proxy in the false bottom of his suitcase and put the genuine proxy in an outside pocket of his coat.
At lunch time Scanlan found Hanvey sitting alone at one end of the diner while Corwin sulked at the other. The crook paused by the detective's table and cheerfully accepted Hanvey’s invitation to join. Jim nodded toward the tragic figure at the other end of the car.
“You sure have played tarnation thunder with that kid, Billy.”
Scanlan shook his head. Naturally tender-hearted, he was genuinely regretful.
“Business is business, Jim.”
“Yep, So it is. Kinda tough on the kid, though. He feels bad, knowin’ he played right into your hands. An' I ain’t feelin’ any too spry myself.” The detective's dull eyes turned toward his companion and blinked slowly. “Where have you got that proxy, Billy?”
“I haven’t admitted that I have it.”
“No-o. An' I didn’t ask you to admit nothin'. The point bein’ that you can’t get away with it, kid. I’ll have you held when we get to Chicago and search you—a search that is a search.”
Scanlan registered apprehension.
“That ain’t fair, Jim. You ain’t got a lick of proof that I have the proxy.”
“Nope. But I intend to get it.”
From the diner Scanlan went back to the observation platform to think things over. He did not relish the prospect of an additional thirty-six hours on the same car with Hanvey. He contemplated dropping off at Albuquerque, then thought better of it. Jim would merely remain with him. And then an idea came.
At eight o'clock the train pulled into the handsome station at the capital of New Mexico for a one-hour layover. Scanlan walked swiftly up the street toward the post office. There he prevailed upon a registry clerk to accept a letter. In a long envelope he inclosed a note to Phares Scott and with it the proxy he had that day stolen from Gerald Corwin. He sent the document both special delivery and registered. It would get to New York a day or two late, perhaps, but still in ample time for the meeting. Besides, it was not essential that it get there at all. It was only necessary that the McIntosh forces be deprived of its possession.
Scanlan would have destroyed the thing in preference, but he knew that he would have difficulty in collecting his fee unless the document itself was produced.
But even though Billy Scanlan had left the train at Albuquerque, Hanvey and Corwin had not. Hanvey, making quite sure that Scanlan had gone, entered Scanlan's compartment in Corwin's company. The manner of the big detective had momentarily lost its sluggishness. He questioned Corwin.
“Where'd you search?”
Corwin told him. Jim shook his massive head.
“How 'bout his suitcase?”
“I looked in there, of course.”
“Sure—of course you did, son. Naturally. But let's us try it again.”
Jim dumped the contents unceremoniously on the seat. With deft fingers he went through every garment and even inspected the contents of the rolled traveling case.
“You see,” commented Corwin resentfully. “I told you nothing was there.”
Hanvey paid him no heed. He had closed the suitcase and was inspecting it carefully. Then suddenly he turned it over and thumped it with a heavy, spatulate finger. His pursy lips creased into a smile.
“Think we got somethin', son.”
The suitcase was reopened and Hanvey fumbled inside for a moment. Then a button unfastened here and one there and he removed the false bottom. He extended the envelope to Corwin.
“Better see that he don’t get another chance at it, son.”
With fingers that trembled the younger man spread open the forged proxy, never questioning its genuineness. There it was—Warrington's signature, Jones' attestation, the notarial seal. Corwin seized Jim's hand and wrung it gratefully. His voice was choky.
“I’ve been a rotter, Mr. Hanvey. I suspected you of being a confederate——”
“’Sall right, Mr. Corwin. 'Sall right. Don't slop over.”
“I can’t help it. I feel like a cur.”
“Gwan!” Hanvey was touched by the boyish gratitude of his young friend. “Let’s get this stuff back in here. Scanlan’ll spot that we have the thing, but it wouldn’t be decent to leave his stuff all spread out like this.”
Ten minutes before leaving time Scanlan returned to his compartment. He opened his suitcase, discerned the disorder—and grinned. Then, pretending disappointment and fury, he rapped on the door of Drawing-room A. Inside he faced Corwin.
“You wanted to start something a little while ago, Mr. Corwin,” he snapped, “when you thought I copped a paper from your coat. Well, I’m here to say that whenever you're ready you just wade right in, because, no matter what I’ve done, I never robbed a gent's suitcase.”
A hard, chill smile appeared on Corwin's lips. He rose slowly. From the window seat Hanvey viewed the tableau amusedly.
“Get out!” ordered Corwin.
“Put me out!”
“Get out or I shall!”
Scanlan's eyes met those of the other man, and Scanlan discreetly withdrew.
But that night Scanlan lay in his berth, smoking and smiling. Success had blessed his strategy. The Warrington proxy was en route to New York by registered mail, the envelope specifically marked “For Delivery to Addressee Only.” Better still, Jim Hanvey thought he had recovered the document. There was the strongest point in Scanlan's favor—the fact that Jim was smugly contented. Now all he had to do was to assume the attitude of a man thwarted. He was a trifle sorry for poor old Jim, yet it was no lack of acumen on Jim's part, but rather a superlative cunning on his own.
During the final twenty-four hours of the journey to Chicago, Gerald Corwin clung to the supposed proxy with a pitiful grimness. Alone with Hanvey in their drawing-room, he sat with his hand against the pocket of his coat. He shaved himself. He slept with the coat for a pillow.
“He got it once,” he explained to Hanvey. “He won't again.”
“Once ought to be enough for any man.”
“What made you think of a false bottom to that suitcase, Mr. Hanvey?”
“Same thing that made Billy think of the lining of your coat. Plumb obvious. Gosh! I'll bet Billy's ravin’.”
Corwin was frankly admiring.
“And I thought you were no good! I even thought you might be double-crossing McIntosh!”
“That's right, son; that's right. Never trust nobody an' you’ll never get a shock. That’s my motto. The honester a person is supposed to be the easier he can crook you.”
They reached Chicago at noon of the following day. Hanvey and Corwin boarded the Pennsylvania for New York. Scanlan secured a berth on the New York Central. Freed from the Scanlan menace, Corwin thawed slightly and attempted to make late amends to his benefactor. He even summoned sufficient courage to request a closer inspection of Jim's gold toothpick and to say complimentary things about the fearful weapon which had been anathema to him. Jim bloomed under the praise of his decoration.
“Feller that gave me that had sense,” he said earnestly. “It ain't only beautiful—it's useful.”
Corwin repressed a shudder.
“I suppose it is.”
The gratitude of the younger man was pathetic. He grimly determined to invite Jim to dinner some night—the ultimate test of his fortitude.
They reached New York on time and repaired immediately to the offices of the K. R. & P. There Gerald Corwin delivered over to Garet McIntosh the Warrington proxy. McIntosh congratulated the young man and assured him of the directors' appreciation. But before leaving the room Corwin made a straight-eyed confession.
“You must thank Mr. Hanvey,” he said. “The proxy was stolen from me on the train and Mr. Hanvey recovered it.”
“Good!” McIntosh dismissed Corwin with a nod and reached for his notebook. “How about it, Hanvey?”
Jim grinned. “Don’t listen to nothin’ the kid says, Mr. McIntosh. He's game all through, that lad. But it was funny.”
At that moment Billy Scanlan faced Phares Scott and gave a detailed report of the success of his mission. A gleam of admiration appeared in the steely eyes of the financier.
“Good work!” he commented briefly. “You’ll get your pay when the proxy arrives.”
The following day at noon, Scanlan presented himself at Scott's office. His reward was paid in legal tender—— “To avoid the embarrassment of a check.” Scanlan nodded and pocketed the money.
“The proxy?” he questioned.
“We’ve destroyed it. Simply wanted to look it over to make sure we were safe.”
That night Billy Scanlan celebrated. The following morning he awakened with a violent headache, and was aroused by a ringing of his telephone.
“Jim Hanvey,” announced the slow, drawling voice on the other end. “Can I come up?”
Jim came. He regarded Scanlan interestedly.
“I judge they paid you off all right,” he commented.
“They did,” admitted Scanlan. “What about it?”
“Nothin’; nothin’ in particular.” Hanvey glanced at his watch, a tremendous affair, gaudily engraved. “Only that the stockholders’ meetin’ takes place in just about one hour, an’ as a friend I advise you to beat it an’ beat it quick.”
Scanlan sat upright, hands pressed against his throbbing forehead.
“Me beat it?”
“Takin’ pay from the Quincy-Scott crowd for somethin' you didn’t do. They’re li’ble to get awful sore.”
“What are you talking about, Jim? You know good and well I got away with it.”
Hanvey shook his head. “Nothin’ of the kind, Billy; an’ I’m advisin' you as a friend to beat it—an’ stay put.”
The eyes of the other man narrowed.
“You must be gettin' into your second childhood, Jim. Do you mean to tell me that you haven’t yet found out that the proxy you stole from my suitcase was a fake?”
Hanvey’s voice was quite matter of fact.
“Oh, that? Sure, I knew all the time that was a fake.”
“What you ain’t never stopped to realize,” explained the detective, “is this: The proxy you swiped from young Corwin wasn't no good either.”
Scanlan rose abruptly.
“What do you mean—no good? Old man Warrington executed it——”
“Sure he did! An’ the next day he executed another to McIntosh. That second one was the only one worth the paper it was written on. It nullified the first, an’ I had it in my pocket all the time. An' when that real proxy appears at the meetin’ today the gang you were workin’ for is li’ble to get all het up. You see, Billy, you and Corwin both had the wrong dope. I wasn't on that train to keep you from gettin' that proxy off Corwin; I was there to see you did get it so you wouldn’t bother me none, me bein’ the real messenger.”
Headache forgotten, Billy Scanlan leaped for his suitcase and commenced a frenzy of packing.
“I might've known you were too easy, Jim! I might've known it! Anyway, they paid me off yesterday——”
“That's what tickles me,” replied Jim; “you gittin’ paid for that proxy. It’s a swell joke on them fellers. An' say, I got somethin’ to show you. You know young Corwin was awful grateful for what I done.”
“He should have been.”
“He was. He sent me a present this morning. Ain't it swell?”
And beaming with pride Hanvey exhibited the gift of the fastidious Gerald Corwin.
It was a gold-handled toothbrush.