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"The Crime of the French Cafe"

a Nick Carter detective mystery

Author: Unknown

Edited and Revised by Edward Piercy

FORWARD

The Nick Carter series of detective tales have a long history. The
character first appeared in the "penny dreadfuls" of the late Victorian
era around the same time that A. Conan Doyle was penning the Sherlock
Holmes mysteries. The series was very popular and was translated into
various languages. The character became the basis for a series of three
"Thin Man" style movies starring Walter Pidgeon as Carter. Carter went
through another incarnation as more or less a regular Private Eye in the
radio program Nick Carter Master Detective, which ran from 1943 to 1955.
After that came another reincarnation, with Carter this time becoming a
James Bond type international agent.

The early series of tales has long ago entered public domain. The
following was taken from an e-book online. As such I don't have any
information on the original manuscript or its publication date or even
its original author (many authors wrote the Carter tales across the
years).

The use of the term "Tenderloin distict," assuming the story referred
to something contemporary, would put the manuscript somewhere in the
interval of 1880-1900. An article from the New York Times, 15 October
1889, states: "A noteworthy characteristic of life on Sunday nights in
what Inspector Williams was once pleased to term the "tenderloin
district" is not the long lines of persons going to church or to the
houses of their friends, but the groups of men and women with pinched
expressions on their faces and anxious energy in their steps making
rapid time toward the nearest restaurants." The Tenderloin, located in
south central Manhattan, was generally known as a very seedy area in
that period.

I have reproduced the manuscript here with some major modifications. It
is essentially a re-write. This is intended to make it more in line with
what we expect today in terms of narrative for the genre. To put it
frankly, the original manuscript was a mess. Facts were often introduced
before the detective could have known of them, and other information
seemed to be put into the narrative almost willy-nilly. And it gets worse.
If there's one thing I've learned as a writer in my days at it — if you
have a door in a wall at the end of a story, the door damn well better be
there at the beginning of the story, too. Unless, of course, it was a magic
or secret door. Which wasn't the case in this instance.

I think that it is safe to say, without making too much of an
assumption, that pretty much no one would have wanted to read the story
in its original form. I read through it, of course; but then I'm a
writer in the genre and I was curious. But I felt there were some really
good elements to the story, particularly with regard to the plotting.
Hardboiled detective fiction has often been accused of weak plotting
when compared to other forms. This isn't hardboiled fiction. In fact it
comes very close to being a "fair plot" mystery in the classic sense. So
I decided to see what I could do with it — I wanted to see if I could
make the past live again.

Some of the text (approximately 25%) is rendered as-is and without changes.
This is usually the case when it comes to dialog, a good deal of which could
be kept from the original. I have also tried to keep some of the nicer
narrative writing in the story as intact as possible. On the other hand,
here and there I added short sections that were not part of the original
but which I felt made the story stronger. Most of what I did, however,
was just to re-write sections of narrative to make it flow — read
better — and to help the plot progress in a cleaner fashion and with
more drive.

The gender of Carter's assistant Patsy I have changed from male to
female. Given the name, the change was too tempting to resist. I imagine
this new Patsy to be a poor female street-urchin type like those found
in the works of Dickens — smart, street-savvy, and loyal.

I do have one other comment to make. Going through the original
manuscript of this story really does make you appreciate A. Conan Doyle
in a big way. Doyle was not only a good tale-teller, he was just a damn
good writer. Just as Nick Carter is not Sherlock Holmes, I am not A.
Conan Doyle. Nevertheless I have tried to generate as good of a
manuscript as possible from the original, and I hope that fans of the
genre will enjoy reading "The Crime of the French Cafe."

— E.P., December 2006

********

I. Private Dining Room A

The well-known French restaurant sitting on a corner in the Tenderloin
District didn't exactly have the first-class reputation of some of the
finer establishments in New York. But in spite of the rather seedy area
in which it was located its cook was an artist, its wine cellar as good
as it gets; and, for a price, customers could avail themselves of one of
several small, elegantly appointed private dining rooms. The main
entrance, which faced 23rd Street, bore the restaurant's marquee and was
brightly lit. A second entrance, favored by those who for their own
motives wished to remain more inconspicuous, was located at the side of
the building and shared in the darkness of the cross-street it faced.

It was half-past seven in the evening, and detective Nick Carter stood
hidden in shadows about fifty yards down from the side door to the
restaurant. He had followed a man to a house on the side street, and was
waiting for him to come out. The case was a robbery and of no great
interest. But Carter had taken it to oblige a personal friend, who
wished to have the business managed quietly.

Carter kept an eye on the house, waiting for his man, and pulled a
small, pencil-sized cigar from his coat pocket. Turning against the wind
to light the cigar Carter noticed a closed carriage stop in front of the
side door to the restaurant down the block. A waiter, hatless and still
wearing his white apron, came quickly out the side door and climbed into
the carriage, which instantly took off at a rapid speed. Carter found
the incident very much on the suspicious side. The way the waiter had
crossed the sidewalk, looking hastily from side to side as if afraid of
being spotted, stopping for a second before he got into the carriage —
all of it suggested to Carter that the man had been running from
something, the kind of behavior one would expect from a man who had just
committed a robbery or other crime.

If Carter hadn't been working the matter for his friend, he would have
made the attempt to follow the carriage. As it was, the man he had been
following appeared from out of the house and Carter had no choice but to
follow him. He knew he wouldn't have far to go. Carter's associate,
Chick, was waiting on Sixth Avenue, and the man was heading straight for
him.

Carter threw down the cigar and ran shouting at the man. The man turned,
saw Carter running toward him, and fled. It was like an African hunt,
Carter thought, with him as the native, beating the lion into the trap.
By the time Carter reached Sixth, Chick had the man by the collar. The
man protested. But the heavy load of fine silverware that began to fall
out of the man's pockets cancelled any real defense.

Carter pulled his gloves back over his hands. "Hold him, Chick" Carter
said. Chick pulled the man back by the arms. Carter punched the man in
the stomach once, and then again, and then for a third time. At the
conclusion of the third punch, the man sagged on his feet. "That's a
message from Gerald Bentley" he told the thief. "He doesn't like being
robbed. Especially by his employees." Chick lifted the man and shook him
a bit to revive him. "I'll leave it to you to take him into the copper"
Carter told Chick. "There's something I want to look into."

Carter retraced his steps and went back to the restaurant. He was half
expecting the place to be in an uproar due to some incident or other
involving the suspicious waiter; but there was no sign of that. Walking
in the side door he found the place quiet. He climbed a flight of stairs
and came to a kind of office with a desk and a registry book for the
private rooms. There was nobody in sight. There was a small bell on the
desk and Carter picked it up and rang it. A minute later, a waiter came
down some stairs from the floor above. Carter recognized him. It was
Gaspard, the head waiter for the restaurant.

"Ah, Gaspard," Carter said. "Tell me, who's your waiter on this floor
tonight?"

Gaspard looked at Carter anxiously. "Good evening, monsieur. Are you
working with the police again, as the last time you were here?"

"Honestly, Gaspard, I am not. But I would appreciate the information
anyway. Who was working tonight?"

"Jean Corbut," replied Gaspard. "I hope nothing is wrong."

"That remains to be seen," said Carter. "What sort of a man is this
Corbut?"

"A little man," answered Gaspard, "and very thin. He has long, black
hair, and mustaches pointed like two needles."

"Have you sent him out for anything?"

"Sent him out? No, no he is here."

"Really? Where?"

"In one of the rooms at the front. We have had parties in A and B."

"You go and find him," said Carter. "I want to see him right away."

Gaspard walked off. On second thought Carter decided to accompany him.
They walked down a hallway that ran towards the front of the building
and came to three rooms. There was a small sign to the side of each
door, labeled A, B, and C. It was evident to Carter that Room C, at the
far end of the hall, must face 23rd Street. As they came to room A
Gaspard entered the room, then stopped suddenly. His face became white
as paper, and his lips moved as if to say something, but not a sound
came from him. He was stuck dumb with fright.

Carter walked into the room, bright with the glare of gaslight. The
light shone upon a table laid out with the untouched plates and platters
of a rich meal, fell upon the gaudy furnishings and costly pictures on
the walls. The light fell too upon a beautiful face, rigid and perfectly
white, bordered by a horrible stain of black and red upon the temple.

The face was of a woman of approximately twenty-five years. Her thick,
abundant hair was the color of light corn, braided in back and rimmed by
small clusters of curls around her forehead. She reclined in a large
easy-chair in an elegant dress, looking perfectly natural but for the
pallid face and the fixed and glassy eyes and the grim red wound. Next
to the easy chair, a revolver lay on the carpet just where it would have
been if it had dropped from the woman's right hand.

Carter drew a long breath and set his jaw set firmly. He had felt that
something was wrong in that place. The waiter who had run across the
sidewalk and got into the carriage had borne a guilty secret with him.
But this was a good deal worse than Carter had expected. He had looked
for a robbery; or, perhaps, a secret and bloody quarrel between two of
the waiters. But not for a murder such as this.

Carter wondered what this obviously refined woman could have to do with
the missing waiter. Unless Corbut was other than he seemed. of course.
Certainly, whatever Corbut's connection with the crime, there was at
least one other person as intimately concerned in it. The woman had
obviously not been dining alone. There was food enough for two and two
glasses stood near the champagne bucket. Whoever she had been dining with,
they, too, had fled.

Carter noticed Gaspard. The head waiter was wiping his forehead and
eyes, as if he had been weeping. "Gaspard" Carter told him. "be so good
as to go down to the desk and get the registry book, would you?" Gaspard
happily took off on the errand.

While Gaspard was gone for the book, Carter looked around the room.
Looking out the window, Carter found that the room faced an inner
courtyard to the building. The window had been nailed shut. He pulled
the drapes back. He returned to the table. It was as if a wonderful
repast had been laid out for a corpse. Carter again noticed the bucket
of expensive champagne that remained uncorked. He pulled it out, opened
it and poured some of it into the two fine crystal glasses. He had just
taken his first sip when Gaspard returned. The waiter stood at the doorway,
unwilling to re-enter the room.

"Come in, Gaspard" Carter called out to him. "Come and have a drink of
this wonderful champagne. It will fortify your nerves a bit." Gaspard
hesitated, then walked up to the table. Carter took the book from him
and handed him the second glass.

Carter sipped more of the champagne and flipped through the book. He saw
that "R.M. Clark and wife" had been assigned to Room B, and "John Jones
and wife" to Room A. Room C was vacant.

Where was the man who had brought this woman to the restaurant? How was
it possible to account for his absence except by the conclusion that he
was the murderer? That was the first and most natural explanation.
Whether it was the true one or not, Carter didn't know. In any case, the
man must be found.

Nick turned to Gaspard. The head waiter had sunk down on a chair by the
table. Carter refilled Gaspard's glass. From previous experience Nick
knew Gaspard to be a man without nerve, and he was not surprised to find
him prostrated by this sudden shock. Carter went and closed the door to
the room. Whatever had taken place there, from then on it would only be
known to Gaspard and himself. And to the guilty authors of the deed, of
course.

"Now that you are a bit calmer, Gaspard, I need to ask you some
questions. First, did you see this woman when she came in?"

"No" Gaspard whispered.

"Who showed her and the man with her to this room?"

"Corbut."

"Who waited on them?"

"Corbut."

"Who waited on the people in Room B?"

"Corbut."

"They are gone, I suppose?"

"Yes. I noticed earlier that they were gone."

"Did you see any of those people? The people in Room B?"

"I saw a man, yes."

"A man. How did that happen?"

"He came out into the hall to call Corbut, who had apparently not
answered the bell quickly enough."

"And this man, he was from Room B?"

"Yes."

"How do you know for sure?"

"Because I saw the other man, later, coming out of Room A."

"This room?"

"Yes."

"You are sure of that?"

"Perfectly."

"Did he see you?"'

"I think not. I was standing right at the corner of the two halls. The
man came out and glanced around, but I stepped back quickly, because we
do not like to appear to spy upon our guests. He did not see me."

"What did he do?"

"He went out the front way. I supposed the lady went with him, for I was
sure that I heard the rustling of her dress."

"Where was Corbut then?"

"In Room A, I think."

"How long did he stay there?"

"Only a minute. I went back to the desk, and then was called by a waiter
upstairs. Just as I turned to go I saw Corbut coming down the hall."

"Did you speak to him?"

"Yes, monsieur. I called to him to stay by the desk while I went
upstairs."

"Did he answer?"

"Yes. He said d'accord — very well."

"And that's the last you saw of him?"

"Yes."

"All right. So much for Corbut. Now for the other man. Would you know
him if you were to see him again?"

"Not the man in Room B. I didn't notice him in detail."

"But how about the man who came out of this room? He's the one we're
after."

"I would know him" said Gaspard, slowly. "Mais qui, I feel sure that I
could identify him."

"That's good, Gaspard. Now for the crime itself. Go back to the desk and
ring for a messenger. When he comes, send him here. Don't let anybody
else come, and don't say a word to anybody about this affair."

Gaspard, with a very pale face, went back to the desk.

Carter remained alone with the beautiful dead.

II. Gaspard Spots His Man

The position of the gun on the floor suggested the possibility of
suicide. And there was, at the first glance, nothing to contradict that
theory — except for the conduct of Corbut and the man who had
registered as John Jones. It might be that the woman had committed
suicide, and the men had fled for fear of being implicated in the
affair.

Carter dealt with that possibility first. The woman's temple showed the
marks of powder on her fair skin. So the pistol had evidently been held
only a few inches from the woman's head when it was fired. The bullet
had passed straight through the head. Examining the revolver, Carter
found it to be carrying .32 long cartridges, three of five of which
were unfired. One empty shell was the fatal bullet. There was another
empty shell that, as was the common practice, would have been a used
shell carried under the hammer for safety.

Carter then turned his attention upon the woman's person and belongings.
Her ears had been pierced for earrings, but she seemed not to have worn
them recently. She had no watch. There was one plain gold ring on the
third finger of her right hand, and there was a deep mark showing that
she had worn another, but that ring was gone. How recently it had been
removed was, of course, beyond discovery. There was no sign that it had
been violently torn away. The woman's purse contained about twenty dollars,
but no cards or other things which might lead to identification. A minute
examination failed to reveal any marks upon the clothing which might assist
in establishing the woman's identity.

Finally, the detective took another look around the room. Along the wall
that would have separated the two dining rooms was a latched door.
Carter unlatched it and tried to pull the door open. But it would not
give. After thinking about it a bit, Carter left the room and went into
dining Room B. The door between the two rooms was latched on that side
also. The only way anyone could have gone from one room to the other was
for the latch to have been open on both sides.

When the message boy arrived, Carter sent him to inform the coroner.
After that, the message boy's instructions were take a message to Chick
and his other assistant, Patsy.

A while later the coroner arrived, as well as Inspector McLaughlin's
men. Carter turned the investigation over to the police and, grabbing
Gaspard, left the restaurant. Through past association, Carter knew that
McLaughlin would no doubt take unfortunate Gaspard into the station
house and question him for hours on end. Which would make Gaspard
practically useless as a witness when Carter needed him. Carter took
Gaspard instead to a local boarding house and paid for a room, with
instructions not to go out and to wait for him to call the following
morning. Having by that point consumed most of the bottle of champagne,
Gaspard was amiable to a comfortable bed.

By seven o'clock the next morning Carter received a message from Patsy.
Working all night, she had tracked the cabman in whose cab Corbut had
fled. Patsy had located the cabman at his home on West 32nd Street. The
man's name was Harrigan. Nick hired a cabbie and picked up Gaspard and
went with him to the house where Harrigan boarded.

"I got on to him easy enough," said Patsy, who they met up with outside
the house. "I found the policeman who was on that beat last night, and
got him to give me a list of all the night-hawks he'd seen around there
up to eight o'clock of the evening. Then I began to chase up the fellows
on that list. The second man put me on to Harrigan. He remembered seeing
him get the job, but couldn't tell what sort of a man hired him. I guess
there's no doubt that he's the man, but I haven't questioned him yet.
He's in there asleep."

Nick passed himself off as a friend of Harrigan's, and was directed with
Patsy to the cabbie's room. They pounded on the door. There being no
answer, Carter turned the knob and went in uninvited. They found
Harrigan snoring in his bed in a deep sleep.

"From what I heard," Patsy whispered, "Harrigan had a very large skate on
last night. He's sleeping it off."

Carter nodded, then went up and gave the cabbie a few firm shakes. At
last he sat up in bed.

"What t' 'ell?" said he, looking about him wildly. "Who are youse, an'
wha's the row?"

As the quickest way to sober the man, Carter showed his shield. It acted
like a cold shower-bath.

"Say, what was it I done?" gasped Harrigan. "S' help me, I dunno nothing
about it. I had a load on me last night, an' I ain't responsible."

Patsy laughed.

"There's no charge against you," said Nick, a little more seriously. "I
only want to ask you a few questions."

Harrigan sank back on the pillow with a gasp of relief.

"Gimme that water pitcher," he said, "me t'roat's full o' cobwebs."

Harrigan drank about a quart of water, and then declared himself ready
for a cross-examination. Carter sized him up for a decent sort, a fellow
who just might tell the truth to any questions that were put to him.

Over the next twenty minutes Carter questioned Harrigan. It appeared
that the cabbie had been on 7th Avenue, near the French restaurant,
from a little after six to about half-past seven on the previous
evening. At the latter hour a man had engaged his cab. He had taken the
man to the side door of the restaurant, where the waiter had got in.

Harrigan had then driven them to somewhere on 57th Street, or it might
be 58th — the cabbie couldn't remember exactly, he had been drinking.
The two men got out together. Harrigan didn't know what had become of
them after that. Harrigan had then gone to the stable where he had
rented his cab and paid his rental. Then he had gone out for a few
drinks. Or, by the look of him, Carter thought, more than a few. And
that, apparently, was all Harrigan knew about the matter.

"Would you recognize the man who hired your cab if you saw him again?"
asked Carter.

"Oh, sure," said Harrigan. "I wasn't so very full. I had me wits about
me. Say, you ain't going to do me dirt an' git me license taken away? I
was all right. I didn't do any harm."

Carter assured Harrigan that if he acted right in this case his license
would be safe, and then left the man to his slumbers.

"Not very promising, is it, my girl?" said Nick to Patsy, as they went
downstairs. "We've lost the trail as soon as we struck it."

"Do you think he's giving it to us straight?"

"I think, yes. He doesn't know where he took the men nor what became of
them after they left his cab."

"It's a pity he had such a jag. He'd have been the best witness in the
case."

Carter smiled. "If he hadn't been drunk he wouldn't have had anything to
do with the case," he said.

"What do you mean?"

"Why, it's clear enough. This man that we want saw Harrigan on that cab
while the man was on his way to the restaurant with the woman. Then when
it became necessary to get Corbut out of the way, he remembered the
drunken cabman, and hired him."

"I don't see how you know that."

"A man would rather have a sober driver than a drunken one, wouldn't
he?"

"Yes."

"Well, the cabbie who told you he saw Harrigan get the job was sober,
wasn't he?"

"Yes."

"Then why didn't the man take his cab? Because he wanted a drunken
driver, who wouldn't be sharp enough to get on to any queer business.
But he wouldn't have tried to find a drunken cabman just by luck, and he
wouldn't have taken a sober one. Therefore he had seen Harrigan and
hoped to find him in the same place."

"That's part of the plot. Now, then, you go to Chick, who's watching the
body of the woman. I'm going to take Gaspard uptown and have a look at
that part of the city where Harrigan left his passengers."

Carter and Gaspard went to the 33rd Street station of the 6th Avenue
elevated road. They walked to the edge of the platform on the uptown
end. Suddenly, Gaspard gave a violent start. He uttered an exclamation
of surprise and pointed across the tracks.

"What is it?" said Carter.

"The man who was in room A!" exclaimed Gaspard. "I am sure of it!"

At that instant a downtown train rushed into the station, cutting off
Carter's view. A second later an uptown train pulled in on their side.
Nick pushed open a gate before the train had fairly stopped. He dragged
Gaspard after him. The gateman tried to stop them, but Carter pushed the
fellow in the car so violently that he fell on the floor. Carter pulled
the other gate open, and, still dragging Gaspard, sprang down in the
space between the tracks.

The other train was just starting. Carter jumped up and opened one of
the gates. Gaspard stood trembling. Excitement and terror rendered him
incapable of action. The detective reached down, and, seizing the man by
the shoulders, lifted him up to the platform of the car as if he had
been a child of ten.

"Look back!" cried the Carter, pushing Gaspard to the other side of
the car. "Is your man still at the station?"

Two or three men were there, having, apparently, just missed the train.
It seemed possible that the criminal — if such he was — had seen Gaspard
point, and had been shrewd enough not to board the car.

Gaspard looked back and shook his head no. His man was not there.

"Good," said Carter. "He must be on the train. We have him for sure."

III. John Jones

After boarding the train they had walked through it hurriedly, and in
the car next to the engine Gaspard clutched Carter's arm, whispering
"There's your man!"

The person Gaspard pointed out was was well-dressed, rather good-
looking, and about thirty-five years old. There was nothing otherwise
striking about his appearance. It would have been easy to have found
dozens of such men on lower Broadway any day of the week.

Carter feared a mistake. But Gaspard was sure. "I never forget a face,"
he said. "That is the man whom I saw coming out of room A. That is the
murderer."

The man was standing up and holding on to one of the straps, his profile
turned to them. Carter waited until he turned and showed his full face.
The detective was resolved to give Gaspard every chance to change his
mind. But the waiter remained firm. At last Nick approached the accused,
leaned into him and whispered into his ear.

"I've got you!" Carter told him, the ire in his voice apparent even
through the soft tones. This was not the fist time that the detective
had spoken those words to some luckless criminal. There were many men in
prison or on the gallows had heard those exact words before.

In this case, however, the words seemed to produce less than the
ordinary effect. The man to whom they were addressed turned suddenly
toward the detective, but did not shrink or tremble.

"I beg your pardon," he said. "I didn't quite understand your meaning."

The man's coolness made Carter doubt Gaspard's identification. But
having carried it that far, he decided to carry it on through. "I think
you know what this is about. About a certain woman in a certain French
restaurant. A woman with a pale face and a red hole in her head. See
this man standing next to me? He is the head waiter there. He was a
witness to it."

"This is ridiculous," said the man. "I read the story of that affair in
the papers this morning. What are you insinuating? I am not connected
with the matter in any way. If you arrest me, you must be prepared to
take the consequences."

"I guess we can manage the affair quietly," said Carter, "and give you no
trouble at all. I suppose you were going downtown on business?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact."

"Well, I will go along, too, if you don't mind."

"By all means," said the man, looking much relieved. Then he scowled at
Gaspard. "I understand what your duty is," he continued. "Since this
imported French jackass has made this charge, of course you'll have to
look into it. Come down to the office and make some inquiries, and then
we will go up to my flat. I was at home last evening."

"What did you do before that?"

"I had dinner with my wife, and then put her aboard a train. She's gone
away on a visit."

"Where has she gone?"

"No, sir. I'll give you none of that. I don't propose to have a
detective go flying after her to scare her to death. She keeps out of
this mess, if I have any say about it."

"But if you're arrested she'll hear, won't she? And then come back to
the city."

"I'm not going to be arrested. You're too sensible a man to do such a
thing. I can see that. Ah, here we are. Franklin street. My place of
business is just a little up the way, toward Broadway."

They left the train. Carter was beginning to feel that a mistake had
been made. The man's easy manner and perfect confidence were hard to
square with the idea of his guilt.

"By the way," said the suspect, as they descended the stairs, "I forgot
to give you my card." He reached into his pocket gave one to Carter. The
detective looked it over.

MR. JOHN JONES.

ALLEN, MORSE & JONES.
Electrical Fixtures
The "Sunlight" Lamp.

"What did I tell you!" exclaimed Gaspard, looking over Carter's
shoulder. "It is the name that was on the register. He is the man."

But Carter took a different view. He was of the opinion that Mr. Jones
had just presented very strong evidence of his innocence. Anybody
else might have signed himself "John Jones" in order to remain
anonymous. But the real John Jones, never. It would be difficult to
convince a jury that a man meditating murder had recorded his correct
name for the benefit of the police. The coincidence was certainly
astonishing, but it was in Jones' favor.

They walked over to the offices of Allen, Morse & Jones. Jones asked
Carter his name, and then introduced him to Mr. Allen. "It seems my name
has got me into trouble again" Jones explained to him.

"How is that?" replied Allen.

"Did you read about that French restaurant murder that occurred last
night?"

"Well, I glanced at the story in one of the papers."

"This Frenchman here is a waiter in the place. He saw me in an elevated
train just now, and told Mr. Carter, who is a detective, that I was the
party who took that woman to the restaurant. That was bad enough, but
when they found out what my name was, they convicted me immediately. It
appears that the visitor to the restaurant signed the very uncommon name
of John Jones on the books."

"Why, what the devil!" exclaimed Allen, looking wrathfully at poor
Gaspard, who was shaking in his shoes. "Don't you know that this is a
serious matter? What do you mean by throwing such an accusation around?"

"He is the man," cried Gaspard. "If I were dying, I would swear with my
last breath that he is the man!"

"But who's the woman?" asked Allen, turning to Carter. "And what has she
to do with my partner?"

"That I can't say" Carter told him. "She has not been identified as yet."

"Then you have absolutely nothing to go on except this fellow's word?"

"Nothing" Carter told him, suddenly angry at Gaspard for having put him
in such a situation.

"Why, this is nonsense" Allen said, dropping himself into his chair with
an air of finality.

"Perhaps so," Carter said. "But you will admit that I would be false to my
duty if I did not investigation the matter."

"Investigate all you wish," laughed Jones. "But don't bother me any more
than you have to. This is my busy day."

"I'll be leaving" said the detective. "All I want of you is that you will
give me your address, and meet me at your home in the latter part of the
afternoon."

"Very well," said Jones. He scribbled on a piece of paper. "I'll be
there at half-past four o'clock."

Carter started to thank Mr. Jones for his courtesy, then changed his
mind and left. But he did not go far. Finding a convenient doorway he
wrote a note to Chick, on the back of the scrap of paper which Jones had
given him. "I'm sending you on an errand, Gaspard. Take this note to my
associate, who is watching over the body of the woman in the morgue.
Then wait with him there. I will contact you later."

Gaspard's face grew white again at the sound of the word 'morgue' and he
made as if to protest.

"This is murder, Gaspard. Please, just do as I say." Gaspard accepted
his fate and left with the message.

Carter kept watch outside the offices of Allen, Morse & Jones. Nothing
of importance happened until a little after noon, when a reply came from
Chick. Carter ran through the note, which used certain abbreviations
and symbols known only to Carter and his associates.

"Jones residence, good flat house, lives with wife" the message said.
"Lived there two months. Nobody in the house knows anything about them.
One servant, taken sick two weeks ago, carried to hospital, where she
died. Since then couple lives alone. Nobody in the house has seen Mrs.
Jones' face. She always wore a heavy veil. The only description I could
get tallied with that of the body. The principal point was the hair. I
have just found a woman who saw Mr. and Mrs. Jones go out yesterday
afternoon. She remembers Mrs. Jones' dress. The description agrees with
that found on the corpse. Jones carried an alligator skin traveling bag.
Nobody saw either of them come back to the house, but Jones evidently
slept there. I will soon take the woman who saw them yesterday to
identify the body. Will send Patsy down with the result of this effort
at identification. I believe it will show the woman to be Mrs. Jones.
I send this that you may have warning. Chick."

Nick finished reading the note and then glanced across the street toward
the offices of Allen, Morse & Jones. Through the window he could see
Jones calmly writing a letter. Could it be possible that this man was
guilty of so hideous a crime?

A half hour later a second message came from Chick.

"Identified as Mrs. Jones" it read.

IV. All Sorts of Identification

Carter walked into Jones' office and up to his desk. He took off his
hat. "I am sorry to tell you, Mr. Jones, that the body of the woman
murdered last night has been identified as that of your wife."

"It can't be possible!" Jones exclaimed, leaping from his chair.

"I am so informed," said Carter. "And I also have the duty of placing
you under arrest."

"But there is some infernal mistake here," said the accused. "I know
that my wife is all right. This must be somebody else."

"A lady living in the same house with you has identified the body."

"I don't care if she has identified ten bodies. Nobody in that house
knows my wife."

"Is there anyone in the city who does know her? Postively? A relation,
perhaps?"

"No" Jones said, sitting back down in his chair slowly. "No relations. I
can't think of anybody."

"How about the grocer with whom you trade?"

"Our servant attended to all that till she was taken sick. Since then
I've done what little there was to do. We've eaten most of our meals at
restaurants."

"What restaurants?"

"Oh, all around. There's the Alcazar, for instance, where we have
sometimes dined together."

"Does the head waiter there know her?"

"I suppose he would remember her face. He doesn't know the name."

"All right. I'll have him look at the body."

"But, man, you're going to let me look at it, aren't you?" exclaimed
Jones. "That would settle it, I should think."

"I'll take you there now. And we will try to get somebody from the
Alcazar at the same time."

Carter dispatched another message, this time to Patsy, telling her to
find Harrigan and bring him to the morgue. Then Carter hired a cab and
took the prisoner to the Alcazar Restaurant. The head waiter remembered
Jones' face. He had seen him dining with a lady who had beautiful light
hair. Then they all climbed into the cab and made the trip to the
morgue.

Carter watched Jones carefully as he approached the body. Jones started
violently at the first sight of it. Then he became calm.

"The hair is wonderfully similar," he said, breathing much deeper. "But
there is no resemblance between the two faces. This woman is not my
wife."

"That is true, monsieurs," said Gaspard. "This is not the lady."

"On the contrary," said a voice close beside them. "I believe that this
lady was your wife, Mr. Jones."

All the color went out of Jones' face as he turned quickly toward the
man who had spoken.

"Ah, Mr. Gottlieb" he said. "I am surprised to hear you say that."

"Mr. Gottlieb is the grocer from whom the Joneses bought their supplies"
said Chick, approaching Carter. "I thought he might be helpful. So I sent
for him, telling him it was a very serious matter, and he graciously
complied."

"I was not aware that you had ever seen my wife," said Jones, studying the
grocer.

"I never saw her plainly," said Gottlieb. "She came into my store once
or twice, but always closely veiled. So I cannot be sure. And, of
course, if you insist that this is not your wife's body, I must be
mistaken."

"You are mistaken, sir," said Jones, coldly.

He turned to Carter.

"Mr. Gottlieb has sealed my doom for the present," he said, with a
smile. "I am ready to go with you."

As soon as Patsy arrived with Harrigan, Carter and his associates, along
with Jones and Harrigan, proceded to the station house. There Jones was
taken into the superintendent's room. A dozen other men were assembled
there. Harrigan was very nervous at being around all the police.

"Youse fellies are tryin' to do me out o' my license" he shouted. "But
I'm tellin' yer I was all right last night. I wasn't half so paralyzed
as youse t'ink I was. Show me your man and I'll identify him."

"Tell us, then" Carter said, "do you see the man here who hired your cab
last night?"

"I do, sir, yes" Harrigan said, shuffling his feet and becomeing bolder.
"That there is the man!"

Carter made a gesture of disappointment, and then laughed, as did the
Superintendent and Patsy.

The man whom Harrigan had selected was Chick.

It was evident that the cabman was going upon pure guess work. Being
sharply questioned, he confessed that he had no idea how his fare of the
previous night looked.

"I'll give it to youse dead straight," said he, at last. "I don't know
whether the mug was white or black. Say, he might have been a Chinese."

"I believe that fellow is faking," the sergeant told Carter, as Harrigan
was escorted out.

"No, he's straight enough, I guess," Carter said. "He's just not the
sort of man who would have been let into a game of this kind."

At that point they all sat down around the table, with the exception of
Patsy, who preferred to sit on the window sill. Carter then proceeded to
question Jones.

Jones' responses were straightforward enough, but they threw little
light upon the affair. The only subject which he refused to discuss was
the whereabouts of his wife. When questioned about her, he invariably
declined to give much in the way of information.

"She's gone on a little pleasure trip." he said. "And I want her to
enjoy it. This affair will be all over when she gets back. She'll never
hear of it, where she is, and that's as it should be."

Cater returned to his house, where he was informed by his servant that a
visitor was waiting for him. He found a gentleman somewhat under forty
years of age, and apparently in prosperous circumstances, pacing the
study floor. The visitor was evidently greatly excited about something,
for his hands trembled and he started nervously when Nick entered.

"Mr. Carter," he said, anxiously and without introductions. "Can I trust
you fully?"

Carter laughed. "I can't do anything to prevent it," he said.

"Then, will you swear to keep what I shall tell you a secret?"

"No, sir. I will not."

The man threw his hands up in the air. "I supposed that your business
was always strictly confidential," he said. "Being an investigator."

"So it is. But I take no oaths."

"I didn't mean that exactly, but — but — " The man hesitated,
stammered, and was unable to proceed.

"Come, sir," said Carter. "Calm yourself. Join me in a glass of brandy.
For I've a need for one." Carter poured two brandies, and handed one to
the gentleman. "Now, sir. Tell me plainly what you want me to do for
you."

"It isn't for me. It's for — for a friend of mine."

"Very well, then. What can I do for your friend?"

"He is accused of a terrible crime, of which he is entirely innocent.
I want you to save him."

"I have been asked to do that many times."

"And have you always succeeded?"

"Not entirely. In several cases, I have failed. One man was hanged."

The visitor shuddered violently. "I had heard" he said, "that you always
saved the innocent."

"That is the truth. Unfortunately, not all I worked to save were
innocent." Carter sat down in a leather chair, waved his guest to
another. "So I would highly advise you to be very sure of your friend's
innocence before you put the case in my hands."

The visitor looked very much relieved. "I'm perfectly sure of it" he
said. "My friend had nothing to do with it all."

"I'm glad to hear it. Who is he?"

"The man who has been arrested in this restaurant murder case."

"John Jones?"

"That is the name he has given to the police."

"But isn't that his right name?"

"I — I don't know" stammered the visitor.

"He must be a very particular friend of yours, since you don't know what
his name is."

"I never saw him in my life."

"Look here, Mr. — ?"

"Hammond is my name."

"Well, Mr. Hammond. Your statements don't hang together. You began by
saying that this man was your friend."

"I didn't mean that exactly. I meant that I sympathize with him. It must
be terrible to be arrested for such a crime and to find the evidence
growing stronger in spite of your innocence."

"How do you know that he is innocent?"

Before Hammond could reply there came a knock at the door. It was
Gaspard. "Forgive me, monsieur. Your servant was kind enough to let me
up. I found out your address from your associate, Patsy. She was good
enough to bring me here, she is downstairs. I had to see you, monsieur.
I am very upset. I keep seeing the dead woman's face. And then I keep
thinking of how you may not believe me, that the man on the train
was…" At that point Gaspard looked over Carter's shoulder and into the
room to the chair holding Mr. Hammond. Gaspard's voice caught, then
released. "Monsieur!" he said.

Carter looked around and back at Hammond, then back at the waiter. "What
is it, Gaspard? Tell me."

"The man in the chair, monsieur. Here right now. He is the man who was
in room B last night!"

V. Patsy's Tip

Gaspard's declaration produced a stunning effect upon Hammond. At first
he seemed thunderstruck. There was a look on his face which made Carter
say to himself, "It isn't true." But whether the accusation was true or
false, he knew at once that Hammond recognized Gaspard.

Hammond couldn't be a regular visitor to the restaurant, because Gaspard
had said that he had never seen either of the two men before the fatal
evening. Therefore Carter reasoned that since Hammond had recognized
Gaspard, he must be the man who had been in room B, because the man in
room A had not seen the head waiter. At least not according to Gaspard's
recollection of events.

Hammond, after the first shock of surprise, recovered his nerve quickly.

"I don't know why I should deny it to you. There is no charge against
me, I take it?"

"None whatsoever" said Carter. "Those in room B are merely wanted as
witnesses."

"It occurred to me that you might have some theory of a conspiracy in
which both men were concerned."

"I never thought of it. Until now."

Hammond frowned. "But I am not to be put under arrest?"

"Certainly not, unless some new evidence appears. And I do not expect
it."

"Very well, then. I was the man in room B."

"And who was the lady?"

"I decline to mention her name. She has nothing to do with this case.
You will easily understand that I do not wish to bring a lady's name
into a tragedy of this kind."

"I can understand that. Now tell me why you feel so sure of this man
Jones' innocence."

"Will you promise to keep me out of this affair as much as you can?"

"Why do you wish it? What are you afraid of?"

"Well" said Hammond, looking very much embarrassed, "I'm a married man.
A very respectable sort of a fellow. And the lady with whom I dined was
not my wife. It's all right, you know. My wife is not a jealous woman.
But the thing would not look well in print."

"I won't make this public if I can help it, Mr. Hammond. Not that I have
much sympathy for you. You shouldn't have been there. But the publicity
would annoy your wife, and do nobody any good."

"Thank you, Mr. Carter" said Hammond with a grim smile. "Now I will tell
my story. There is very little to tell, really. We arrived before the
other party. We heard them go into the next room, room A. By and by, I
went out into the hall to find the waiter, who didn't answer my ring. I
saw this man" he said, pointing to Gaspard. "He was at the desk. Just at
that moment our waiter appeared once more at the end of the hall. So
I went back. Just as I was closing the door of our room, I heard the man
come out of room A. I didn't see him, but I know that he went down the
front stairs, for I heard his footsteps, and also heard the door shut."

"Then the waiter came in and left. Me and the young lady were just
getting ready to leave when we heard the pistol shot in the other room.
Hearing that, we got out of the house just as fast as we could. It was
cowardly, perhaps, but I knew that something terrible had happened. And
I didn't want to be mixed up in it. Of course I wanted to keep the lady
out of it, too, and — well, you can see that there were many reasons
why I should have decided to make tracks."

"You know for sure, then, that the other man was not in room A when the
shot was fired?" asked Carter.

"Yes, I'm sure of it."

"He might have come back."

"I don't think so. The front door makes a loud noise when it is shut and
I would have heard him if he had come in that way. And if he had come
the other way, I imagine this man would have seen him, would he have
not?"

"You didn't see him at all, then, did you?"

"No."

"So you can't say whether Jones was the man?"

"No. But I'm sure he wasn't the murderer."

"You think it was suicide?"

"I'm sure of it. How could it have been anything else? The woman was
alone."

"There might have been somebody else in the room."

"Our waiter told us that the party consisted of only two."

"You mean Corbut?"

"I believe that was his name —- the fellow who disappeared."

"How do you account for his disappearance?"

"I don't. But perhaps he was afraid of being mixed up in the affair. He
may have a record which won't permit him to go before the police, even
as a witness."

"How could he have gotten into a cab?"

"I've thought a good deal about that, as it was mentioned in the papers.
I believe he may have slipped out the front way, called the cab, and
then gone back to get something. Perhaps he went back for his clothes
but didn't dare to take them."

"Or perhaps he took a nice little trip to Paris, and then came back, and
then left again for Marseilles. No, I'm sorry, it doesn't fit."

"What about the cabbie's story of the man who engaged the cab?"

"The cabman's a liar. Or a drunk. Perhaps both. That one's plain enough.
Now, Mr. Hammond, tell me. Could either Corbut or this man here,
Gaspard, have gotten into room A without your knowing it?"

"Easily. Great heavens, I never thought of that! One of them may be the
murderer!"

Gaspard, at these words, visibly trembled and shook his head. He was so
frightened that his English —- which was usually very fluent -— deserted
him, and he mumbled protestations of innocence in his mother tongue.

"Thank you, Mr. Hammond" Carter said, without appearing to notice
Gaspard's distress. "I have no more questions to ask, but I would be
obliged to you if you would wait here a few minutes for me."

Carter went downstairs to find Patsy in the middle of cleaning her
boots. "Patsy" he said. "There's a fellow up stairs whom you'll have to
shadow."

"Gaspard?"

"No. Another man. He calls himself Hammond. Gaspard has identified him
as the man who was in room B."

"Look here" said Patsy, "am I a bird brain, or is the man Gaspard the
greatest living identifier?"

"What do you mean?"

"Why, it strikes me that he picked out his men a good deal too easy. If
it's all straight, I'd like the loan of his luck for a few days. I'm no
detective, Nicky. But I think the man Gaspard, he's simply running
around identifying everybody he sees."

"But this man Hammond admits it."

"Is he telling the truth?"

"No" Carter said, with a peculiar smile. "I don't believe he is."

"Well, Gaspard's a liar anyhow."

Carter looked shrewdly at his youthful assistant. He was very fond of
the girl, and usually gave her every chance to develop her theories in
those cases in which he was employed.

"Come, my girl" said the famous detective. "Tell me what has set you so
against Gaspard."

"He's going to skip."

"Is that so? Well, that is serious."

"It's a fact. I got it from one of the men in the restaurant. My man was
told of it by Corbut."

"Corbut?"

"Yes. And here's another thing, Nicky. There's a Frenchwoman who is
going to give little old New York the shake at the same time as Gaspard.
They're going back to sunny France together. It's a big secret. Or at
least Gaspard thinks it is."

"And what would be Gaspard's motive, my little agent?"

"Say he's a thief. He's been stealing, and then he gets something
valuable off of the woman. He needs to get Corbut out of the way. Maybe
he paid him to skip. Corbut agreed. Corbut didn't know the reason. So he
went along with it. Now Gaspard's identifying any Tom or Dick for the
purpose of dragging us around by the nose and keeping us busy till he
can light out."

Patsy finished, slightly winded at the excitement of her tale. She put
her boots on and stood up. "What do you think of that, Nicky? So tell
me, huh, what'd you think of it?"

"It's worth looking into" Carter told her, patting her on the shoulder.
He pulled a gold dollar out and put it in her hand. Patsy tossed it up
and down a few times, feeling its weight, then pushed it deep into her
pocket.

"Thanks, Nick" she said.

"And you will earn more before this case is over, I would say" Carter
said seriously. "At any rate, you stick to your man Gaspard. I'll put
somebody else on Hammond."