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- The Ear in the Wall - 10/51 -
"You see, Miss Ashton," explained Carton, "someone has placed a detectaphone in the private dining-room of Dorgan at Gastron's. I heard of it first through Mrs. Ogleby, who attended one of the dinners and was terribly afraid her name would be connected with them if the record should ever be published."
"Mrs. Ogleby?" cried Miss Ashton quickly. "She--at a dinner--with Mr. Murtha? I--I can't believe it."
Carton said nothing. Whether he knew more about Mrs. Ogleby than he cared to tell, I could not even guess.
As he went on briefly summarizing the story, Miss Ashton shot a quick glance or two at him.
Carton noticed it, but appeared not to do so. "I suppose," he concluded, "that she thought I was the only person capable of eavesdropping. As a matter of fact, I think the instrument was put in by Hartley Langhorne as part of the fight that is going on fiercely under the surface in the organization."
It was Carton's turn now, I fancied, to observe Miss Ashton more closely. As far as I could see, the information was a matter of perfect indifference to her.
Carton did not say it in so many words, but one could not help gathering that rather than seem to be pursuing a possible rival and using his official position in order to do it, he was not considering Langhorne in any other light than as a mere actor in the drama between himself and Dorgan and Murtha.
"Now," he concluded, "the point of the whole thing is this, Miss Ashton. We have learned that Betty Blackwell--you know the case-- who took the notes over the detectaphone for the Black Book, has suddenly and mysteriously disappeared. If she is gone, it may be difficult to prove anything, even if we get the book. Miss Blackwell happens to be a stenographer in the office of Langhorne & Westlake."
For the first time, Miss Ashton seemed to show a sign of embarrassment. Evidently she would just as well have had Miss Blackwell in some other connection.
"Perhaps you would rather have nothing to do with it," suggested Carton, "but I know that you were always interested in things of the sort that happen to girls in the city and thought perhaps you could advise us, even if you don't feel like personally taking up the case."
"Oh, it doesn't--matter," she murmured. "Of course, the first thing for us to do is, as you say, to find what has become of Betty Blackwell."
Carton turned suddenly at the word "us," but Miss Ashton was still studying the pattern of the rug.
"Do you know any more about her?" she asked at length.
As fully as possible the District Attorney repeated what he had already told us. Miss Ashton seemed to be more than interested in the story of the disappearance of Langhorne's stenographer.
As Carton unfolded the meagre details of what we knew so far, Miss Ashton appeared to be torn by conflicting opinions. The more she thought of what might possibly have happened to the unfortunate girl, the more aroused about the case she seemed to become.
Carton had evidently calculated on enlisting her sympathies, knowing how she felt toward many of the social and economic injustices toward women, and particularly girls.
"If Mr. Murtha or Mr. Dorgan is responsible in any way for any harm to her," she said finally, her earnest eyes now ablaze with indignation, "I shall not rest until someone is punished."
Kennedy had been watching her emotions keenly, I suspect, to see whether she connected Langhorne in any way with the disappearance. I could see it interested him that she did not seem even to consider that Langhorne might be responsible. Whether her intuition was correct or not, it was at least better at present than any guess that we three might have made.
"They control so many forces for evil," she went on, "that there is no telling what they might command against a defenceless girl like her when it is a question of their political power."
"Then," pursued Kennedy, pacing the floor thoughtfully, "the next question is, How are we to proceed? The first step naturally will be the investigation of this Little Montmartre. How is it to be done? I presume you don't want to go up there and look the place over yourself, do you, Carton?"
"Most certainly not," said Carton emphatically. "Not if you want this case to go any further. Why, I can't walk around a corner now without a general scurry for the cyclone cellars. They all know me, and those who don't are watching for me. On the contrary, if you are going to start there I had better execute a flank movement in Queens or Jersey to divert attention. Really, I mean it. I had better keep in the background. But I'll tell you what I would like to do."
Carton hesitated and came to a full stop.
"What's the matter?" asked Kennedy quickly, noticing the hesitation.
"Why--I--er--didn't know just how you'd take a suggestion--that's all."
"Thankfully. What is it?"
"You know young Haxworth?"
"You mean the son of the millionaire who is investigating vice and whom the newspapers are poking fun at?"
"Yes. Those papers make me tired. He has been working, you know, with me in this matter. He is really serious about it, too. He has a corps of investigators of his own already. Well, there is one of them, a woman detective named Clare Kendall, who is the brains of the whole Haxworth outfit. If you would be willing to have them-- er--to have her co-operate with you, I think I could persuade Haxworth---"
"Oh," broke in Kennedy with a laugh. "I see. You think perhaps there might be some professional jealousy? On the contrary, it solves a problem I was already considering. Of course we shall need a woman in this case, one with a rare amount of discretion and ability. Yes, by all means let us call in Miss Kendall, and let us take every advantage we can of what she has already accomplished."
Carton seized the telephone.
"Tell her to meet us at my laboratory in half an hour," interposed Kennedy. "You will come along?"
"I can't. Court opens in twenty minutes and there is a motion I must argue myself."
Miss Ashton appeared to be greatly gratified at Craig's reception of the suggestion, and Carton noticed it
"Oh, yes," recollected Carton, "by the way, as I was on my way down here, my office called up and told me that they had succeeded in locating and arresting Dopey Jack. That ought to please you,-- it will mean cutting down the number of those East Side 'rackets' considerably if we succeed with him."
"Good!" she exclaimed. "Yes, I don't think there were any worse affairs than the dances of that Jack Rubano Association. They have got hold of more young girls and caused more tragedies than any other gang. If you need any help in getting together evidence, Mr. Carton, I shall be only too glad to help you. I have several old scores myself to settle with that young tough."
"Thank you," said Carton. "I shall need your help, if we are to do anything. Of course, we can hold him only for primary frauds just now, but I may be able to do something about that dance that he broke up as a shooting affray."
Miss Ashton nodded encouragingly.
"And," he went on, "it's barely possible that he may know something, or some of his followers may, about the robbery of Mr. Langhorne's safe,--if not about the complete and mysterious disappearance of Betty Blackwell."
"They'd stop at nothing to save their precious skins," commented Miss Ashton. "Perhaps that is a good lead. At any rate I can suggest that to the various societies and other agencies which I intend to set in motion trying to trace what has happened to her. You can have him held until they have time to report?"
"I shall make it a point to do so at any cost," he returned, "and I can say only this, that we are all deeply indebted to you for the interest you have shown in the case."
"Not at all," she replied enthusiastically, evidently having overcome the first hesitation which had existed because Miss Blackwell had been Langhorne's stenographer.
Miss Ashton had quickly jotted down in her notebook the best description we could give of the missing girl, her address, and other facts about her, and a list of those whom she meant to start at work on the case.
For a moment she hesitated over one name, then with a sudden resolution wrote it down.
"I intend to see Hartley Langhorne about it, too," she added frankly. "Perhaps he may tell something of importance, after all."
I am sure that this final resolution cost her more than all the rest. Carton would never have asked it of her, yet was gratified that she saw it to be her duty to leave nothing undone in tracing the girl, not even considering the possibility of offending Langhorne.
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