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- The Ear in the Wall - 5/51 -
It was due to such men as Murtha that the organization kept its grip, though one wave of reform after another lashed its fury on it. For Murtha understood his people. He worked at politics every hour--whether it was patting the babies of the district on the head, or bailing their fathers out of jail, handing out shoes to the shiftless or judiciously distributing coal and ice to the deserving.
Yet I had seen enough to know the inherent viciousness of the circle--of how the organization took dollars from the people with one concealed hand and distributed pennies from the other hand, held aloft and in the spotlight. Again and again, Kennedy and I in our excursions into scientific warfare on crime in the underworld had run squarely up against the refined as well as the debased creatures of the "System." Pyramided on what looked like open- handed charity and good-fellowship we had seen vice and crime of all degrees.
And yet, somehow or other, I must confess to a sort of admiration for Murtha and his stamp--if for nothing else than because of the frankness with which he did what he sought to do. Neither Kennedy nor I could be accused of undue sympathy with the System, yet, like many who had been brought in close contact with it, it had earned our respect in many ways.
And so, I contemplated the situation with more than ordinary interest. Carton wanted the Black Book to use in order to win his political fight for a clean city and to prosecute the grafters. Dorgan wanted it in order to suppress and thus protect himself and Murtha. Mrs. Ogleby wanted it to save her good name and prevent even the appearance of scandal. Langhorne wanted it in order to coerce Dorgan to share in the graft, yet was afraid of Carton also.
Was ever a situation of such peculiar, mixed motives?
"I would move heaven and earth for that Black Book!" exclaimed Carton finally, turning from the window and facing us.
Kennedy, too, had risen.
"You can count on me, then, Carton," he said simply, as the recollection of the many fights in which we had stood shoulder to shoulder with the young District Attorney came over him.
A moment later Carton had us each by the hand.
"Thank you," he cried. "I knew you fellows would be with me."
THE SAFE ROBBERY
It was late that night that Kennedy and I left Carton after laying out a campaign and setting in motion various forces, official and unofficial, which might serve to keep us in touch with what Dorgan and the organization were doing.
Not until the following morning, however, did anything new develop in such a way that we could work on it.
Kennedy had picked up the morning papers which had been left at the door of our apartment and was hastily running his eye over the headlines on the first page, as was his custom.
"By Jove, Walter," I heard him exclaim. "What do you think of that--a robbery below the deadline--and in Langhorne's office, too."
I hurried out of my room and glanced at the papers, also. Sure enough, there it was:
SAFE ROBBED IN WALL ST. OFFICE
Door Into Office of Langhorne & Westlake, Brokers, Forced and Safe Robbed.
One of the strangest robberies ever perpetrated was pulled off last night in the office of Langhorne & Westlake, the brokers, at- ----Wall Street, some time during the regular closing time of the office and eight o'clock.
Mr. Langhorne had returned to his office after dining with some friends in order to work on some papers. When he arrived, about eight o'clock, he found that the door had been forced. The office was in darkness, but when he switched on the lights it was discovered that the office safe had been entered.
Nothing was said about the manner in which the safe robbery was perpetrated, but it is understood to have been very peculiar. So far no details have been announced and the robbery was not reported to the police until a late hour.
Mr. Langhorne, when seen by the reporters, stated positively that nothing of great value had been taken and that the firm would not suffer in any way as a result of the robbery.
One of the stenographers in the office, Miss Betty Blackwell, who acted as private secretary to Mr. Langhorne, is missing and the case has already attracted wide attention. Whether or not her disappearance had anything to do with the robbery is not known.
"Naturally he would not report it to the police," commented Kennedy; "that is, if it had anything to do with that Black Book, as I am sure that it must have had."
"It was certainly a most peculiar affair if it did not," I remarked. "There must be some way of finding that out. It's strange about Betty Blackwell."
Kennedy was turning something over in his mind. "Of course," he remarked, "we don't want to come out into the open just yet, but it would be interesting to know what happened down there at Langhorne's. Have you any objection to going down with me and posing as a reporter from the Star?"
"None whatever," I returned.
We stopped at the laboratory on the campus of the University where Craig still retained his professorship. Kennedy secured a rather bulky piece of apparatus, which, as nearly as I can describe, consisted of a steel frame, which could be attached by screws to any wooden table. It contained a lower plate which could move forward and back, two lateral uprights stiffened by curved braces, and a cross piece of steel attached by strong bolts to the tops of the posts. In the face of the machine was a dial with a pointer.
Kennedy quickly took the apparatus apart and made it up into two packages so that between us we could carry it easily, and at about the time that Wall Street offices were opening we were on our way downtown.
Langhorne proved to be a tall, rather slim, man of what might be called youngish middle age. One did not have to be introduced to him to read his character or his occupation. Every line of his faultlessly fitting clothes and every expression of his keen and carefully cared-for face betokened the plunger, the man who lived by his wits and found the process both fascinating and congenial.
"Mr. Langhorne," began Kennedy, after I had taken upon myself the duty of introducing ourselves as reporters, "we are preparing an article for our paper about a new apparatus which the Star has imported especially from Paris. It is a machine invented by Monsieur Bertillon just before he died, for the purpose of furnishing exact measurements of the muscular efforts exerted in the violent entry of a door or desk by making it possible to reproduce the traces of the work that a burglar has left on doors and articles of furniture. We've been waiting for a case that the instrument would fit into and it seemed to us that perhaps it might be of some use to you in getting at the real robber of your office. Would you mind if we made an attempt to apply it?"
Langhorne could not very well refuse to allow us to try the thing, though it was plainly evident that he did not want to talk and did not relish the publicity that the news of the morning had brought him.
Kennedy had laid the apparatus down on a table as he spoke and was assembling the parts which he had separated in order to carry it.
"These are the marks on the door, I presume?" he continued, examining some indentations of the woodwork near the lock.
"The door was open when you returned?" asked Kennedy.
"Closed," replied Langhorne briefly. "Before I put the key into the lock, I turned the knob, as I have a habit of doing. Instead of catching, it yielded and the door swung open without any trouble."
He repeated the story substantially as we had already read it in the papers.
Kennedy had taken a step or two into the office, and was now facing the safe. It was not a large safe, but was one of the most modern construction and was supposed to be burglar proof.
"And you say you lost practically nothing?" persisted Craig.
"Nothing of importance," reiterated Langhorne.
Kennedy had been watching him closely. The man was at least baffling. There was nothing excited or perturbed about his manner. Indeed, one might easily have thought that it was not his safe at all that had been robbed. I wondered whether, after all, he had had the Black Book. Certainly, I felt, if he had lost it he was very cool about the loss.
Craig had by this time reached the safe itself. In spite of Langhorne's reluctance, his assurance had taken Kennedy even up to the point which he wished. He was examining the safe.
On the front it showed no evidence of having been "souped" or drilled. There was not a mark on it. Nor, as we learned later from
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