The Achievements of Luther Trant/The Fast Watch
THE FAST WATCH
Police Captain Crowley—red-headed, alert, brave—stamped into the North Side police station an hour later than usual and in a very bad temper. He glared defiantly at the row of patrolmen, reporters, and busybodies, elbowed aside his desk sergeant without a word, and slammed into his private office. The customary pile of morning papers, flaying him in stinging front-page columns, covered his desk. He glanced them over, grunting; then swept them to the floor and let himself drop heavily into his chair.
"He's got to be guilty!" The big fist struck the table top desperately. "It's got to be," the hoarse voice iterated determinedly—"him!" He had checked the last word as the door swung open, only to utter it more forcibly as he recognized the desk sergeant.
"Kanlan, eh, Ed?" the desk sergeant ventured. "You have him at Harrison Street station again the boys tell me."
"Yes, we have him."
"You got nothing out of him yet?"
"But you think it's him?"
"Who said anything about thinking?" Crowley glanced to see that the door was shut. "I said it's got to be him! And—it's got to, whether or no, ain't it?"
A month before, Randolph Bronson—the city prosecuting attorney for whose unpunished murder Crowley was under fire—had dared to try to break up and send to the penitentiary the sixteen men who formed the most notorious and dangerous gambling "ring" in the city. It grew certain that some of the sixteen would stick at nothing to put the prosecutor out of the way. The chief of police particularly charged Crowley, therefore, to see to Bronson's safety in the North Side precinct, where the young attorney boarded. But Crowley had failed; for within twelve days of the warning, early one morning, Bronson had been found dead a block from his boarding house—murdered. Crowley had been unable to fix a clew upon a single one of the sixteen. He had confidently arrested them all at once, but after his stiffest "third degree" had to release them. Now, in desperation, he had rearrested Kanlan.
"Sure," said the desk sergeant, "Kanlan or some one's got to be guilty soon—whether or no. But if you ain't got the goods on Kanlan yet, maybe you'd want to talk to a lad that's waiting in front."
"Who is he? What does he know?"
"Trant's his name—from the university, he says. And he says he can pick our man."
"What is he—student?"
"He says some sort of perfesser."
"Professor!" Crowley half turned away.
"Not that kind, Ed." The desk sergeant bent one arm and tapped his biceps. "He's got plenty of this; and he's got hair, too"—the sergeant glanced at Crowley's red head—"as red as any, Cap."
"Send him in."
Crowley looked up quickly at Trant when he entered. He saw a young man with hair indeed as thick and red as his own; and with a figure, for his more medium height, quite as muscular as any police officer's. He saw that the young man's blue-gray eyes were not exact mates—that the right was quite noticeably more blue than the other, and under it was a small, pink scar which reddened conspicuously with the slightest flush of the face.
"Luther Trant, Captain Crowley," Trant introduced himself. "For two years I have been conducting experiments in the psychological laboratory of the university—"
"Psycho—Lord! Another clairvoyant!"
"If the man who killed Bronson is one of the sixteen men you suspect, and you will let me examine them, properly, I can pick the murderer at once."
"Examine them properly! Saints in Heaven, son! Say! that gang needed a stiff drink all round when we were through examining them; and never a word or a move gave a man away!"
"Those men—of course not!" Trant returned hotly. "For they can hold their tongues and their faces, and you looked at nothing else! But while you were examining them, if I, or any other trained psychologist, had had a galvanometer contact against the palms of their hands, or—"
"A palmist, Lord preserve us!" Crowley cried. "Say! don't ever think we needed you. We got our man yesterday—Kanlan—and we'll have a confession out of him by night. Sergeant!" he called, as the door opened to admit a man, "do you know what you let in—a palmist!" But it was not the sergeant who entered. "A-ah! Inspector Walker!"
"Morning, Crowley," Trant heard the quiet response behind him as he turned. A giant in the uniform of an inspector of police almost filled the doorway.
"Come with me, young man," he said. "Miss Allison was passing with me outside here and we heard some of what you've been saying. We'd like to hear more."
Trant looked up at the intelligent face and followed. A young woman was waiting outside the door. As the inspector pointed Trant toward a quiet room in the rear of the building, she followed. Inspector Walker fastened the door behind them. The girl had seated herself beside the table in the center, and as she turned to Trant she raised her veil above her brown, curling hair, and pinned it over her hat. He recognized her at once as the girl to whom Bronson had become engaged barely a week before he had been killed. On her had fallen all the horrors as well as the grief of Bronson's murder, and Trant did not wonder that the shadow of that event was visible in her sweet face. But he read there also another look—a look of apprehension and defiance.
"I was coming in with Inspector Walker to see Captain Crowley," the girl explained to Trant, "when I overheard you telling him that you think this—Kanlan—couldn't have killed Mr. Bronson. I hope this is so."
Trant looked to Walker. "Miss Allison's father was Judge Allison, the truest man who ever sat on the bench in this city," Walker responded. "His daughter knows she must not try to prevent us from punishing a man who murders; but neither of us wants to believe Kanlan is the man—for good reasons. Now, what was that you were telling Crowley?"
"I was trying to tell Captain Crowley of a simple test which must prove Kanlan's guilt or innocence at once, and, if necessary, then find the guilty man. I have been conducting experiments to register and measure the effects and reactions of emotions. A person under the influence of fear or the stress of guilt must always betray signs. A hardened man can control all the signs for which the police ordinarily look; he can control his features, prevent his face flushing noticeably. But no man, however hardened or trained to control himself, can prevent many minute changes which by scientific means are measurable and betray him hopelessly. No man, however on his guard—to take the simplest test—can control the sweat glands in the palms of his hands, which always moisten under emotion."
"A scared man sweats; that's so," Walker assented.
"So psychologists have devised a simple way of registering the emotions shown through the glands in the palms of the hand," Trant continued, "by means of the galvanometer. I have one in the box I left with the desk sergeant. It is merely a device for measuring the varying strength of an ordinary electric current. The man tested holds in each hand a contact metal wired to the battery. When he grasps them a weak and imperceptible current passes through his body or—if his hands are very dry—perhaps no current at all. He is then examined and confronted with circumstances or objects connected with the crime. If he is innocent, the objects have no significance in his mind, and cause no emotion. His face betrays none; neither can his hands. But if he is guilty, though he still manages to control his face, he cannot prevent the moisture from flowing from the glands in his palms. Understand me; I do not mean an amount of moisture noticeable to the eye, but it is enough to make an electric contact through the metals which he holds—enough to register very plainly upon the galvanometer, whose moving needle, traveling in the scale, betrays him pitilessly!"
The inspector shook his head skeptically.
"I recognize that this is new to you," said Trant. "But I am telling you no theory. Using the galvanometer properly, we can this morning determine—scientifically and irrefutably—whether or not Kanlan killed Mr. Bronson, and later, if it is not he, which of the others is the assassin. May I try it?"
Miss Allison, more white than before, had risen, and laid her hand upon Trant's sleeve."Oh, try it, Mr. Trant!" she cried. "Try—try anything which can stop them from showing through this gambler, Kanlan, and Mrs. Hawtin that Mr. Bronson—" She broke off, and turned to the inspector. Walker was looking Trant over again. The
"Oh, try it, Mr. Trant!" she cried. "Try—try anything"
psychologist faced the police officer eagerly. "I can't believe it's Kanlan," said Walker.
Until now Trant had been impressed chiefly by the huge bulk of the inspector, but as Walker spoke of the gambler whom Crowley, to save his own face, was trying to "railroad" to execution, Trant saw in the inspector something approaching sentimentality. For he was that common anomaly of the police department, an officer born and bred among the criminals he is set to watch.
"I'll take you to Kanlan," the inspector granted at last. "As things are going with him, you can't hurt, and maybe you can help. Everyone knows Kanlan would have put out Bronson; but not—I am certain—that way. I was born in the basement opposite Kanlan's. If Mr. Bronson had been attacked in broad day, with a detective on each side of him and all of them had been beaten up or killed, I'd have been the first to step over to Kanlan and say, 'Jake, you're wanted.' But Bronson was not caught that way. The man that killed him waited till the house was quiet, until Crowley's guards were asleep, and then somehow or other—how is a bigger mystery than the murder itself—got him out alone in the street at two o'clock in the morning, and struck him dead from a dark doorway.
"But I'm not taking you to Kanlan only to help save him from Crowley." Walker straightened suddenly as his eyes met the girl's. "It's to help Miss Allison, too. For the only clew Crowley or anyone else has to the man who murdered Bronson is in connection with the means of getting Bronson out of the house that way. Crowley has discovered that a Mrs. Hawtin, whom Kanlan can control through her gambling debts to him, is living a few doors beyond the place where Bronson's body was found. Crowley claims he can show Mrs. Hawtin was a friend of Bronson's, and—" The inspector hesitated, glancing at the girl.
"Captain Crowley's case," said Miss Allison, finishing, "is based on the charge that after Randolph—Mr. Bronson—had returned to his rooms from seeing me that evening, he went out again two hours later to answer a summons from this—this Mrs. Hawtin. So long as Captain Crowley can convict some one for this crime, they seem to care nothing how they slander and blacken the name of the man who is killed—as little as they care for those left who—love him."
"I see," said Trant. His eyes rested a moment upon the inspector, then again upon the girl. It surprised him to feel, as his eyes met hers that short moment, how suddenly this problem, which he had set himself to solve, had changed from a scientific examination and selection of a guilty man to the saving—though through the same science—of the reputation of a man no longer able to defend himself, and the honor of a woman devoted to that man's memory.
"But before I can examine Kanlan, or help you in any other way, Miss Allison," he explained gently, "I must be sure of my facts. It is not too much to ask you to go over them with me? No, Inspector Walker," he anticipated the big police officer's objection as Walker started to speak, "if I am to help Miss Allison, I cannot spare her now."
"Please do not, Mr. Trant," the girl begged bravely.
"Thank you. Mr. Bronson, I believe, was still boarding on Superior Street at a bachelor's boarding house?"
"Yes," the girl replied. "It is kept by Mrs. Mitchell, a very respectable widow with a little boy. Randolph had boarded with her for six years. She had once been in great trouble and he was kind to her. He often spoke of how she gave him motherly care."
"Motherly?" Trant asked. "How old is she?"
"Twenty-seven or eight, I should think."
"Thank you. How long had you known Mr. Bronson, Miss Allison?"
"A little over two years."
"Yes; and intimately, how long?"
"Almost from the first."
"But you were not engaged to him until just the week before his death?"
"Yes; our engagement was not made known till just two days before his—death."
"Inspector Walker, how long before Mr. Bronson was killed was any of the 'ring' likely to put him out of their way?"
"For two weeks at least."
"It fits Crowley's case, of course, as well as—any other," said Trant, thoughtfully, "that two days after the announcement of his engagement was the first time anyone could actually catch him alone. But it is worth noting, inspector. Mr. Bronson called upon you that evening, Miss Allison? Everything was as usual between you?"
"Entirely, Mr. Trant. Of course we both recognized the constant danger he was in. I knew how and why he had to be guarded. His regular man, from the city detail, had been with him all day downtown; and Captain Crowley's man came with him to our house. Mr. Bronson went back to his boarding house with him precisely at half past ten."
"He reached the boarding house," Inspector Walker took up the account, "a little before eleven and went at once to his room. At twelve-thirty the last boarder came in. Crowley's man immediately chained the front door and made all fast. He went to the kitchen to get something to eat, he says, and may have fallen asleep, though he denies it. However, until after Bronson's body was found, we have made certain, there was no alarm inside or out."
"There is no doubt that Mr. Bronson was in the house when it was locked up?"
"None. The last boarder, as he went to his room, saw Bronson sitting at his table going over some papers. He was still dressed but said he was going to bed immediately. An hour and a half later—with no clew as to how he went out, with no discoverable reason for his going out except that given by Crowley—a patrolman found Bronson's body on the sidewalk a block east of his boarding house. He had been struck in the forehead and killed instantly by a man who must have waited for him in the vestibule of a little electro-plating shop."
"Must have, inspector?" Trant questioned.
"Yes; he chose this shop doorway because it was the darkest place in the block."
"At what time was that—exactly?" Trant interrupted. "The papers say the attack was made ten minutes after two o'clock—that the watch in his pocket was broken and stopped by his fall at exactly ten minutes after two. Is that correct?"
"Yes," the inspector replied. "The watch stopped at 2.10; but, in spite of that, the exact time of the murder must have been nearer two than ten minutes later, for Mr. Bronson's watch was fast."
"What?" Trant cried. "You say his watch was fast? I had not heard of that!"
"It was noticed two days ago," the inspector explained, "that the record shows that the patrolman who found Bronson's body rang up from the nearest patrol box at five minutes after two. If the attack was made just before, the watch must have been at least ten minutes fast, so we have the time, after all, only approximately."
"I see." Trant turned to the girl. "It is strange, Miss Allison, that a man like Mr. Bronson carried an incorrect watch."
"He did not. It was always right."
"Was it right that evening?"
"Why, yes. I remember that he compared his time with our clock before leaving."
Trant leaped up, excitedly. "What? What? But still," he calmed himself, "whether at two or ten minutes after two, the main question is the same. You, too, Miss Allison, can you give no possible reason why Mr. Bronson might have gone out?"
"I have tried a thousand times in these terrible two weeks to think of some reason, but I cannot. Our house is in a different direction than that he took. The car line to the city is another way. He knew no one in that direction—except Mrs. Hawtin."
"You knew that he knew her?"
"Of course, Mr. Trant! He had convicted her once for shoplifting, but, like everyone whom his place had made him punish, he watched her afterwards, and, when she tried to be honest, he helped her as he had helped a hundred like her—men and women—though his enemies tried to discredit and disgrace him by accusing him of untrue motives. Oh, Mr. Trant, you do not know—you cannot understand—what shadows and pitfalls surround a man in the position Mr. Bronson held. That is why, though for two years we had known and loved each other, he waited so long before asking me to marry him. I am thankful that he spoke in time to give me the right to defend him now before the world! They took his life; they shall not take his good name! No! No! They shall not! Help me, Mr. Trant, if you can—help me!"
"Inspector Walker!" said Trant tensely, "I understand that all of the sixteen men of the ring claimed alibis. Was Kanlan's one of the best or the worst?"
The inspector hesitated. "One of the worst," he replied, unwillingly. "I am sorry to say, the very worst."
To his surprise, Trant's eyes blazed triumphantly. "Miss Allison," said he, quietly and decidedly, "I had not expected till I had tested Kanlan to be able to assure you that he is not guilty. But now I think I am safe in promising it—provided you are sure that Mr. Bronson's watch was right when he left you that night. And, Inspector Walker, if you are also certain that the murderer waited in the vestibule of that electro-plating shop, it will be soon, indeed, that we can give Crowley a better—or rather a worse—man to send to trial in Kanlan's place."
Again Trant was conscious that the giant inspector was estimating not the incomprehensible statement he had made, but Trant himself. And again Walker seemed satisfied.
"When can I go with you to Harrison Street to prove this, inspector?"
"I shall see Miss Allison home, and meet you at Harrison Street in an hour."
"You will let me know the result of the test at once, Mr. Trant?"
"At once, Miss Allison." Trant took his hat and dashed from the station.
Harrison Street police station, Chicago, is headquarters of the first police division in the third city of the world. But neither London nor New York, the two larger cities, nor Paris, whose population of two million and a half Chicago is now passing, possesses a police division more complex, diverse, and puzzling in the cosmopolitan diversity of the persons arrested than this first of Chicago.
But from all the dozen diversities brought to the Harrison Street station daily, for two weeks none had challenged in interest the case against Jake Kanlan, the racing man and gambler, rearrested and held for the murder of Bronson. Trant appreciated this as, with his galvanometer and batteries in a suit case, he pushed his way among patrolmen, detectives, reporters, and the curious into the station. But at once he caught sight of the giant inspector, Walker.
"You're late." Walker led him into a side room. "I've been putting in the time telling Sweeny here," Walker introduced him to one of the two men within, "and Captain Crowley, how you mean to work your scheme. We've been waiting for you an hour!"
"I'm sorry," Trant apologized. "I have been going over the files of the papers just before and after the murder. And I must admit, Captain Crowley," Trant conceded, "that Kanlan had as strong a reason as any for wanting Bronson out of the way. But I found one remarkably significant thing. You have seen it?" He pulled a folded newspaper from his pocket and handed it to them. "I mean this paragraph at the bottom of the front page."
The captain read it eagerly, then leaned back and laughed. "Sure, I saw it," he derided. "It's that old Johanson fake, Sweeny—and he thought it was a clew!" The inspector took the paper.
"Threatener of Bronson Breaks Jail" was the heading, and under it was this short paragraph:
"You see the date of the paper?" said Trant. "It is the five o'clock edition of the evening before Bronson was murdered! Johanson is reported escaped and at once Bronson is killed."
Crowley snickered patronizingly. "So you thought, before your palmistry, you could string us with that?" he jeered. "You might better have kept us waiting a little longer, young man, and you'd have found out that Johanson couldn't have done it, for he never escaped. It was a slip of a sneak thief, Johnson, that escaped, and he was on his way back to Joliet before night. The News got the name wrong, that's all, son."
"I was quite able to find that out, too, before coming here, Captain Crowley," Trant said quietly, "both that Johanson never escaped and that all evening papers except the News had the name correctly. Even the News corrected its account in its later edition. And I did not say that Johanson himself had anything to do with it. But either you must claim it a strange coincidence that, within eight hours after a report was current in the city that Johanson had broken out and was coming to murder Bronson, Bronson was actually murdered, or else you must admit the practical certainty that the man waiting to murder Bronson saw this account, and, not knowing it was incorrect, chose that night to kill the attorney, so as to lay it to Johanson." He picked up his suit case. "But come, let us test Kanlan."
"I haven't told Jake what you're going to do to him," Walker volunteered, as he led the three to the cells below. Sweeny, at Crowley's nod, had brought with him a satchel from the upper office.
Trant had trained himself to avoid definite expectation; yet as he faced the man within he felt a momentary surprise. For at first he could see in Kanlan only a portly, quiet man, carelessly dressed in clothes a knowing tailor had cut. But as his eyes saw clearer he perceived that the portliness was not of flesh but of huge muscles, thinly coated with fat, that the plump, olive-skinned cheeks concealed a square, fighting jaw, and that his quiet was the loll of the successful, city-bred animal, bound by no laws but his own—but an animal powerful enough to prefer to fight fair. His heavy lids lifted to watch listlessly as Trant opened his suit case and took out the instruments for the test.
The galvanometer consisted merely of a little dial with a needle arranged to register on a scale an electric current down to hundredths of a milliampère. Trant attached two wires to the binding posts of the instrument, the circuit including a single cell battery. Each wire connected with a simple steel cylinder electrode. With one held in each hand, and the palms of the hands slightly dampened to perfect the contact, a light current passed through the body and swung the delicate needle over the scale to register the change in the current. Walker, and even Captain Crowley, saw more clearly now how, if it was a fact that moisture must come from the glands in the palm of the hand under emotion, the changes in the amount of the current passing through the person holding the electrodes must register upon the dial, and the subject be unable to conceal his emotional change when confronted with guilty objects. Kanlan, comprehending nothing, but assured by Walker's nod that the test was fair, put out his hands for the electrodes.
"You're wrong, friend," he said, quietly. "I don't know your game. But I ain't afraid, if it's on the square. Of course, I ain't sorry he's dead, but—I didn't do it!"
Trant glanced quickly at the dial. A current, so very slight that he knew it must be entirely imperceptible to Kanlan, registered upon the scale; and having registered it, the needle remained steady.
"Watch it!" he commanded; then checked himself. "No; wait." He felt in his pocket. Removing the newspaper which he had there, still folded at the account of the escape of the convict Johanson, he looked about for some place to put it, and then laid it upon Kanlan's knee. He took a little phial from his pocket, uncorked it as if to oil the mechanism about the galvanometer, but spilled it on the floor. The stifling, sickening odor of banana oil pervaded the cell; and as Kanlan smiled at his clumsiness, Trant took his watch from his pocket and—with the gamester still watching him curiously—slowly set it forward an hour. The needle of the galvanometer dial, in plain view of all, waited steady in its place. The young psychologist glanced at it satisfiedly.
"Well, what's the matter with the show?" Crowley jeered, impatiently. "Commence."
"Commence, Captain Crowley?" Trant raised himself triumphantly. "I have finished it." They stared at him as though distrusting his sanity. "You have seen for yourself the needle stand steady in place," Trant continued. "Inspector Walker"—he turned to the friendly superior officer as he recognized the hopelessness of explaining to Crowley—"I understood, of course, when I asked you to bring me here that, even if my test should prove conclusive to me, yet I could scarcely hope to have the police yet accept it. I shall let Miss Allison know that Kanlan can have had no possible connection with the crime against Mr. Bronson; but I understand that I can clear Kanlan in the eyes of the police only by giving Captain Crowley," Trant bowed to that astounded officer, "the real murderer in his place."
"You say you have made the test, Trant?" Walker challenged, in stupefaction. But before Trant could answer, Crowley pushed him aside, roughly, and stooped to the satchel which Sweeny had brought.
"Of course he hasn't, Walker!" he answered, disgustedly. "He don't dare to, and is throwing a bluff. But I'll show him, with his own machine, too, if there's anything to it at all!" The captain stooped and, pulling from the opened valise a photograph of the spot where the murder was committed, he dashed it before Kanlan's face. Instantly, as both the captain and inspector turned to Trant's galvanometer needle, the little instrument showed a reaction. Up it crept, higher and higher, over the scale of the dial, as the sweat, surprised by the guilty picture from the gambler's hands, made the contact with the electrodes in his palms and the current flowed through his body.
"See! So it wasn't all a lie!" Crowley pointed triumphantly to the instrument. He stooped again to the satchel and put a photograph of the body of the murdered attorney before the suspect's eyes. The stolid Kanlan still held the muscles of his face firm and no flush betrayed him; but again, as Crowley, Sweeny, and Walker excitedly stared at the galvanometer needle it jumped and registered the stronger current. Crowley, with a victorious grunt, lifted the blood-stained coat of the murdered attorney and rubbed the sleeve against Kanlan's cheek. At this, and again and again with each presentation of objects connected with the crime, the merciless little galvanometer showed an ever-increasing reaction. Trant shrugged his shoulders.
"Jake, we got the goods on you now!" Crowley took the gambler's chin roughly between his tough fists and pushed back his head until the uneasy eyes met his own. "You'd best confess. You killed him!"
"I did not!" Kanlan choked.
"You're a liar! You killed him. I knew it, anyway. If you were a nigger you'd have been lynched before this!"
For the first time since Crowley took the test into his own hands, Trant, watching the galvanometer needle, started in surprise. He gazed suddenly at Kanlan's olive face, surmounted by his curly black hair, and smiled. The needle had jumped up higher again, completing Crowley's triumph. They filed out of the cell, and back to the little office.
"So I proved him on your own machine," Crowley rejoiced openly, "you four-flushing patent palmist!"
"You've proved, Captain Crowley," Trant returned quietly, "what I already knew, that in your previous examinations with Kanlan, and probably with the rest also, you have ruined the value of those things you have there for any proper test, by exhibiting them with threats again and again. That was why I had to make the test I did. I tell you once more that Kanlan is not the murderer of Bronson. And I am glad to be able to tell Miss Allison the same thing, as I promised her, at the very earliest moment." He picked up the telephone receiver and gave the Allisons' number. But suddenly the receiver was wrenched from his hand.
"Not yet," Inspector Walker commanded. "You'll tell Miss Allison nothing until we know more about this case."
"I don't ask you to release Kanlan yet, inspector," Trant said quietly. Crowley laughed offensively. "That is, not until I have proved for you the proper man in his place." He drew a paper from his pocket. "I cannot surely name him yet; but picking the most likely of them from what I read, I advise you to rearrest Caylis."
Crowley, throwing himself into a chair, burst into loud laughter. "He chose Caylis, Sweeny, did you hear that?" Crowley gasped. "That's in the same class as the rest of your performance, young fellow. Say, I'm sorry not to be able to oblige you," he went on, derisively, "but, you see, Caylis was the only one of the whole sixteen who couldn't have killed Bronson; for he was with me—talking to me—in the station, from half past one that morning, half an hour before the murder, till half past two, a half hour after!"
Trant sprang to his feet excitedly. "He was?" he cried. "Why didn't you tell me that before? Inspector Walker, I said a moment ago that I could not be sure which of the other fifteen killed Bronson; but now I say arrest Caylis—Caylis is the murderer!"
Captain Crowley and Sweeny stared at him again, as if believing him demented.
"I would try to explain, Inspector Walker," said Trant, "but believe me, I mean no offense when I say that I think it would be absolutely useless now. But—" he hesitated, as the inspector turned coldly away. "Inspector Walker, you said this morning you knew Kanlan from his birth. How much negro blood is there in him?"
"How did you know that?" cried Walker, staring at Trant in amazement. "He's always passed for white. He's one eighth nigger. But not three people know it. Who told you?"
"The galvanometer," Trant replied, quietly, "the same way it told me that he was innocent and Crowley's test useless. Now, will you rearrest Caylis at once and hold him till I can get the galvanometer on him?"
"I will, young fellow!" Walker promised, still staring at him. "If only for that nigger blood."
But Crowley had one more shot to make. "Say, you," he interrupted, "you threw a bluff about an hour back that the man who killed Bronson got the idea from the News. Sweeny, here, has been having these fellows shadowed since weeks before the murder. Sweeny knows what papers they read." He turned to the detective. "Sweeny, what paper did Kanlan always read?"
"And Caylis—what did he never read?"
"The News," the detective answered.
"Well, what have you for that now, son?" Crowley swung back.
"Only thanks, Captain Crowley, for that additional help. Inspector Walker, I am willing to rest my case against Caylis upon the fact that he was with Crowley at two o'clock. That alone is enough to hang him, and not as an accessory, but as the principal who himself struck the blow. But as there obviously was an accessory—and what Crowley has just said makes it more certain—perhaps I had better make as sure of that accessory, and also get a better answer for the real mystery, which is why and how Bronson left his house and went in that direction at that time in the morning, before I give Miss Allison the news for which she is waiting."
He took his hat and left them staring after him.
An hour later Trant jumped from a North Side car and hurried down Superior Street. Two blocks east of the car line he recognized from the familiar pictures in the newspapers the frescoed and once fashionable front of the Mitchell boarding house, where Bronson had lived. He was seeing it for the first time, but with barely more than a curious glance, he went on toward the place, a block east, where the attorney's body had been found. He noted carefully the character of the buildings on both sides of the street.
There was a grocery between two old mansions; beyond the next house a cigar store; then another boarding house, and the electroplater's shop before which the body was found. The little shop, smelling strongly of the oils and acids used in the electroplater's trade, was of one story. Trant noted the convenient vestibule flush with the walk, and the position of the street lamp which would throw its light on anyone approaching, while concealing with a dark shadow one waiting in the vestibule.
The physical arrangement was all as he had seen it a score of times in the newspapers; but as he stared about, the true key to the mystery of Bronson's death came to him magnified a hundred times in its intensity. Who waited there in that vestibule and struck the blow which slew Bronson, he had felt from the first would be at once answerable under scientific investigation. But the other question, how could the murderer wait so confidently there, knowing that Bronson would come out of his house alone at that time of the night and pass that way, was less simple of solution.
He glanced beyond the shop to the house where, Inspector Walker had told him, the questionable Mrs. Hawtin lived. Beyond that he saw a sign—that of a Dr. O'Connor. He swung about and returned to the house where Bronson had boarded.
"Tell Mrs. Mitchell that Mr. Trant, who is working with Inspector Walker, wishes to speak with her," he said to the maid, and he had a moment to estimate the parlor before the mistress of the house entered.
A white-faced, brown-eyed little boy of seven, with pallid cheeks and golden hair, had fled between the portières as Trant entered. The room was not at all typical of the boarding house. Its ornament and its arrangement showed the imprint of a decided, if not cultivated, feminine personality. The walls lacked the usual faded family portraits, and there was an entire absence of ancient knickknacks to give evidence of a past gentility. So he was not surprised when the mistress of this house entered, pretty after a spectacular fashion, impressing him with a quiet reserve of passion and power.
"I am always ready to see anyone who comes to help poor Mr. Bronson," she said.
The little boy, who had fled at Trant's approach, ran to her. But even as she sat with her arms about the child, Trant tried in vain to cloak her with that atmosphere of motherliness of which Miss Allison had spoken.
"I heard so, Mrs. Mitchell," said Trant. "But as you have had to tell the painful details so many times to the police and the reporters, I shall not ask you for them again."
"Do you mean," she looked up quickly, "that you bring me news instead of coming to ask it?"
"No, I want your help, but only in one particular. You must have known Mr. Bronson's habits and needs more intimately than any other person. Recently you may have thought of some possible reason for his going out in that manner and at that time, other than that held by the police."
"Oh, I wish I could, Mr. Trant!" the woman cried. "But I cannot!"
"I saw the sign of a doctor—Doctor O'Connor—just beyond the place where he was killed. Do you think it possible that he was going to Doctor O'Connor's, or have you never thought of that?"
"I thought of that, Mr. Trant," the woman returned, a little defiantly. "I tried to hope, at first, that that might be the reason for his going out. But, as I had to tell the detectives who asked me of that some time ago, I know that Mr. Bronson so intensely disliked Doctor O'Connor that he could not have been going to him, no matter how urgent the need. Besides, Doctor Carmeachal, who always attended him, lives around this corner, the other way." She indicated the direction of the car line.
"I see," Trant acknowledged, thoughtfully. "Yet, if Mr. Bronson disliked Doctor O'Connor, he must have met him. Was it here?" He leaned over and took the hand of the pallid little boy. "Perhaps Doctor O'Connor comes to see your son?"
"Oh, yes, Mr. Trant!" the child put in eagerly. "Doctor O'Connor always comes to see me. I like Doctor O'Connor."
"Still, I agree with you, Mrs. Mitchell," Trant raised his eyes calmly to meet the woman's suddenly agitated ones, "that Mr. Bronson could scarcely have been going to consult Doctor O'Connor for himself in such a fashion and at—half past one."
"At two, Mr. Trant," the woman corrected.
"Ten minutes after, to be exact, if you mean when the watch was stopped!" The woman arose suddenly, with a motion sinuous as that of a startled tiger. It was as though in the quiet parlor a note of passion and alarm had been struck. Trant bowed quietly as she rang for the maid to show him out. But when he was alone with the maid in the hall his eyes flashed suddenly.
"Tell me," he demanded, swiftly, "the night Mr. Bronson was killed, was there anything the matter with the telephone?"
The girl hesitated and stared at him queerly. "Why, yes, sir," she said. "A man had to come next day to fix it."
"The break was on the inside—I mean, the man worked in the house?"
"Why—yes, sir." The maid had opened the door. Trant stopped with a smothered exclamation and picked up a newspaper just delivered. He spread it open and saw that it was the five o'clock edition of the News.
"This is Mrs. Mitchell's paper," he demanded, "the one she always reads?"
"Why, yes, sir," the girl answered again.
Trant paused to consider. "Tell Mrs. Mitchell everything I asked you," he decided finally, and hurried down the steps and back to the police station.
In the room where the desk sergeant told him Inspector Walker was awaiting him Trant found both Crowley and Sweeny with the big officer, and a fourth man, a stranger to him. The stranger was slight and dark. He had a weak, vain face, but one of startling beauty, with great, lazy brown eyes, filled with childlike innocence. He twisted his mustache and measured Trant curiously, as the blunt, red-headed young man entered.
"So this is the fellow," he asked Crowley, derisively, "that made you think I sent a double to talk with you while I went out to do Bronson?"
"Will you have Caylis taken out of the room for a few moments, inspector?" Trant requested, in reply. The inspector motioned to Sweeny, who led out the prisoner.
"Where's your accessory?" asked Crowley, grinning.
"I'll tell you presently," Trant put him off. "I want to test Caylis without his knowing anything unusual is being tried. Captain Crowley, can we have the brass-knobbed chair from your office?"
"What for?" Crowley demanded.
"I will show you when I have it."
At Walker's nod Crowley brought in the chair. It was a deep, high-backed, wooden chair, with high arms; and on each arm was a brass knob, so placed that a person sitting in the chair would almost inevitably place his palms over them. As the captain brought in the chair, Trant opened his suit case and took out his galvanometer, batteries and wires. Cutting off the cylinder electrodes which Kanlan had held in his hands during the test of that morning, Trant ran the wires under each arm of the chair and made a contact with each brass knob. He connected them with the battery, which he hid under the chair, and with the galvanometer dial, which he placed behind the chair upon a table, concealing it behind his hat.
He seated himself in the chair and grasped the knobs in his palms. With his hands dry no perceptible current passed through his body from knob to knob to register upon the dial.
"Scare me!" he suddenly commanded the inspector.
"What?" Walker bent his brows.
"Scare me, and watch the needle."
Walker, half comprehending, fumbled in the drawer of a desk, straightened suddenly, a cocked revolver in his hand, and snapped it at Trant's head. At once the needle of the galvanometer leaped across the scale, and Crowley and Walker both stared.
"Thank you, inspector," said Trant as he rose from the chair. "It works very well; you see, my palms couldn't help sweating when you snapped the gun at me before I appreciated that it wasn't loaded. Now, we'll test Caylis as we did Kanlan."
The inspector went to the door, took Caylis from Sweeny, and led him to the chair.
"Sit down," he said. "Mr. Trant wants to talk to you."
The childlike, brown eyes, covertly alert and watchful, followed Trant, and Caylis nervously grasped the two inviting knobs on the arms of his chair. Walker and Crowley, standing where they could watch both Trant and the galvanometer dial, saw that the needle stood where it had stood for Trant before Walker put the revolver to his head.
Trant quietly took from his pocket the newspaper containing the false account of Johanson's escape, and, looking about as though for a place to put it—as he had done in his trial of Kanlan—laid it, with the Johanson paragraph uppermost, in Caylis's lap. Walker smothered an exclamation; Crowley looked up startled. The needle—which had remained so still when the paper was laid upon Kanlan's knee—had jumped across the scale.
Caylis gave no sign; his hands still grasped the brass knobs nervously; his face was quiet and calm. Trant took from his pocket the little phial refilled with banana oil and emptied its contents on the floor as he had done that morning. Again Walker and Crowley, with startled eyes, watched the needle move. Trant took his watch from his pocket, and, as in the morning, before Caylis's face he set it an hour ahead.
"What are all these tricks?" said Caylis, contemptuously.
But Walker and Crowley, with flushed faces bent above the moving needle, paid no heed. Trant posted himself between Caylis and the door.
"You see now," Trant cried, triumphantly, to the police officers, "the difference between showing the false account of the escape of Johanson to an innocent man, and showing it to the man whom it sent out to do murder. You see the difference between loosing the stench of banana oil before a man who associates nothing with it, and before the criminal who waited in the vestibule of the electro-plater's shop and can never in his life smell banana oil again without its bringing upon him the fear of the murderer. You see the difference, too, Captain Crowley, between setting a watch forward in front of a man to whom it can suggest nothing criminal, and setting it an hour ahead in front of the man who, after he had murdered Bronson—not at two, but a little after one—stooped to the body and set the watch at least an hour fast, then rushed in to talk coolly with you, in order to establish an incontestable alibi for the time he had so fixed for the murder!"
Police Captain Crowley, livid with the first flash of fear that the murderer had made of him a tool, swung threateningly toward Caylis. For a moment, as though stiffened by the strain of following the accusation, Caylis had sat apparently paralyzed. Now in the sudden change from his absolute security to complete despair, he faced Crowley, white as paper; then, as his heart began to pound again, his skin turned to purple. His handsome, vain face changed to the face of a demon; his childlike eyes flared; he sprang toward Trant. But when he had drawn the two police officers together to stop his rush, he turned and leaped for a window. Before he could dash it open, Walker's powerful hand clutched him back.
"This, I think," Trant gasped, and controlled himself, as he surveyed the now weak and nerveless prisoner, "should convince even Captain Crowley. But it was not needed, Caylis. From the time Mrs. Mitchell showed you the report of Johanson's escape in the News and you thought you could kill Bronson safely, and you got her to send him out to you, until you had struck him down, set his watch forward and rushed to Crowley for your alibi, my case was complete."
"She—she"—Caylis's hands clenched—"peached on me—but you—got her?" he shouted vengefully.
Walker and Crowley turned to Trant in amazement.
"Mrs. Mitchell?" they demanded.
"Yes—your wife, Caylis?" Trant pressed.
"Yes, my wife, and mine," the man hissed defiantly, "eight years ago back in St. Louis till, till this cursed Bronson broke up the gang and sent me over the road for three years, and she got to thinking he must be stuck on her and might marry her, because he helped her, until—until she found out!"
"Ah; I thought she had been your wife when I saw you, after the boy; but, of course—" Trant checked himself as he heard a knock on the door.
"Miss Allison is in her carriage outside sir," the officer who had knocked saluted Inspector Walker. "She has come to see you, sir. She says you sent no word." Walker looked from the cringing Caylis to Trant.
"We do not need Caylis any longer, inspector," said Trant. "I can tell Miss Allison all the facts now, if you wish to have her hear them."
The door, which shut behind Crowley and his prisoner, reopened almost immediately to admit the inspector, and Miss Allison. With her fair, sweet face flushed with the hope which had taken the place of the white fear and defiance of the morning, Trant barely knew her.
"The inspector tells me, Mr. Trant," she stretched out both her hands to him, "that you have good news for me—that Kanlan was not guilty—and so Randolph was not going out as—as they said he was when they killed him."
"No; he was not!" Trant returned, triumphantly. "He was going instead on an errand of mercy, Miss Allison, to summon a doctor for a little child whom he had been told was suddenly and dangerously ill. The telephone in the house had been broken, so at the sudden summons he dashed out, without remembering his danger. I am glad to be able to tell you of that fine, brave thing when I must tell you, also, the terrible truth that the woman whom he had helped and protected was the one who, in a fit of jealousy, when she found he had merely meant to be kind to her, sent him out to his death."
"Mrs. Mitchell?" the girl cried in horror. "Oh, not Mrs. Mitchell!"
"Yes, Mrs. Mitchell, for whom he had done so much and whose past he protected, in the noblest way, even from you. But as she was the wife of the criminal we have just caught, I am glad to believe this man played upon her old passions, so that for a while he held his old sway over her and she did his bidding without counting the consequences.
"I told you this morning, Inspector Walker, that I could not explain to you my conclusions in the test of Kanlan. But I owe you now a full explanation. You will recall that I commented upon the fact that the crime which was puzzling you was committed within so short a time after the knowledge of Mr. Bronson's engagement became known, that I divined a possible connection. But that, at best, was only indirect. The first direct thing which struck me was the circumstance that the man waited in the vestibule of the electro-plater's shop. I was certain that the very pungent fruit-ether odor of banana oil—the thinning material used by electro-platers in preparing their lacquers—must be forever intimately connected with the crime in the mind of the man who waited in that vestibule. To no one else could that odor connect itself with crime. So I knew that if I could test all sixteen men it would be child's play to pick the murderer. But such a test was cumbersome. And the next circumstance you gave me made it unnecessary. I mean the fact of the 'fast watch' which, Miss Allison was able to tell me, could not have been fast at all. I saw that the watch must therefore have been set forward at least ten minutes, probably much longer. Who, between half past ten and two, could have done this, and for what reason? The one convincing possibility was that the assassin had set it forward, trusting it would not be found till morning, and his only object could have been to establish for himself an alibi—for two o'clock.
"I surprised you, therefore, by assuring you, even before I saw Kanlan, that he was innocent, because Kanlan had no alibi whatever. I proved his innocence to my own satisfaction by exhibiting before him without exciting any emotional reaction at all, the report in the News which, I felt fairly sure, must have had something to do with the crime; by loosing the smell of banana oil, and setting forward a watch in his presence. The objects which Crowley used had been so thoroughly connected with the crime in Kanlan's mind that—though he is innocent—they caused reactions to which I paid no attention, except the one reaction which, at Crowley's threat, told me of Kanlan's negro blood. As for the rest, they merely scared Kanlan as your pistol scared me, and as they would have scared any innocent man under the same conditions. My own tests could cause reactions only in the guilty man.
"That man, I think you understand now," Trant continued rapidly, "I was practically sure of when Crowley told me of Caylis's alibi. You have just seen the effect upon him of the same tests I tried on Kanlan, and the conclusive evidence the galvanometer gave. The fact that Caylis himself never read the News only contributed to my certainty that another person was concerned, a person who could have either decoyed or sent Mr. Bronson out. So I went to the place, found the doctor's sign just beyond, discovered that that doctor treated, not Bronson, but the little Mitchell boy, that the telephone had been broken inside the house that evening to furnish an excuse for sending Bronson out, and that Mrs. Mitchell reads the News."
"The Mitchell woman sent him out, of course," Walker checked him almost irritably. "Six blocks away—Crowley ought to have her by now."
Miss Allison gathered herself together and arose. She clutched the inspector's sleeve. "Inspector Walker, must you—" she faltered.
"None of us is called upon to say how she shall be punished, Miss Allison," Trant said, compassionately. "We must trust all to the twelve men who shall try these two." But to her eyes, searching his, Trant seemed to be awaiting something. Suddenly the telephone rang. Walker took up the receiver. "It's Crowley," he cried. "He says Mrs. Mitchell skipped—cleared. You could have taken her," he accused Trant, "but you let her go!"
Trant stood watching the face of Miss Allison, unmoved. The desk sergeant burst in upon them.
"Mrs. Mitchell's outside, inspector! She said she's come to give herself up!"
"You counted upon that, I suppose," Walker turned again upon Trant. "But don't do it again," he warned, "for the sake of what's before you!"