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- OF THE SILENT BULLET - 54/54 -


The cylinder was repaired without being taken out at all. I've seen it weld new teeth and build up old worn teeth on gearing, as good as new."

He paused to let us see the terrifically heated metal under the flame.

"You remember when we were talking on the drive about the raid, O'Connor? A car-load of scrap-iron went by on the railroad below us. They use this blowpipe to cut it up, frequently. That's what gave me the idea. See. I turn on the oxygen now in this second nozzle. The blowpipe is no longer an instrument for joining metals together, but for cutting them asunder. The steel burns just as you, perhaps, have seen a watch-spring burn in a jar of oxygen. Steel, hard or soft, tempered, annealed, chrome, or Harveyised, it all burns just as fast and just as easily. And it's cheap too. This raid may cost a couple of dollars, as far as the blowpipe is concerned--quite a difference from the thousands of dollars' loss that would follow an attempt to blow the door in."

The last remark was directed quietly at the doubting detective. He had nothing to say. We stood in awe-struck amazement as the torch slowly, inexorably, traced a thin line along the edge of the door.

Minute after minute sped by, as the line burned by the blowpipe cut straight from top to bottom. It seemed hours to me. Was Kennedy going to slit the whole door and let it fall in with a crash?

No, I could see that even in his cursory examination of the door he had gained a pretty good knowledge of the location of the bolts imbedded in the steel. One after another he was cutting clear through and severing them, as if with a superhuman knife.

What was going on on the other side of the door, I wondered. I could scarcely imagine the consternation of the gamblers caught in their own trap.

With a quick motion Kennedy turned off the acetylene and oxygen. The last bolt had been severed. A gentle push of the hand, and he swung the once impregnable door on its delicately poised hinges as easily as if he had merely said, "Open Sesame." The robbers' cave yawned before us.

We made a rush up the stairs. Kennedy was first, O'Connor next, and myself scarcely a step behind, with the rest of O'Connor's men at our heels.

I think we were all prepared for some sort of gun-play, for the crooks were desperate characters, and I myself was surprised to encounter nothing but physical force, which was quickly, overcome.

In the now disordered richness of the rooms, waving his "John Doe" warrants in one hand and his pistol in the other, O'Connor shouted "you're all under arrest, gentlemen. If you resist further it will go hard with you."

Crowded now in one end of the room in speechless amazement was the late gay party of gamblers, including Senator Danfield himself. They had reckoned on toying with any chance but this. The pale white face of DeLong among them was like a spectre, as he stood staring blankly about and still insanely twisting the roulette wheel before him.

Kennedy advanced toward the table with an ax which he had seized from one of our men. A well-directed blow shattered the mechanism of the delicate wheel.

"DeLong," he said, "I'm not going to talk to you like your old professor at the university, nor like your recent friend, the Frenchman with a system. This is what you have been up against, my boy. Look."

His forefinger indicated an ingenious, but now tangled and twisted, series of minute wires and electro-magnets in the broken wheel before us. Delicate brushes led the current into the wheel. With another blow of his axe, Craig disclosed wires running down through the leg of the table to the floor and under the carpet to buttons operated by the man who ran the game.

"Wh--what does it mean?" asked DeLong blankly.

"It means that you had little enough chance to win at a straight game of roulette. But the wheel is very rarely straight, even with all the odds in favour of the bank, as they are. This game was electrically controlled." Others are mechanically controlled by what is sometimes called the 'mule's ear,' and other devices. You can't win. These wires and magnets can be made to attract the little ball into any pocket the operator desires. Each one of those pockets contains a little electro-magnet. One set of magnets in the red pockets is connected with one button under the carpet and a battery. The other set in the black pockets is connected with another button and the battery. This ball is not really of platinum. Platinum is nonmagnetic. It is simply a soft iron hollow ball, plated with platinum. Whichever set of electro-magnets is energised attracts the ball and by this simple method it is in the power of the operator to let the ball go to red or black as he may wish. Other similar arrangements control the odd or even, and other combinations from other push buttons. A special arrangement took care of that '17' freak. There isn't an honest gambling-machine in the whole place --I might almost say the whole city. The whole thing is crooked from start to finish--the men, the machines, the--"

"That machine could be made to beat me by turning up a run of '17' any number of times, or red or black, or odd or even, over '18' or under '18,' or anything?"

"Anything, DeLong."

"And I never had a chance," he repeated, meditatively fingering the wires. "They broke me to-night. Danfield"--DeLong turned, looking dazedly about in the crowd for his former friend, then his hand shot into his pocket, and a little ivory-handled pistol flashed out--"Danfield, your blood is on your own head. You have ruined me."

Kennedy must have been expecting something of the sort, for he seized the arm of the young man, weakened by dissipation, and turned the pistol upward as if it had been in the grasp of a mere child.

A blinding flash followed in the farthest corner of the room and a huge puff of smoke. Before I could collect my wits another followed in the opposite corner. The room was filled with a dense smoke.

Two men were scuffing at my feet. One was Kennedy. As I dropped down quickly to help him I saw that the other was Danfield, his face purple with the violence of the struggle.

"Don't be alarmed, gentlemen," I heard O'Connor shout, "the explosions were only the flashlights of the official police photographers. We now have the evidence complete. Gentlemen, you will now go down quietly to the patrol-wagons below, two by two. If you have anything to say, say it to the magistrate of the night court."

"Hold his arms, Walter," panted Kennedy.

I did. With a dexterity that would bane done credit to a pickpocket, Kennedy reached into Danfield's pocket and pulled out some papers.

Before the smoke had cleared and order had been restored, Craig exclaimed: "Let him up, Walter. Here, DeLong, here are the I.O.U.'s against you. Tear them up--they are not even a debt of honour."


OF THE SILENT BULLET - 54/54

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