Jim Hanvey, Detective/Pink Bait
THERE was nothing about Mr. Thomas Matlock Braden to mark him as being other than a perfect gentleman. From the moment of his unostentatious arrival he blended perfectly into the tinsel background of the fashionable Indiana resort hotel and while he regretted that the other guests were not aware that he possessed eleven new tailored suits he found contentment in the fact that they were equally ignorant of his eleven aliases.
Tommy Braden was old enough to appreciate the benefits which accrue to one who treads the path of rectitude, and, by the same token, he had attained to a philosophy which was based upon the theory that there was no transgression provided one is undiscovered. He was slightly more than forty-five years of age, tall and lean and quietly purposeful. His black hair was graying at the temples: he presented a picture which impelled passers-by to turn and murmur: “What a distinguished looking gentleman.”
In cultivating this external aspect of severe probity, Tommy assumed a virtue which he had not. Morally, Tommy was a total loss. He was courteous and suave and cosmopolitan. And unscrupulous. He feared nothing save detection and ordered his existence upon the hypothesis that the legally constituted authorities are, on the whole, a stupid lot who have mastered the fundamentals of criminology and care nothing and know less about the finer points of the science.
He had long since graduated from the ranks of ordinary crooks. He now handled only tasks which required extraordinary finesse, infinite patience and an all-embracing knowledge of human nature. He selected his clients with as great care as he chose his victims and the former, at least, had small cause to protest his treatment. Certainly Mr. Michael Donley fancied himself extremely fortunate in having secured the cooperation of so eminent a personage in the criminal world.
The deal between Messrs. Donley and Braden had been consummated in a few moments.
“You know them Vanduyn poils, Tommy?”
“I got 'em.”
“I know it.”
“How'dja get wise?”
Mr. Braden's thin, ascetic lips expanded into a tolerant smile. “You bungled that job horribly, Mickey. Every dick in the country knows who pulled that job. They’ll nab you the first time you turn around.”
Mr. Donley made a rueful grimace. “You said it, bo. There aint a fence will touch 'em. That's why I come to you.”
“How about sellin' 'em for me?”
“I might consider it.”
“I’ll split fifty-fifty.”
Tommy Braden laughed lightly. “You amuse me, Mickey; truly you do.”
“An even split——”
“I won’t do business with you in that way, Mickey. You're a common crook and I don't care to enter into a co-partnership with you. However, I’ll buy the pearls from you for five thousand dollars cash.”
“Very well.” Mr. Braden waved insouciantly. “Sell them elsewhere. I’m rather busy these days.”
Mr. Donley knew that he was caught and he knew that Tommy Braden knew it. It was impossible for Mickey to dispose of the gems; in fact, there was a strong likelihood that even Tommy Braden would find it an impossible task. Certainly there was little doubt that it would tax his capacities to the utmost.
Mickey studied closely the inscrutable countenance of his companion. In it he read a subtle enjoyment of the situation. Mickey was annoyed—chiefly because he was helpless.
“Awright Tommy. Where's the five grand?”
“Where are the pearls, Mickey?”
“They’re cache’d. Didn’t dare bring 'em here. The bulls’ve got me shadowed. It’s a shame the way they hound a poor crook.”
“It is, Mickey; it certainly is. But it proves that you're wise to sell them to me. They don’t care anything for your carcass; they can pick you up any minute they choose. What they’re after is the jewels. Pretty nice reward they're offering, isn't it?”
Mr. Donley shook his bullet head sorrowfully. “Ten thousand berries. Gosh. … But the point is—where’ll we meet?”
Mr. Braden did some careful thinking. “Let’s say tomorrow afternoon at two o'clock at the corner of Boulevard and Thirty-second street, Bayonne. And be sure they don’t trail you.”
Mickey laughed shortly. “The dick that follies me there is going to have went all over Joisey.”
They met as per schedule. Tommy Braden at the wheel of a borrowed sedan. Together they rolled slowly down the Hudson County Boulevard toward Bergen Point. Mr. Donley produced a chamois sack and from it poured forth a stream of pink glory. “Gawd! ain't they beauts?”
Tommy's eyes glittered with the appreciation of a connoisseur. “Very fine, Mickey. A rope of matched pearls … hmm! I should say they’re worth a hundred thousand dollars.”
“Ev'ry dime of that. Say, listen—how 'bout raising the ante a grand or two?”
“Don’t be silly, Mickey. Here's your five thousand. Give me the pearls.”
Mr. Donley left the sedan at Eighth Street and returned to New York via the Jersey Central. The route chosen by Mr. Thomas Matlock Braden was considerably more circuitous. He crossed the Kill von Kull to Port Richmond and traversed Staten Island to St. George where he boarded the New York ferry. He reached his apartment, concealed the pearls carefully and four days later departed for Indiana.
Braden's mind was agile, and before his departure he had carefully planned every move of the delicate game. For one thing he had obtained several magazines which contained pictures of a certain Mr. Jared Mallory. Mr. Braden had always been interested in Mr. Mallory. The interest had been aroused once by the casual comment of a detective friend that they were not dissimilar in appearance. Mr. Mallory was a trifle older, true, but he had the same lean, sinewy figure; the same easy grace of bearing; the same appearance of gentility and the same touches of gray at the temples. Of course no person who knew Mr. Mallory could ever confound the twain, but a person who had never seen Mr. Mallory (and few had beyond his limited circle) could very readily believe that Tommy Braden was he, provided that belief was suggested.
Tommy Braden was a great admirer of Mallory's. The latter was all that Tommy would have liked to be. He was immeasurably wealthy, he did not work, he existed in a little world of his own and looked with fine and distant disdain upon the senseless turmoil of a commercial world. If he dabbled at all in the marts of commerce it was with a magnificent aloofness which kept his name clear of financial news. One could imagine him as a person whose fortune was invested exclusively in government bonds. But the greatest link between Messrs. Braden and Mallory lay in the fact that the latter was by way of being a jewel collector.
Tommy, too, collected jewelry, although in a rather more informal way. A gem to Mr. Mallory was a thing of beauty and of glory; something to be treasured and gazed upon and studied. Mr. Braden, being rather grossly material, saw in a jewel only its intrinsic worth and its marketable value where the method of its coming into his possession had been a bit questionable. But he loved jewelry none the less … the viewpoint of the two men was basically the same although diametrically opposite in the working out; Braden saw jewels in terms of cash; Mallory saw dollars in terms of gems.
Jared Mallory was known to the masses in a vague way, such as a king is known. He was a person without a public personality. He shunned publicity and human contact outside his own little personal circle. He was a living definition of the word exclusive in its sociological application … and so it was that very few persons were aware of the fact that Mr. Mallory had but recently sailed for France. Tommy Braden knew it, but that was only because Tommy happened to have an interest in Mr. Mallory. And now Tommy planned to cash in on his observation of the millionaire jewel-collector.
Tommy's decision to visit the famous Indiana resort was the result of careful deliberation. He knew that this was the last place in the world that Mr. Mallory would ever visit, and it was logical to presume that Mr. Mallory's intimates would also shun it. They were to be found on private estates situated in Florida or along the Carolina coast … anywhere but at a blatant resort hotel.
Nor was Mr. Braden wrong in his conjecture. Of the thousands of guests who thronged the hotel lobby, the golf course, the casino—there was not one who had ever personally seen the famous Mr. Mallory although there were several whose bank balances contained as many figures as that of the gem collector. Which did not mean that Mr. Braden's fellow-guests were socially doubtful but rather that Mr. Mallory's status was such that the hotel would have considered he was paying it an inestimable compliment by deigning to visit.
Tommy arrived at the hotel late one evening. He knew that one or two guests commented upon his distinguished appearance as he crossed the lobby. Such comment always pleased Tommy. It was a tribute to something which was innate. He liked to tell himself that he was not a snob … he intended fully that the reputation of Mr. Mallory should not suffer by reason of any misapprehension which might be more or less deliberately engendered in the minds of his fellow-guests.
He registered in a cramped scrawl which bore a startling similarity to the labored chirography of Jared Mallory. But Tommy was nothing if not honest. The clerk whirled the register and glimpsed the signature—
THOMAS M. BRADEN—New York.
“I wired for a suite. …” Tommy's voice was rather indifferent, his manner bored.
“Yes sir. Certainly sir.” The gong. “Front. Show Mr. Braden up to Suite F.”
The dinner hour approached. Mr. Braden bathed and dressed with scrupulous care in an ultra-conservative dinner jacket. There was about his rather statuesque figure an air of stateliness which harmonized with the conventional simplicity of his garb. His dress was so unobtrusive as to command instant attention. He descended to the lobby, crossed to the dining room and slipped a crisp and ample bill into the willing hand of the headwaiter by way of assuring himself the proper respect.
He knew that more than one person commented upon him during the course of the meal. For the most part he kept his eyes down, but when they did chance to focus upon some person, that individual experienced the unpleasant sensation of being looked through. More than one consulted the clerk after dinner for information as to the identity of the stranger who had now retired to a corner of the lobby and was puffing lightly upon a monogrammed cigarette.
Among those who had particularly noticed Tommy was a couple from the Middle West: a rather wizened gentleman of some fifty-five years and his unduly ample wife. Mr. and Mrs. Edgar H. Morse had, for the past five years, been frantically attempting to create the impression which Mr. Braden was now registering so profoundly. Wealth had come to them in an unexpected flood. They were not crude persons but they did lack the background which is essential to true culture and, as earnestly as they had struggled for financial success during years which were rather more lean than fat, so they set about adjusting themselves to the social demands of their miraculously acquired millions.
They were rather pathetic as they hung on the fringe of things and sought to absorb in a few years the social ease which must be born in one. They were not aggressive in their wealth—as a matter of fact they scarcely understood it; had not yet fathomed its meaning. And their tastes were those of the contest answerers who send in to the editor lengthy replies to the prize query: “What would you do if you suddenly inherited a million dollars?”
Mr. and Mrs. Morse strolled over to the desk and made inquiry of the clerk.
“Oh! him? That’s Thomas M. Braden.”
His manner indicated that anyone who was anyone would certainly know Mr. Thomas M. Braden. Mr. Morse caught the nuance and uttered an enlightening— “A-a-ah! So it is.”
“He’s a wonderful looking man,” commented Mrs. Morse. “So distinguished.”
They managed to seat themselves near Tommy. He appraised them scientifically. There was no mistaking their new and complete wealth— “Woman—no taste—but nice. Swellest modiste in New York—make me the grandest gown you got. He's a bird that ain’t sure yet whether he ought to wear plain or patent oxfords with his dinner jacket. They look soft.”
He was apparently oblivious to their proximity until Mr. Morse apologetically borrowed a match. He did so apprehensively and was put instantly at ease by Tommy's manner. But Mr. Braden immediately appeared to lose interest in them. He was gazing out across the lobby—in but not of the crowd. And just when the Morses had become discouraged Tommy turned to them with a question— “How far is the golf links from the hotel?”
Edgar H. Morse expanded instantly. He orated jerkily upon the nearness of the first tee, the condition of the course, the scenic beauties of the place—and wound up with the inevitable question of all golfers: “What do you shoot?”
Tommy shrugged, “I’m not very good. When I break a hundred I’m satisfied.”
“Just my game. I did a 98 today and I’m tickled pink. Of course I hole every putt and most of 'em don’t. You booked up for a game in the morning?”
Tommy Braden bestowed upon his companion a stare in which there was the faintest hint of disapproval; a stare such as he fancied Jared Mallory might confer. Morse felt a sensation of faintness.
“No-o,” answered Tommy, “I’m not.”
There was an awkward pause. Edgar Morse desired to invite this regal gentleman to play with him but he dreaded a rebuff. And just when the subject was about to expire naturally, Tommy ventured a polite “Why?”
“Why—er—a—I just sort of thought. … That is, if you weren’t——”
“That we might play a round?”
“Yes. Yes.” Eagerly. “If you would—that is, if you'd care to.”
“Delighted. What hour shall we tee off?”
“Don’t know—course crowded—have to get starting time.” He rose excitedly. “’Scuse me minute. I’m in strong with the starter—give 'im cigars—and—er—things. See if I can’t fix it. …” He darted away, leaving Tommy with Mrs. Morse. She favored him with a wistful little smile.
“That's real nice of you,” she said. “Eddie just dotes on golf.”
“I’m sure I shall enjoy it.”
“Oh! sure you will. As soon as you get to know Eddie real well—that is, if you should—you'll like him tremendously. He's been awful lonesome here. …”
Edgar H. Morse returned, flushed and triumphant. “Fixed him. Ain't hard when you know how. We're off at nine-fifteen. Say, I'm all pepped up.”
Tommy took a cigarette from a platinum case. He extended the case to his new-found friend. Edgar Morse took one and glanced at the monogram. He wanted to note the brand of cigarette this gentleman used that he might unostentatiously duplicate it at the earliest possible moment.
His eye focussed upon a simple monogram. Private brand … but no: the initials were distinctly not T. M. B. He inspected more closely, then lighted the thing and inhaled deeply. “Fine cigarette. What make?”
“My own,” answered Tommy Braden suavely.
They chatted amiably for a few moments and then Tommy rose, expressed polite regrets and moved away. “T'morrow morning, remember,” the little man flung after him. “We’ll have a great round. Er—a—that is, I hope we will.”
Tommy smiled his best Mallory smile, indicating the ultra-correct degree of mild enthusiasm. And when he had taken hat and stick and disappeared Mr. Edgar H. Morse did a very peculiar thing. He reached eagerly into the ash tray and rescued therefrom two frayed cigarette stubs. Mrs. Morse was duly horrified.
“Eddie! What in the world!”
But Edgar did not hear. He was frowning slightly and his gaze was fixed intently upon the monogram of Tommy’s privately made cigarettes.
“Listen, Ella—you heard him say they were his private cigarettes?”
“Yes. But a good many gentlemen——”
“Sure. Sure. I’m not saying they don’t. But there's something peculiar about this chap. See this monogram here—it ain't T. M. B. at all. The initials are J. M.”
From the deepest shadows of the spacious veranda, Tommy Braden was a witness to the little scene. A slow smile of satisfaction creased his thin, patrician lips. “So much for him,” he murmured. “That Mallory monogram was a great idea. Our trade mark—once seen, never forgotten.”
The game of golf was enjoyed by both men. They played a nip and tuck contest which atoned in competitive value what it undoubtedly lacked in skill. It was not until the seventeenth green when an impossibly long putt caromed off a match stick and clicked into the cup that victory finally perched upon the Morse banner. The little man was jumpy with excitement.
“Great game—wonderful. Ain't often I meet a guy I like to play as much as I do you. Besides, most of the chaps I know can beat me—beat the tar out of me. I'm an awful dub. Say—we got to do this again—a—that is, I hope we got to.”
“We shall,” smiled Tommy. “I’ve enjoyed the morning immensely.”
From the eighteenth green they strolled to the clubhouse where they indulged in long, tall lemonades which appeared to inspire Mr. Morse with no particular enthusiasm. “Got something in my room. C'mon and sample it. That is—a—if you care to.”
Mr. Braden was delighted—far more than he cared to admit. Once glance at the suite occupied by the Morses and he was well satisfied that he had picked his victim competently. He knew just about what this suite was costing and his keen eye missed no detail of the many which shrieked new and amazing wealth.
Mrs. Morse inquired interestedly as to the details of the match—a frequently interrupted and garbled account which had to do with lucky breaks, horrible kicks, phenomenal putts. … “We’re gonna play again in the morning,” finished Edgar. “That is—er—Mr. Braden says he wants to. 'Course I’m not blaming him for kicking. That last putt of mine didn’t have any right going down. I always did believe that putting was too all-fired important in this game. …”
The fraternity of golf engendered a friendliness which would have been long in developing else. It was decided that they should dine together that night, and about five o’clock in the afternoon Tommy visited the florist shop in the hotel where he ordered a corsage bouquet sent up to Mrs. Morse. “Right here,” he reflected, “is where the old dame gets hooked right. And at the same time I exterminate another bird.”
“Shly write the card?” inquired the obtrusively blonde young lady at the counter.
“No-o.” Tommy produced a card which he flipped across the counter. She glanced at it indifferently.
“Cash?” she inquired, “or shly charge it to y'r room, Mr. Mallory?”
He started visibly. “What's that?”
“Shly charge it to your room or juh wanna pay cash?”
“I mean—what was it you called me?”
She glanced at the card. “Mallory. That's what the card here says, an’——”
He snatched it brusquely from her hand. “Wrong card,” he snapped making an effort to appear as though he were making an effort to appear unembarrassed. “Here's my card. You may charge it to Suite F.”
He whirled and moved away, his manner denoting extreme irritation. The rather fullblown young lady stared after him. “Now ain’t he the pussy's ankle?” she murmured reflectively. “Gets sore because he slips me the wrong card. That ain't nothin’ to get peeved about.” An assistant manager drifted toward her counter. “Say, Gus—who's the flossy bird with the gray thatch which just rambled away from here?”
The young gentleman shrugged. “I got worries of my own, Susie. What's the matter—he been trying to date you up?”
“No. But he ordered a corsage sent up to some female an' he slipped me the wrong card. I looks on the card an’ reads the name an' I says ‘Shly charge it to your room, Mr. Mallory?’ an’ with that he like to of bit my head off. He just about gives me the bum's rush gettin’ that pasteboard which he tears up right away. Then he slips me this one—Mr. Thomas Matlock Braden—I don’t see nothing to get excited about just because he slips me the wrong pasteboard, d'you? What difference does it make to me if his name's Thomas Braden or Jared Mallory or what it is. I reckon neither of them handles is gonna start no war—Say! Gus—for the love of Mike, what’s eatin' you? If you feel like that you'd ought to see a Doc.”
The ninth assistant manager put out a delicately restraining hand. “Jared Mallory?” he said half to himself.
Susie was annoyed. “Now listen at me, Gus—”
“I thought Braden wasn't his name. Jared Mallory! Holy Suffering Catfish! Say, you ain’t sure about that, are you, Susie?”
“No. Of course I ain’t. I only know it, that's all. If you think my lamps have went bad you can assort them card which he flang on the floor.”
It took the young man but a few seconds to recover the torn bits of pasteboard and arrange them in proper order. “Well I’ll be darned—Jared Mallory is right. Say, lemme tell the Chief.”
Susie restrained him briefly. “Who is this bird Mallory—that you should get all het up over him? Who did he ever kill?”
“Jared Mallory,” explained the excited young man, “is one of the richest nuts in the United States: that’s all. He's got a bankroll so big you’d have to have four eyes to see it all.”
“Then why the alias?” she queried practically.
“This joint ain't Mallory's size. He's the kind of guy who thinks he's slumming when he visits a hotel like this. Is that clear now?”
“Sure—sure it is, Gus. Clear as mud.”
It required just five minutes of the young man's time to transmit his enthusiasm to the manager. “Of course,” counselled that dignitary, “you shall do nothing to embarrass Mr. Mallory. If he desires to visit us incognito—”
And within ten minutes the manager had informed two of his particular friends that Jared Mallory, the millionaire, was registered at the hotel under the name of Thomas Matlock Braden. By dinnertime that night a dozen persons knew it and before morning Tommy was a marked man—at which Tommy merely smiled a thoroughly satisfied smile. “When Mr. Barnum spoke his famous words,” he soliloquized, “he must have been timing things with a slow watch.”
It was fully forty-eight hours before the rumor of Braden's identity reached the ears of Mrs. Edgar H. Morse. At receipt of the tidings she almost collapsed. “That's right—I knew all the time he was somebody tremendous.” And she proceeded to recount the incident of the monogrammed cigarettes.
But it was in the privacy of the Morse suite that the knowledge received a most thorough threshing out. “Golly!” breathed Edgar. “Think of me bumming around with Jared Mallory. Honeybunch! we’re sure sliding up the social ladder now, we are. I thought there was something funny about those cigarettes. And he's a gentleman right—he is; so much of a one he don’t have to be watching his step all the time. Funny he should like me—er—a-that is, if he really does.”
Thus far Mallory was merely a name to Edgar Morse and Edgar Morse was only a name to Tommy Braden. Each set in motion inquiries as to the other. Tommy's task proved the easier.
Within five days he was in possession of full information regarding the financial and social standing of his prospective victim. He knew that Mr. Morse had been a ten-thousand-a-year man with an aptitude for saving until a certain wild venture in war babies had catapulted him into the multi-millionaire class; so suddenly, in fact, that neither the excitable little man nor his wife had yet adjusted themselves to their new position in life. Tommy rather liked them; they weren't the offensive type of nouveau riche—there was nothing aggressive or vulgar about either. And Tommy was convinced that he would not be doing them an injury by selling to them the Vanduyn pearls. According to Tommy's way of figuring the detectives would never suspect that handsome jewels in the possession of Edgar H. Morse had been come by illicitly, so that, under the deal he contemplated no one would be the loser. “No one except Vanduyn,” he mused, “and that baby is stung anyway.”
Information regarding Jared Mallory came less readily to Mr. Morse. Mr. Mallory was not among those present in the Dunn and Bradstreet reports; but now that the great hotel was agog with knowledge of Tommy's supposedly true identity, scraps of information were working into a comprehensive—and rather flattering—whole. As a matter of fact the actual presence of Jared Mallory would not have excited the curiosity caused by Tommy's incognito. There was something irresistibly intriguing about a man who sought to conceal his eminence—something of greater allure than the eminence itself. Mr. Mallory—so general comment had it—possessed the wealth of Croesus, the family tree of a Plantagenet and he was inclined to be more or less of what the public expressively if inelegantly terms a nut.
Within a week all doubt which may have existed as to his being Jared Mallory had been removed. The manager had personally made occasion to visit Tommy's room when Tommy was absent. He found a half hundred cigarettes monogrammed J. M., one or two handkerchiefs with the same embroidered initials and an ancient letter addressed to Jared Mallory's New York address.
But even at that Tommy was not entirely satisfied. He closeted himself one day with the manager and explained to him that a telegram might possibly come to the hotel addressed to Mr. Mallory; in which event it was to be delivered to him. No such telegram ever arrived, but whatever doubt may have remained to the manager was promptly and effectively set at rest. Nor did that personage maintain the secrecy which had been demanded of him. True, he passed the information only to certain intimate friends who, in turn, conveyed it to their own intimates—until the positive knowledge was the property of the entire guest personnel.
There was, of course, an avalanche of attention showered upon the supposed Jared Mallory to all of which he was magnificently indifferent. He was courteous and frostily impersonal. He accepted one or two invitations with an air of bespeaking condescension, and through it all he vouchsafed his intimacy only to the Morses.
But even with them he maintained a reserve. Edgar Morse, prideful of his recent success, told Tommy of it, thereby bringing no agony of soul to Mr. Braden; but of himself Tommy never spoke. He did mention casually an acquaintanceship extending from Cape Town to Bombay and from New York to Sydney; he spoke feelingly and with passionate intensity whenever the subject of jewels was mentioned and he openly admired an unusually handsome emerald which Mrs. Morse possessed. But not once was he other than Thomas Matlock Braden—even on the memorable evening when Mrs. Morse, carried away by her interest in the conversation, addressed him as Mr. Mallory.
Tommy's forehead corrugated in a frown of annoyance. “What's that?” he inquired with frigid politeness.
She flushed scarlet. “Why—er—you see, folks around the hotel say you are Jared Mallory of New York.”
There was no doubting his anger. His voice came in crisp and incisive negation: “I am afraid I am not responsible for gossip. I am not Jared Mallory.”
Ella Morse was flustered and her husband came eagerly to her rescue. “Now don’t you go blaming Ella, Mr. Braden. She's been hearing so much about you being Mr. Mallory and all the folks in the hotel wanting to know if you really were, that she—I—that is, we—we've sort of called you Mr. Mallory to ourselves and the name kind of slipped out. It ain’t any business of ours who you are—and we didn't go to cause you any embarrassment. …” He paused and spluttered. Tommy stared coldly.
“I understand, Mr. Morse. And I am sure that Mr. Mallory would not be at all flattered.”
“No-of course he wouldn't. He’d prob'ly be awful sore. That is—er—a-not because folks thought you were him—of course you’re as good as he is any day in the week, including Sundays—but on account of his feeling—well you know what I mean.”
“Yes. I’m sure I do. But let's don't discuss it further. I prefer to remain Thomas M. Braden.”
“’Sall right with me, Mr. Braden. You can be Willie Jones if you want to and it don’t make any difference to us, does it, Ella?”
But after Tommy had parted from them that evening after a session at the casino, Edgar swung on his wife. “Goshamighty, Ella—wasn’t he sore when he found out folks knew who he was?”
She nodded. “Can you blame him, Eddie? Here he's taken all this trouble to make folks believe he ain’t Jared Mallory … I reckon he's terribly put out. But there isn’t a doubt in the world that he's him. If he wasn't Mr. Mallory he wouldn’t get peeved about folks thinking he was.”
The friendship between Tommy Braden and the Morses flourished after that little verbal clash. If unpleasant memory of it rankled in Tommy's mind, he gave no indication and his suavity and friendliness put them completely in his power. They drove together—in Morse's car—and Edgar and Tommy played golf daily. He shunned the society of the other guests, rigidly maintaining his attitude of impregnable exclusiveness. And it was after a fortnight of this that the subject of jewelry again came up: neither Edgar nor his wife suspecting that Tommy had introduced the subject.
He appeared to become inspired. He thrilled them with romances of famous gems. The history of renowned jewels he had at his finger-tips. They were seated in the parlor of his suite, the air filled with the fragrance of excellent cigars. … “But after all,” declaimed Mr. Braden, “there is only one jewel which is worthy the name.”
“And that is?”
They were in enthusiastic agreement. Tommy launched into an expansive account of the pearl fisheries which he claimed to have seen, he explained to them the mysteries of great pearls and enthralled them with his enthusiasm. And then——
“I’m passionately fond of them,” he confessed boyishly. “And I have something here—if you'd like to see it.”
A significant glance flashed between the others. The jewel-collector had been humanized by his hobby. … He opened one of his trunks and a few seconds later returned with a battered leather case of sizeable dimensions. They gathered near him at the table, and then, very slowly and worshipfully, he flung back the lid.
The Vanduyn pearls smiled up at them in pink perfection. Mrs. Morse gasped with delight.
“Oh-oh! How glorious!”
Tommy caught up the rope of gems and ran them caressingly through his fingers. “They are among the most perfect pearls in the world—each one a match for every other one. Each has its history, its romance. It has taken me years to collect them.”
They were mesmerized by the magnificence of the jewels. And, while they stared under the spell, Tommy talked softly and well about them. He described the long stretches of sandy beach, theand palm stretches of the somnolent South Seas—the slumbering coral reefs, the mahogany-skinned Kanakas. His voice trembled as he described the pearl fishing operations; the shark menace; the dangers faced by the pearl producers. He was a natural actor and he held the little manufacturer and his wife in the hollow of his hand. And then, just when it seemed as though they could no longer endure the glory of the thing he showed them—he snapped the case shut and turned away.
In a second he had dropped back into his customary manner: scrupulously polite, a trifle distant, unutterably exclusive. But the Morses were no longer with him in spirit. They were dazed. It was Edgar Morse who sounded the words which brought a lilt of triumph to the heart of Tommy Braden.
“I’m rather sorry you showed us those, Mr. Braden.”
“Yes. I want them.”
Tommy smiled good-humouredly. “Then I, too, am sorry. I'm afraid there are no other pearls precisely like these.”
Tommy Braden knew he had builded well. He deliberately shunted the conversation from the subject of jewelry, knowing that the little man and his sweet-faced wife would discuss the pearls once they were alone again. Nor was he wrong. They were captivated by the sheer beauty of the things; and their suddenly aroused passion had nothing whatever to do with the intrinsic worth of that which they had come to covet.
“If he would only sell them,” she said wistfully. “They would cost a fortune, but——”
“It isn’t the money,” he answered. “Mr. Mallory doesn't care for money and he does care for his pearls: that's all. I’m sure he'd never sell them—er—that is, I don’t think he would.”
“We could ask him.”
“I’m afraid we couldn't. We might hint around … that is, kind of test him out.”
But, somehow, they found that assignment unreasonably difficult. Their mention of the pearls the night following excited no response from him, but on the night after that he consented to again display the magnificent rope. He told them off, jewel by jewel … but his manner forbade the mention of a sale. Talk of dollars and cents in connection with their flawless beauty would have been a sacrilege.
Morse did essay one valiant attempt— “We’d be awfully appreciative, Mr. Braden, if you could help us get some pearls exactly like those—er—a-that is, if there are any.”
The other man shrugged. “I’m afraid there are not,” he retorted briefly.
Tommy was playing an ultra-careful game. He was making progress slowly but surely; casting himself in the rôle of quarry. And he might have continued in just that way had not something occurred on the ensuing day which caused him considerable apprehension.
At first he did not see the Gargantuan figure which hulked at the desk and wrestled with the register. It was not until the stranger turned and surveyed the lobby through glassy, fishlike eyes that a premonition of danger smote him. His face hardened and he whistled sharply through his teeth.
The person at the desk was not one to inspire any emotion other than the most intense amusement. He was a man of overflowing girth and lumbering manner. His clothes were grotesquely misfit; the coat flapped loosely about the protuberant torso and the material of the suit glistened with a sheen begotten of arduous wear. Beneath the pants-cuffs shone a brief expanse of cheap, lavender sox topping aggressive russet shoes, the toes of which rose to points. From the top of the vest there was exhibited a small area of lavender silk shirt, a purple polka-dotted necktie and a collar of insignificant height but amazing circumference.
But it was the face which inevitably engaged the attention—engaged it and held it even more than the absurdly powerful gold chain which spanned the vest and held dangling from it a golden toothpick with which the big man toyed absently as he gazed about the lobby. The face was a fitting final touch to the ensemble. It was an enormous face; a pudgy, expressionless face; a face flanked by loose, pendulous jowls ruddily complexioned; a face like a great pudding set with two glass marbles.
A casual observer might have believed that those eyes were sightless as they stared stonily across the lobby. Once or twice the man blinked—the process consuming an interminably long time. He yawned with his eyes, but it did not seem to matter whether they were open or closed. And at length he heeded the irritable summons of an excessively peeved bellhop and turned to follow that person into an elevator.
Tommy Braden stood flatfooted staring as though at an apparition. But once the cage door closed, Braden crossed the lobby swiftly and glanced at the register.
JIM HANVEY—New York.
He turned away. He strolled out upon the spacious veranda where he lighted a cigar and puffed reflectively. Eddie Morse and his wife, Ella, would not have known their friend at that moment. Tommy's face was hard and bitter and there was fear delineated in it. He put his thoughts into unspoken words—
“What the hell is Jim Hanvey doing here? Why should a detective like him come to a joint like this?”
Tommy Braden, by dint of hard and untiring work, had risen gradually to the very top of his profession. The road had been neither easy nor undangerous. He had faced disappointment and reversal with a bravely smiling face—and now he had come to the point where he felt entitled to reap the fruits of his endeavor. Tommy had been the despair of detectives. He operated with an easy suavity and a level-headed cunning which sent them running up blind alleys in the futile search for evidence to convict, so that thus far Tommy had avoided the inconveniences of jail—save in the case of a single slip in the early days of his career.
That single jail sentence rankled in Tommy's breast, and it had inspired in him a wholesome fear of state boarding houses. In jail one was deprived of one's individuality and individuality was Tommy's greatest stock in trade. He intensely disliked swapping his name for a number and his exquisitely tailored clothes for a uniform. It seemed a great pity that the state had no more judgment than to fail to differentiate between crude, lumbering crooks and gentlemen of the profession who operated with delicacy and finesse. But, after all, Tommy Braden feared only one man in the detective world, which was why he was so visibly disturbed at finding himself a fellow-guest of that one man.
The following morning he played golf with Edgar Morse. He unbent more than ever before and dazzled the little business man so thoroughly that Morse's mind was not on the game and he lowered his course record seven strokes. “By Golly!” reflected Mr. Morse, “there ain't a doubt that this Braden or Mallory, or whoever he is, really likes me.”
Tommy was annoyed. He had been enjoying the cat-and-mouse contest and Jim's advent forced him to greater speed than he had planned. They walked in from the eighteenth green together, consumed large drinks of iced sarsaparilla which Mr. Morse insisted was excellent for the blood, and then Tommy made his way to the hotel while Mr. Morse selected his favorite putter and a half dozen balls for a session of utterly useless practice on the clock course.
Tommy saw the hulking figure of the mammoth detective too late to avoid a meeting. He was perturbed but at the same time thankful that his introduction to Jim at this particular time should come while he was unaccompanied. And realizing the inevitability of a talk with Jim, it was he who spoke first.
“Well, well, well—if it isn't my fat friend.”
Jim looked up. Heavy eyelids closed over glassy orbs with maddening slowness, held shut for a moment, then uncurtained with even more annoying deliberateness. There was no doubting the sincerity of the surprise which was reflected upon the pudgy countenance.
“Well I'm a sonovagun! Tommy Braden!” Their hands met in a clasp of sincere cordiality. “It is Braden now, ain't it, Tommy?”
Tommy smiled with rare good-humor. “Surest thing you know, Jim. Thomas Matlock Braden.”
“The whole works, huh? What's it feel like to be masqueradin’ under your right name?”
“Pretty good, Jim; pretty good. I’ve retired on my income.”
“Quit the game?”
“That’s fine, Tommy—fine. I'm tickled pink to know it. I always like to see a crook with sense enough to know when he's got plenty. There ain’t nothin’ like honesty, my boy, when you've made all the money you need.”
“That’s what I figured, Jim. There wasn't any use for me to continue running risks. … Of course I’m not what you'd call a rich man, but then I'm pretty well fixed. And not being tied up with a frail, it don’t cost me much. … You know how it is.”
“Sure, Tommy—I know.” Jim blinked with friendly approval upon the other. “Dog-gone if you don’t look like a million dollars ready money, Son. Silk shirt, trick pants an' everything. Say, what is there to this golf thing that makes sensible men dress funny thataway?”
“Naw! Imagine an elephant like me chasin’ a dinky little ball over the meadows.”
“Better men than you have fallen for it.”
“Sure; I know that. But it's my figger, Son. The links wouldn’t stand for it.”
Jim turned and walked with Braden toward the hotel. Tommy was ill-at-ease despite the apparent ease of his manner. Jim's face bore an expression of bovine contentment; he looked like a child—or a simpleton. Tommy knew that he was not a good man to have around, and yet he was afraid to protest too fervently that he was now treading the path of rectitude. Yet his curiosity shrieked for appeasement.
“Funny to see you here, Jim.”
“Me? I reckon it is. I’ve been some awful funny places, Tommy.”
“Uh-huh. An' I just naturally got sick of lowbrow joints. Besides, a lot of the big boys in your line of work drift by here during the season, and so I thought I’d try this seven-forks-dinner stuff for a while. Guy never gets too old to learn, you know. Of course I ain't like you—you're a gent an’ you fit. I’ll bet you wear a movie screen shirt for dinner, eh?”
“Yes. Everybody does here.”
“But one. Say: 'jever see me in evenin' duds? No? Honest, I look like next week's wash hangin' out.”
“Doesn't exactly fit your style of beauty?”
“No. I reckon when the good Lord gimme a knack of rememberin’ faces an’ understandin’ human nature, He figgered His part was done. If faces was fortunes I’d be bankrupt.”
They attained the ornate lobby where, at the desk, Tommy secured the key to his suite. “Come up, Jim?”
“Uh-uh. Got to stroll around: exercise, the Doc says. Gosh! how I hate it. See you later, Tommy. Awful glad you’ve turned straight.”
“Nothing like it, Jim. I never thought I could run across you like this and feel safe.”
“Shuh! I wouldn’t bother you none.”
But despite outward appearances, Tommy Braden was uneasy. It wasn’t that he was in any way connected with Jim's visit to this particular resort but rather that Jim's proximity was unhealthy for any gentleman who was upon transgression bent.
Certainly there was no safety in continued procrastination. He had the Morses just about where he wanted them and he figured that the best thing he could do was to sell them the pearls and make his getaway. He knew there'd be no particular trouble—
There wasn’t. They dined with him that night, only Tommy being aware of the hulking lonely figure which munched by itself in a secluded corner of the dining room. Edgar Morse was radiant: he was exuberant over his record-breaking golf score and as the dinner progressed he went over for the dozenth time every shot from the first tee to the eighteenth cup. Tommy warmed up considerably. He even unbent so far as to say that Edgar was the first genuinely congenial person he had met in years. He hoped that their acquaintanceship might not perish when they parted, and—Oh! yes, he was leaving in a few days. He wished that there was something he might do to indicate to Mr. and Mrs. Morse the depth of his appreciation for the pleasure their society had afforded.
He correctly interpreted the eager glance which passed between husband and wife. “There is,” burst out Edgar, then bit his lip in embarrassment: “Er—a—that is, I was just thinking—I’m kind of crazy, I guess, and——”
“What is it, Morse? Anything in my power … You see, I have few real friends. I am more or less well fixed in a financial way, and in such a position one becomes distrustful of persons who protest friendship. … Tell me what you were thinking.”
“I can't—really. 'Tisn’t possible.”
“Indeed it is.”
Tommy beamed upon Ella Morse. “What is it, Mrs. Morse? Certainly we are sufficiently intimate to permit frankness.”
She flushed. “Not to that extent.”
“Pshaw! If there's any favor—”
“Well, it's this,” exploded Morse. “If you wouldn't get sore—that is, if you understood—but of course I can’t ask you because they mean more to you than just what they mean and—that is, it isn't like you just had them, and— Oh! damn it! I’ve got myself all balled up!”
Tommy frowned slightly. “I judge you have reference to my pearls?”
“No! No! Certainly not. That is, I didn’t go to pull a bone, and——”
Mrs. Morse leaned across the table. “Yes, Mr. Braden, he does mean your pearls. He's embarrassed because we both realize that it is utterly out of the question to even suggest that you part with them, and——”
Tommy lay back in his chair. He had an infectious laugh and he now injected the full radiance of a pleasing personality in the laughter and good-humored glance he bestowed upon them. “So that's it, eh? Well, well, well! You folks certainly are funny. What in the world should cause you embarrassment about wanting to buy my pearls? Of course you want to own them. I'd be rather hurt if they didn't impress you with a desire for ownership. Why man! man! I'm complimented.”
Morse was beaming. “Dog-gone if you're not the finest fellow I ever met. You see, pearls like those are something that can’t be bought from a jeweler … and we both love 'em. We're not strong for diamonds and platinum and stuff like that. Pearls—they’re classy and rich—and all such as that. And of course from the first minute we saw them we got to thinking how swell it would be if Ella could own them … that is, some just like 'em.”
“There aren't any just like them.”
“Sure! We know that. Gosh! as if we didn't! Now if you were broke or something I’d have offered to buy them—but money doesn’t mean anything to you, and—”
Tommy's face had grown serious. He spoke with a rich tremolo effect. “You really want them that much?”
“Want them! Holy smokes! man, you don’t know!”
“Very well. I hope you’ll permit me to present them to Mrs. Morse.”
For a moment there was silence. Morse and his wife stared aghast at this man who offered as a gift a priceless rope of matched pearls.
“Mr. Braden! I couldn't!”
“Certainly you could, Mrs. Morse. You and your husband have afforded me an extremely delightful vacation. It would be a pleasure to present those pearls to you. After all, their intrinsic worth is not to be measured against friendship.”
They were dumbfounded. And at length Edgar Morse started to argue. He was overwhelmed by his friend's generosity, but of course it was out of the question for him to accept such a gift. On the other hand if his friend was willing to part with them at all, he would do both an inestimable favor by permitting him to pay for them—any price which Mr. Braden chose to ask; any price at all.”
“I’d rather give them to you, Mr. Morse.”
“Can't be done—impossible. Entirely impossible. But if you'd only let me pay you. …”
“You positively will not accept them as a gift?”
“I’m sorry. Very sorry. But if you put it that way, I agree to sell them to you. You may have them for just what they cost me—seventy-five thousand dollars.”
Morse's voice trembled with emotion. “That’s wonderful of you, Mr. Braden—wonderful. And I realize that we shall remain indebted to you beyond words. The trouble you’ve taken … the love you have for them. …”
“Let’s don’t talk about them any more, Morse. I shall get the pearls from the safe tomorrow and give them to you.” He smiled slightly. “And if you should change your mind during the night and be willing to accept them as a gift, I hope you will let me know.”
But they did not change their minds. Instead they talked until far into the morning hours of this Genie … this gentleman who, for reasons quite his own, masqueraded under the name of Thomas Matlock Braden.
Nor did Tommy Braden immediately drop off into slumber. He donned dressing gown and slippers and sat by an open window staring out into the night. Tommy was exceedingly well pleased with himself. He had operated adroitly … certainly there was no hint of suspicion in the minds of his victims. There was a profit of seventy thousand dollars in the transaction, no mean addition to his bank account.
The presence of Jim Hanvey in the hotel was less disturbing now. Tommy smiled at the prospect of some day telling Jim of the deal which had been consummated under his very nose … he knew Jim intimately and realized that he would see the humor of the situation. There was something irresistibly funny in the thought that this profit should have been turned within a hundred feet of the one detective in the world for whom Braden held a wholesome respect.
Tommy was up early the next morning. The nearness of his triumph begot a shakiness of nerves which was not unnatural. Matters had moved along like well-oiled machinery from the outset. There had been no single hitch to beget doubt or worriment.
Braden stopped short to gaze into the expressionless countenance of Jim Hanvey. The elephantine detective was smiling vacuously.
“’Lo Jim. Taking a beauty stroll?”
“Uh-huh. Pretty country around here, ain’t it?”
“Walkin' my way, Tommy?”
Braden's eyes narrowed. He wasn't, but—“Yes,” he said and they moved off together; Braden tall and slender and handsome, Hanvey short and thickset and shapeless; a human pudding in a serge sack. It was the detective who spoke first and his tone was mildly reproving.
“Thought you told me you wasn’t up to nothing around here, Tommy.”
“I’m not.” With simulated indignation.
“Then how does it happen that everybody in the hotel thinks you are Jared Mallory?”
Braden threw back his head and gave an excellent imitation of carefree laughter. “That's the funniest thing that's ever happened to me, Jim. You know I don’t look unlike Mallory——”
“No-o, you don’t. But on the other hand you and him ain't no twins.”
“Exactly. But the first or second day I was here somebody started the rumor that I was Mallory and there wasn’t any stopping the thing.”
“You ain’t been trying very hard to, have you?”
“No. Frankly. It amused me to be mistaken for him.”
“Certainly not, Jim. No one has told you that I ever admitted being Mallory, have they?”
“No-o. They haven't—that’s right, Tommy.”
“Well, then——” virtuously. “What more could you ask? I’m registered as Thomas Matlock Braden and you know that is my true name. To folks who have quizzed me on this Mallory stuff I’ve insisted that Braden is my name. My baggage is marked with the initials T. M. B. which couldn’t possibly be twisted to stand for Jared Mallory. It certainly isn’t my fault, Jim, if a lot of fool people choose to believe I’m someone I'm not, is it?”
“No. I reckon it ain’t, Tommy. Of course you can’t blame me for thinking it funny—when I heard folks saying that you was Mallory. It looked kind of queer.”
Tommy dropped an affectionate hand on Jim's shoulder. “You can’t help being suspicious of everybody, can you, Jim? Why, dog-gone your time, I’ve been running straight for so long it’s a habit. That's why I didn't even use an alias down here. Goodness knows a fellow can’t come any cleaner than to drop a dozen other names and use his own, can he?”
Jim nodded heavily and blinked with interminable slowness. “I feel a heap relieved, Tommy. I sure would hate to see you try to pull something—and I’m glad we had this little talky-talk. Hope you ain’t sore at me for thinking maybe there was something queer.”
“Not at all, Jim; not in the least. Wouldn’t have been natural if you hadn't.”
Braden moved away, his last impression of Jim Hanvey was of an abnormally heavy man staring at him through glassy eyes. Against the background of rusty serge he saw a set of fat fingers toying idly with a gleaming gold toothpick. … “Poor Jim. He's a hound once they give him the scent but he is so anxious to believe that every crook is honest. …”
In his room again, Braden telephoned the Morses. Edgar Morse answered and made an appointment for three o'clock that afternoon. The pearls were mentioned: Tommy repeated his offer to present them to his friend. Morse was grateful, but yet found it impossible to accept so valuable a gift. He assured Braden once more that there would be no less an obligation despite the payment of a sizeable sum of money. Tommy was relieved.
The morning dragged endlessly. Braden took his driver, midiron and a dozen balls and went to the practice tee where for an hour he slashed out clean, straight shots averaging more than two hundred yards in length. Golfer though he was, he experienced no thrill from the direct, cleaving flight of the balls: he was sufficiently a golfer to know that if his mind were not elsewhere the golfing results would be less satisfactory.
His lunch was tasteless. His eye quested through the huge dining room for a glimpse of Edgar Morse and his wife. They were nowhere to be seen. He knew that they were either lunching in the grill or out driving. The hands of his watch progressed with exasperating slowness. He feared that something might go wrong at the eleventh hour … occasionally he touched the leather case in the inside pocket of his coat. …
But he did not permit his impatience to cause a tactical blunder. It was fully ten minutes past the hour of his appointment when he rapped upon the door of the Morse's suite. Edgar answered in person. The eyes of the little man were a-gleam with eagerness. One glance at Morse and Mrs. Morse convinced Tommy that all was well. They were effusive; couldn’t thank him enough for his generous offer of the previous evening and they hoped that he hadn’t changed his mind—and that he wouldn't later regret having sold the pearls.
Aof triumph sang in Braden's heart. He extracted the pearls from his pocket and snapped the case open. Mrs. Morse gasped. He lifted the rope of pearls and personally fastened them about her throat. She was almost tearful with excitement.
Edgar Morse produced a pocket check book. “And now if you will permit me, Mr. Braden—I—er—believe seventy-five thousand is the amount you mentioned.”
Tommy nodded. “Yes. That is exactly what they cost me.”
Edgar Morse held his pen poised. Rich color flooded his cheeks. He hemmed and hawed for a moment and then—
“I hope you’ll pardon me, sir—but how shall I make this check out?”
Tommy frowned. “What's that?”
“How shall I make it out—that is, er—to whose order?”
“I’m afraid I don’t understand.”
“Well, I mean—you know there's the idea around the hotel—that is, about Jared Mallory, and—”
Tommy’s voice was crisp. “Just make the check out to Thomas M. Braden.”
Morse nodded and wrote swiftly. He extended to Tommy a check for seventy-five thousand dollars payable to Thomas M. Braden and drawn upon the Loop National Bank of Chicago. “I didn’t mean to give any offense, Braden. Of course you understand what I thought—that is, other folks were saying——”
“Quite all right, Morse; that's perfectly all right. I have really been exceedingly annoyed by this silly idea that Braden is not my name.” He folded the check and slipped it casually in his pocket. “By the way, are we golfing in the morning? I was hitting them mighty cleanly in practice to-day.”
Alone in his room again Tommy inspected the check. Veteran though he was, his heart was pounding. He had played cunningly for big stakes and had won a well-deserved victory. There remained nothing for him to do but pack up and get away; then to convert Morse's check into cash and disappear. He decided upon a European trip; Paris had not known him for several years and he longed for the sensuous pleasures of the Boulevards. … He ripped open the drawers of his dresser and the doors of his chifforobe: the task of packing promised to make up in speed what it may have lacked in neatness.
Of course he knew that he must manage his going away carefully. Morse must not know that he was hastening his departure … he'd carry one suitcase and send back for the trunks the next day, or else eliminate them from his scheme of things. The important task was to place a maximum of distance between himself and his victims in a minimum of time. He worked feverishly at his packing, pausing occasionally to glance at the check which had recently been handed him. He was a trifle sorry for the Morses, but, he figured that they could well afford to lose the money … nor would it prove a loss unless by some mischance the pearls should be recognized and there seemed little likelihood of that. Certainly the Morses did not move on a social plane where they were likely to meet persons familiar with the Vanduyn pearls. They might, of course, boast that they had purchased the pearls from Jared Mallory and news of this might reach that gentleman which, in all probability, would start something. But, in so far as Tommy could figure, no one was suffering through the transaction. What injury had been inflicted upon the Vanduyns had been done long ago.
It was a pleasing philosophy and Tommy Braden felt quite virtuous. He scarcely heard the light rap on the door. Only when the rapping became insistent did he open.
Jim Hanvey waddled into the room. He wore a suit which he fancied was a tweed. It hung loosely about his ungainly figure. The golden toothpick was very much in evidence. Jim blinked slowly—“Gosh! Tommy, you ain't going away, are you?”
Mr. Braden was flustered. He had a premonition of disaster. If only he could hold Jim off for a brief span of time. … “Just running up to Chicago for a few days, Jim. Coming right back. Merely carrying one bag.”
“Awful swell diggings, Tommy. How much do they sting you for this soot?”
“Plenty, Jim, plenty. Say, how about trotting up to Chi with me for a day or so?”
“Naw! Can't stir, Son. I’ve got to stick around here another day or so if it kills me. How long you planning to be gone?”
“Oh! two or three days at the most.”
“No special business or nothing like that, is there, Tommy?”
Tommy flushed. He had a disturbing presentiment that there was a menace cloaked beneath Jim's words. “Nothing wrong, if that’s what you mean, Jim.”
“Good boy. It wouldn’t be wise for a guy that's as well fixed as you to take another flyer. Of course I know there's plenty of temptation and all that—but the game ain’t worth the electric flashlight, Son—not by a durn sight.”
Braden was ill-at-ease. “Wish you’d come along with me, Jim. I hate to travel alone.”
“You’ll be here when I get back, won't you?”
Jim shook his head ponderously. “Nope. Don't reckon I will. Got to hike back to N’Yawk and turn in a report. I’ve been right lucky recently, Son; right lucky.”
Braden was relieved. “Landed your man?”
“No-o. Not exactly. I wasn't particularly interested in that. It was an insurance company that sent me down here and all they wanted was the stuff. Interesting case, Tommy; awful interesting.”
“I’ll wager it was.” He crammed two suits of pajamas in the travelling bag.
“You know,” Jim's voice was easily conversational, “we’d almost given up hope of ever getting them Vanduyn pearls back.”
Tommy Braden sat down very suddenly. “The—the what?”
“The Vanduyn pearls. Remember the case? Mickey Donley pulled it.”
Braden leaned forward. “I don’t quite make you, Jim. Do you mean to tell me that you've recovered the Vanduyn pearls?”
“Surest thing you know. We knew Mickey couldn't get rid of 'em so we watched the boys he was calling on. Trailed 'em thataway, see? And the poor sucker that bought 'em off Mickey found a goat and sold 'em—and I got 'em that way. I’m right lucky about things like that.”
Mr. Thomas Matlock Braden was dazed. He knew that Jim Hanvey was speaking the truth. And yet— He gave ear to the even monotone of the detective.
“And say, Tommy; next time we meet I’ll take you on in a golf match. I’m getting my first lesson this afternoon. I run across a swell feller last night. Guy named Morse: Edgar H. Morse. Know him?”
Tommy stared. He moistened dry lips with his tongue. “Go ahead, Jim.”
“Well, Eddie Morse is taking me out on the links this afternoon. He says it ain’t so hard if a guy is willing to practice for fifteen or twenty years. Think of me swinging a golf club. I’ll feel like a sap. But anyway I like this bird Morse. Feel like I and he was buddies even though I never met him until late last night.” Jim blinked slowly as he toyed with the gold toothpick which rested against his vest. “He’s interested in joolry, too, Tommy. Me and him had a long talk about pearls and things. He knew all about the Vanduyn robbery; remembered the whole thing the minute I reminded him of it. Uh-huh, me and Eddie Morse got along fine together.”
Tommy Braden sought to readjust his battered scheme of things. Above everything, he was a game loser. A thin, twisted smile appeared on his lips.
“I’m a fool, Jim.”
“How so, Son?”
“For thinking that you are the idiot you appear to be.”
“Gosh! I couldn’t be that, could I?”
“Hardly. I take it, Jim, that you knew the person to whom Mickey Donley sold the Vanduyn pearls. You located him at this place and followed him here. You discovered that there was considerable mystery about him and also that Edgar Morse was his only intimate acquaintance. You presumed, of course, that Morse was the goat—and so you went straight to that gentleman and warned him against buying any pearls which might be offered. Is that correct?”
Jim grinned in pleased surprise. “Golly! Son, you're clever. How'd you know all that?”
“Just guessing, Jim.” He rose heavily. “I’d better travel along, I suppose. I'm mighty glad you're not going to nab the poor fish who tried to pull the deal. You're a white man, Jim Hanvey.”
“Shuh! We don't care nothing for that feller. It was just a bit of a business deal with him. Hmm! So you're running up to Chicago, eh?”
“Yes.” And then—“Why?”
“Oh! nothin’ special. Except that if you should happen to be thinking of cashing a check which somebody might have given you on—well, say the Loop National Bank; I think you’d better change your mind. You see, the feller which gave you that check happens to be a friend of mine and just to avoid embarrassment I suggested to him last night that he should make out the check on a bank where he hasn’t got any money. And he kind of seemed to think it was a good idea.”
Tommy Braden had the grace to laugh. He clasped Jim Hanvey's hand—
“Thanks for the tip, Jim. You're surely a thoughtful chap. And one of these days we'll try some golf; what do you say?”
“We sure will, Tommy—unless it turns out that I ain’t got sense enough to learn the darn game.”