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"Congratulations nothing," rejoined O'Connor. "Just another new deal-election coming on, mayor must make a show of getting some reform done, and all that sort of thing. So he began with the Police Department, and here I am, first deputy. But, say, Kennedy," he added, dropping his voice, "I've a little job on my mind that I'd like to pull off in about as spectacular a fashion as I--as you know how. I want to make good, conspicuously good, at the start--understand? Maybe I'll be 'broke' for it and sent to pounding the pavements of Dismissalville, but I don't care, I'll take a chance. On the level, Kennedy, it's a big thing, and it ought to be done. Will you help me put it across?"
"What is it?" asked Kennedy with a twinkle in his eye at O'Connor's estimate of the security of his tenure of office.
O'Connor drew us away from the automobile toward the stone parapet overlooking the railroad and river far below, and out of earshot of the department chauffeur. "I want to pull off a successful raid on the Vesper Club," he whispered earnestly, scanning our faces.
"Good heavens, man," I ejaculated, "don't you know that Senator Danfield is interested in--"
"Jameson," interrupted O'Connor reproachfully, "I said 'on the level' a few moments ago, and I meant it. Senator Danfield he--well, anyhow, if I don't do it the district attorney will, with the aid of the Dowling law, and I am going to beat him to it, that's all. There's too much money being lost at the Vesper Club, anyhow. It won't hurt Danfield to be taught a lesson not to run such a phony game. I may like to put up a quiet bet myself on the ponies now and then--I won't say I don't, but this thing of Danfield's has got beyond all reason. It's the crookedest gambling joint in the city, at least judging by the stories they tell of losses there. And so beastly aristocratic, too. Read that."
O'Connor shoved a letter into Kennedy's hand, a dainty perfumed and monogrammed little missive addressed in a feminine hand. It was such a letter as comes by the thousand to the police in the course of a year; though seldom from ladies of the smart set.
"Dear Sir: I notice in the newspapers this morning that you have just been appointed first deputy commissioner of police and that you have been ordered to suppress gambling in New York. For the love that you must still bear toward your own mother, listen to the story of a mother worn with anxiety for her only son, and if there is any justice or righteousness in this great city close up a gambling hell that is sending to ruin scores of our finest young men. No doubt you know or have heard of my family--the DeLongs are not unknown in New York. Perhaps you have also heard of the losses of my son Percival at the Vesper Club. They are fast becoming the common talk of our set. I am not rich, Mr. Commissioner, in spite of our social position, but I am human, as human as a mother in any station of life, and oh, if there is any way, close up that gilded society resort that is dissipating our small fortune, ruining an only son, and slowly bringing to the grave a gray-haired widow, as worthy of protection as any mother of the poor whose plea has closed up a little poolroom or low policy shop."
Sincerely, (Mrs.) Julia M. DeLong.
P.S.--Please keep this confidential--at least from my son Percival. J. M. DeL.
"Well," said Kennedy, as he handed back the letter, "O'Connor, if you do it, I'll take back all the hard things I've ever said about the police system. Young DeLong was in one of my classes at the university, until he was expelled for that last mad prank of his. There's more to that boy than most people think, but he's the wildest scion of wealth I have ever come in contact with. How are you going to pull off your raid--is it to be down through the skylight or up from the cellar?"
"Kennedy," replied O'Connor in the same reproachful tone with which he had addressed me, "talk sense. I'm in earnest. You know the Vesper Club is barred and barricaded like the National City Bank. It isn't one of those common gambling joints which depend for protection on what we call 'ice-box doors.' It's proof against all the old methods. Axes and sledge-hammers would make no impression there."
"Your predecessor had some success at opening doors with a hydraulic jack, I believe, in some very difficult raids," put in Kennedy.
"A hydraulic jack wouldn't do for the Vesper Club, I'm afraid," remarked O'Connor wearily. "Why, sir, that place has been proved bomb-proof--bomb-proof, sir. You remember recently the so-called 'gamblers' war' in which some rivals exploded a bomb on the steps? It did more damage to the house next door than to the club. However, I can get past the outer door, I think, even if it is strong. But inside--you must have heard of it--is the famous steel door, three inches thick, made of armourplate. It's no use to try it at all unless we can pass that door with reasonable quickness. All the evidence we shall get will be of an innocent social club-room downstairs. The gambling is all on the second floor, beyond this door, in a room without a window in it. Surely you've heard of that famous gambling-room, with its perfect system of artificial ventilation and electric lighting that makes it rival noonday at midnight. And don't tell me I've got to get on the other side of the door by strategy, either. It is strategy-proof. The system of lookouts is perfect. No, force is necessary, but it must not be destructive of life or property--or, by heaven, I'd drive up there and riddle the place with a fourteen-inch gun," exclaimed O'Connor.
"H'm!" mused Kennedy as he flicked the ashes off his cigar and meditatively watched a passing freight-train on the railroad below us. "There goes a car loaded with tons and tons of scrap iron. You want me to scrap that three-inch steel door, do you?"
"Kennedy, I'll buy that particular scrap from you at almost its weight in gold. The fact is, I have a secret fund at my disposal such as former commissioners have asked for in vain. I can afford to pay you well, as well as any private client, and I hear you have had some good fees lately. Only deliver the goods."
"No," answered Kennedy, rather piqued, "it isn't money that I am after. I merely wanted to be sure that you are in earnest. I can get you past that door as if it were made of green baize."
It was O'Connor's turn to look incredulous, but as Kennedy apparently meant exactly what he said, he simply asked, "And will you?"
"I will do it to-night if you say so," replied Kennedy quietly. "Are you ready?"
For answer O'Connor simply grasped Craig's hand, as if to seal the compact.
"All right, then," continued Kennedy. "Send a furniture-van, one of those closed vans that the storage warehouses use, up to my laboratory any time before seven o'clock. How many men will you need in the raid? Twelve? Will a van hold that many comfortably? I'll want to put some apparatus in it, but that won't take much room."
"Why, yes, I think so," answered O'Connor. "I'll get a well-padded van so that they won't be badly jolted by the ride down-town. By George! Kennedy, I see you know more of that side of police strategy than I gave you credit for."
"Then have the men drop into my laboratory singly about the same time. You can arrange that so that it will not look suspicious, so far uptown. It will be dark, anyhow. Perhaps, O'Connor, you can make up as the driver yourself--anyhow, get one you can trust absolutely. Then have the van down near the corner of Broadway below the club, driving slowly along about the time the theatre crowd is out. Leave the rest to me. I will give you or the driver orders when the time comes."
As O'Connor thanked Craig, he remarked without a shade of insincerity, "Kennedy, talk about being commissioner, you ought to be commissioner."
"Wait till I deliver the goods," answered Craig simply. "I may fall down and bring you nothing but a lawsuit for damages for unlawful entry or unjust persecution, or whatever they call it."
"I'll take a chance at that," called back O'Connor as he jumped into his car and directed, "Headquarters, quick."
As the car disappeared, Kennedy filled his lungs with air as if reluctant to leave the drive. "Our constitutional," he remarked, "is abruptly at an end, Walter."
Then he laughed, as he looked about him.
"What a place in which to plot a raid on Danfield's Vesper Club! Why, the nurse-maids have hardly got the children all in for supper and bed. It's incongruous. Well, I must go over to the laboratory and get some things ready to put in that van with the men. Meet me about half-past seven, Walter, up in the room, all togged up. We'll dine at the Cafe Riviera to-night in style. And, by the way, you're quite a man about town--you must know someone who can introduce us into the Vesper Club."
"But, Craig," I demurred, "if there is any rough work as a result, it might queer me with them. They might object to being used--"
"Oh, that will be all right. I just want to look the place over and lose a few chips in a good cause. No, it won't queer any of your Star connections. We'll be on the outside when the time comes for anything to happen. In fact I shouldn't wonder if your story would make you all the more solid with the sports. I take all the responsibility; you can have the glory. You know they like to hear the inside gossip of such things, after the event. Try it. Remember, at seven-thirty. We'll be a little late at dinner, but never mind; it will be early enough for the club."
Left to my own devices I determined to do a little detective work on my own account, and not only did I succeed in finding an acquaintance who agreed to introduce us at the Vesper Club that night about nine o'clock, but I also learned that Percival DeLong was certain to be there that night, too. I was necessarily vague
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