The Smuggler and His Remarkable Drum
Another Story From the Annals of the Canadian Customs
J. D. Ronald
Who wrote “The Manier Smuggler."
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A FEW years ago the town of Diamondville, which is situated on the Grand Trunk with its back suburbs extending to the shores of one of the Great Lakes, became infected with the fever for growth. It was a busy little place with several large factories and first class hotel accommodation. It had also, as its maia asset, a coterie of enterprising business men. Finally the town had a factory building which was not in rise and could offer the very cheapest power facilities. It was decided to offer this plant and a bonus of twenty thousand dollars to any suitable industry that could be inveigled into moving to Diamondville.
This, in a nutshell, was the situation which led to one of the most colossal of attempts to defraud the Canadian customs The story of Williams and his wonderful drum, and his even more wonderful nerve. is one of the most exciting and dramatic of the many that are buried away in the records of customs investigation at Ottawa.
One day a well-dressed stranger registered at the leading hotel at Diamondville as William T. Williams of Brinton. New York. He was in the early thirties, quite plausible and smooth and rather handsome in an unusual sort of way. He was swarthy complexioned with a snapping black eye that had a tendency to wander. When he took off hi? hat. however, his claims to good taoks vanished: for the William's head was fearfully and wonderfully made—an egg-shaped dome that tapered up higher than heads are supposed to go and rounded off at the top very smooth and shiny. He looked like a genius. And subsequent events proved that he was.
\\T ELL. William T. Wiliams lost ho VV time in getting in touch with the civic authorities and establishing his identity as a manufacturer. He produced a model telephone with a peculiar drum attachment designed to assist in long distance conversation. This attachment was Williams' own invention and there can be no doubt that it •was a clever and ingenious device. Through its agency, the voice sounded over the wire as clear as a bell. Williams demonstrated this to the very great satisfaction of the members of the civic committee. They fixed the drum attachments to two 'phones and talked back and forth with an ease and clearness that had never been deemed possible.
“With that attachment,” said Williams, _ “you could talk to New Orleans and hear just as clear as you do your friend over at that woollen factory.”
The committee believed him! And he may have been right. It should be explained here that Williams was really an inventive genius. He was a deep thinker, a student, a readier of the very best literature. , He possessed some very high ideals. At the same time he had apparently the vaguest ideas of what was right and what was wrong. Any measure that seemed necessary to insure success was worth trying, in the viewpoint of WilliamsAnd at that he could be quite philosophic in defeat
Williams had been running a telephone supply business and doing well. He had a beautiful home, filled with artistic furnishings, the library packed with rare books. Then, in an unhappy moment for himself, he invented his clarifying drum. He thought that he-had made his everlasting fortune and saw visions of yachts and mansions on Fifth Avenue and villas on the Riviera. His enthusiasm spread to some moneyed acquaintances and the result was the launching of an enterprise with considerable capital involved. Experiments to perfect the device consumed a large share bf the available capital. The results were satisfactory. however, and a plant was built for the manufacture of the article. All Williams’ own money went into the venture and his home was mortgaged up to the hilt. Expensive machinery was purchased.
Fut things did not run smoothly. The telephone companies did not show any particular enthusiasm for the drum which was rather cumbersome. Williams him ??!f was an inventor and a dreamer rather than a business man. Things ran downhill. Everything was going out and nothing worth mentioning coming in. The telephone supply business was ne' glected and just dried up. The factory was mortgaged. Finally it was closed down.
Then Williams heard of Diamondville and that tempting $20,000 bonus.
He paid several vists to the town and finally convinced the aldermen that he had a worth while proposition and meant business. They believed, of course, that he had his plant in full running order and was entirely solvent except for the need of more capital to extend. An agreement was finally reached and duly signed to the effect that Williams was to instal twenty-five thousand dollars worth of machinery and equipment and employ not less than fifty hands, the whole to b* operating smoothlv within a period of six months. At the end of six month* the bonus would be paid over. The building was hapded over to him on a ninetynine year lease, free of taxes and other charges. It was a great bargain for Williams. All he had to do was to get hi* machinery out of the hands of the holders of the mortgages, get it over the line and then operate for six months. Williams proceeded to do some tall figuring.
HE finally evolved a plan designed to deceive everyone concerned, the mortgagees, the custom officers, his employees and Diamondville itself. He gave it out first that he had obtained more capital and was going to move to another building. The machinery was packed for moving but instead of landing in the othei building, it landed in box cars in the Grand Trunk freight yards. Now Williams had to make a show of having machinery to the value of $25.000. and by no stretch of the imagination could his own equipment be made to represent that amount. Accordingly Williams visited some dealers in second hand machinery and picked up some ancient and bulky equipment at scrap iron values. This stuff went into the cars with the other machinery.
In the meantime the wily Williams been studying the Canadian tariff regulations and had found that the class of machinery he was importing would be assessed to the extent of twenty-seven ami a half per cent. This meant pavung the customs the colossal sum-of $t».t^5; for. of course, he would have to list the stuff at the fictitious value of $25.000. Williams had scraped up all the cash he could lay his hands on and it left him short a't least the six thousand.
So he took another look at the tariff and-found that lumber in the rough entered Canada free. Here was his chance. He would need a lot of lumber in the manufacture of telephones. Accordingly he hied himself to a plant on the main street of Brinton where there had been a fire and bought up a quantity of the cheapest looking, half-burned lumber one ever set eyes on. They almost gave it to him to get rid of it.
THE machinery was then loaded into the dark ends of the cars and covered up with the lumber. Some old office partitions were then loaded in and infinite painswere taken to give the cars an innocent appearance. The loading was done as surreptitiously as possible. The cars were then billed as lumber in the rough and shipped over the border to Diamondville. As carload lots are examined only at their destination, no questions were asked at the frontier. Williams himself was on hand at Diamondville when the êars arrived. He had taken five workmen over with him.
“All lumber?” asked the customs man at Diamondville.
“Yes,” replied Williams. “I had quite a supply on hand at my old plant. Cheaper to ship it over than buy new. It will give me a start—and I don’t mind owning up that I’ll have to adopt every economy for awhile.”
“When does your machinery arrive?” asked the officer.
“I’m only shipping over a little of it— later,” said Williams. “I shall sell most of it over there and buy new. That will be cheaper than paying the duty on the old stuff when you figure the delay and trouble.”
The officer looked the cars over and saw nothing suspicious then. That night Williams and his men worked frantically under cover of darkness and got the machinery out. By morning the half empty cars suggested the labors of an industrious night shift; and the customs man who called again saw no reason to suspect that he had been “done.” But the machinery early that morning had been teamed down a side street and was then carefully covered up in the factory ready to be mounted later.
THE assortment of equipment which came over in the three cars was a wonder to behold. There was a complete power transmission outfit including shafting, pulleys, hangers, and belting* seventeen pieces of wood working machinery, four machine shop lathes, five drills, three shapers, two stamping presses, large and small, emery wheels, ovens for annealing, copper in sheets, sheet brass, a large quantity of assorted hardware; and, last but not least, an eighty-horse-power gas engine for power plant, which had been purchased from a firm in Ohio, but not paid for, before shipment to Canada. This last was to replace a first class steam power plant which was on the premises, natural gas with which Diamondville abounded, being cheaper than steam.
Williams then started out to make a big show at buying machinery on the Canadian market. He did actually purchase a couple of cheap machines from Canadian sources on a ninety-day credit basis. These were shipped and received and duly noted by the town folk. As soon as they arrived the work of installation commenced and everything was then placed and mounted. In a week or so the plant was ready for operation. If any one wondered where all the machinery had come from nothing was said. In all probability the people were too enthusiastic to harbor any suspicions. The woodworking plant was started at once and telephone boxes began to make their appearance in good quantities.
Williams had shown considerable sales ability, canvassing Independent ,Tele_' phone Companies for orders for,equipment. fHe had secured several trial orders. and these were filled from the first material turned out in the plant, and in part from a quantity of complete telephones and telephone equipment which had been smuggled over in the cars.
Everything seemed at this time to work out according to his carefully laid plans. As soon as the plant was in complete running order, he furnished a detailed list to the town council of the machines installed. The values placed upon the various items made a total of a little in excess of the requisite $25,000. On a casual inspection it might have appeared that the plant actually represented an investment of that amount. An expert, however, would not have been deceived. Careful examination would have shown that some of the machines given on Williams’ list were not to be found, and that others would have been very hard to identify. Also the values placed on his list were anything from fifty to five hundred per cent, higher than the actual cost of the machines.
The plant was accepted on its face value, but when Williams asked for an advance on his bonus, the council began to back up. They pointed out that, instead of fifty hands, he was only employing five. They were very anxious not to antagonize him, but they pointed out that under the conditions they were not in a position legally to pay hii six months. In the face Williams’ colossal scheme ble. It had all been buil' sumption that he would the council to finance him. decided to go ahead and bri as Ipng as possible.
AT the end of the first [two weeks he managed to meet the pay roll of his 5 employees. At the end of I the next two weeks there was not a cens in the treasury. Williams called his m4n into the office and told them that he I was hard up and could not pay them, but that he was getting more capital and would make it up to them in a few days. Four of them ^decided to give him a chance and to stay on the job. The fifth man, [however, decided that the whole transaction, as he had seen it, was too “fishy” promise of a permanent job. ed his money. Williams hands.
“You’ll have to wait like said. “I simply haven’t got [the money.
“You’ve got the money far your own personal expenses,” retorten the man “come across with some of it[ and let the hotel wait instead of me. If [you don't, I quit right here.”
“Then you quit,” said Willi uns.
The man quit, but he didn’i leave Diamondville. He went straight to the collector of customs and asked hi n if he had checked over closely each piece of machinery for the new factory as it reached towm. The collector replied t »at he had not “Then get busy," said th man. “It was all smuggled over here w thout paying a red cent"
A special customs officer » amed Edwards happened to be in town 11 the t$me, and the collector took him at once into consultation. Edwards felt thi t the case was a little out of his line anc called op Ottawa by long distance telephone and asked for help. This was promised. Edwards then strolled out to tt e factory and represented himself to W lliams as being interested in telephone e ijuipment Somehow, Williams’ suspicio is caught
“Get all this stuff in Canada?" asked Edwardi.
“Yes,” snapped ^ Williams. “Why?”
“Oh, I just wonde ed,” replied Edwards. “Yo i have a very complete little pi ant here for your purpose.”
That settled it Tie plant was not in any sense c implete. To anyone who kne v telephones, the plant world have appeared incongruous incomplete, in fact, a little ridiculous. Williams conclu' led that Edwards knew notl ing of telephones. He made an excuse to hustle Edward i out of the factory and then »urried to his hotel.
His nerve was gone. He decided to make a bt eak of it before the law came down on him. Accordingly, he packed up some of his belongings in a grip and made a quiet exit
fire at once. He begun to lose faith in his abil ty to pull through and was mo nentarily expecting the blo» r to fall from some quarter When Edwards invited hinself to take a look at the michlnery, the suspicions of nervous inventor became an used.
from the hotel. He first visited the factory and straightened up matters as well as he could in the office. It seemed that the gas engine was on his conscience, for he actually went out to the factory and covered it up with empty paint cans and boxes. Perhaps he had in mind the manufacturer from whom it had been purchased and who had not received a cent in payment. From the factory he walked to the dock, hired a motor boat and made a quick trip across the lake to Brinton.
In the meantime, the chief at Ottawa had ascertained that Officer Duncan was in Detroit, and decided he was the man to handle the case. Accordingly, Duncan, in the act of boarding a train, to go further west, received a wire from headquarters which read:
“Join Edwards at Diamond ville *• *oon as possible. Instructions there.”
At eight o’clock next morning he stepped into the hotel at Diamond ville, just as Edwards was heading towards the dining room for his breakfast.
“Well, Pussy Foot,” said Duncan, “what have you dug up now?”
“I have dug up a man with sufficient nerve to smuggle a whole damned factory full of machinery across the line and start it running for a month without a c*nt to come or go on,” replied Edwards.
“Have you pinched the plant?” asked Duncan.
“1 es,” replied Edwards. “The iron leaked out of his nerve last night and he beat it to Brinton. I had to get up at seven o’clock and lock the door of the factory to keep the unpaid employees from carrying everything away. They were mad enough to tear the building down.” Breakfast over, the two officers proceed«! to the factory. Duncan went straight to the office, pried the desk open and dived into it. He searched every paper in the place, but the only material that looked like a clue that he found was an invoice for machines from a secondhand dealer in Brinton. He turned to the safe and found this locked. The safe, by the way, had been smuggled over with the machinery. Williams had been very thorough in that respect He had brought everything that hè needed.
Duncan looked at Edwards and asked: “Did this fellow give you the combination of the safe before he beat it last night?” “No,” replied Edwards. “It was very inconsiderate of him.”
Duncan was digging in the waste paper basket when he asked the question. Rais-/ in g his head, he placed a small slip of paper on the desk containing some numbers. “Well, I think he did.”
Edwards took the slip and went to the ■efe. The lock and the safe door opened. Edwards scratched his head and ruminated: “That fellow was not so smart as he looked, after all.”
“No, but we need the key to the inside door now.”
“There aro keys to something here,” said Edwards, excitedly. “I just found them in this box as you found the slip in ti»e basket.”
“He was a perfect gentleman,” and Duncan opened the inside safe door with one of the keys. “I believe he would settle if we could coax him back here.”
The safe contained three sheets of paper, one book, a ten-cent piece and two coppers. It doesn’t sound much; but one sheet of paper contained a list of the machines taken out of the plant at Brinton, with their values as appraised on his books. The third sheet gave a list of the junk machines which had been bought from the second-hand dealers, without, however, the names of the dealers or the prices paid. The third sheet contained the list which Williams had prepared for the town council. Truly, they were three wonderful documents. They gave the key to the whole situation, however.
A further search in the office located some letters on file, giving instructions to various parties who had travelled between the plant and Brinton, about the smuggling of certain small articles which Williams had needed, and which could be brought across in grips. The letters were , most open and explicit and offered incriminating evidence of the most valuable kind.
UPON the completion of their search of the office, the officers made a full inventory of everything found in the plant, including machinery and supplies. This inventory was tabulated in such a way that it showed the value at which the machinery and equipment had been described to the town council by Williams; the values at which the goods had been appraised in the Brinton plant, and likewise the prices which had been paid for that proportion of machinery and equipment from second-hand dealers in the States, insofar as it could be ascertained? ■
T N the meantime Edwards had actually 1 succeeded in getting Williams on the long distance telephone. He tried to persuade the latter to come back to Canada and help straighten matters out Fiom the security of his home in Bri/iton, Williams laughed át the suggestion. He thought the cuÁom^officers were trying t»-lure him back so that he could be arrested without any fobs or legal tangles on Canadian territory.
“It would take about fifteen cents’ worth of powder to blow me up.” replied Williams. “And that’s about all the money I have
“Well,” said Edwards, "if the mountain won’t coiné to Mohan* med, Mohammed must go to the mountain. Will you see us, if we run over to talk a little proposition over with you?”
Williams replied emphatically that he would not see them; in fact, that they wouldn’t be able to find him even if they went over. But they went and after three days’ hard work, they had traced .the purchase of all the secondhand machines and had verified the figures as to the prices. Their case was complete. They knew to a cent how much they could demand in settlement
case was complete. They knew to a cent how much they could demand in settlement “Williams, we don’t want you,” urged Edwards, earnestly. “We have possession of the machinery. Your carcass isn’t
worth the powder to blow’ it up to us. It’s the money we’re after. We’ll even help you to settle this matter up and get your factory running again.”
It took quite a search to locate Williams. He was a very much wanted man just then. The holders of the mortgages on the machinery had found that the goods had been shipped across the line and out of their reach; and they wanted to know where Williams was. There was quite a string of creditors on his trail. His house was locked up and deserted.
Finally, however, a clue was picked up as to his whereabouts and they got him on the telephone. He consented to se« them, and suggested that they call at his house that night They kept the appointment The house was absolutely in darkness when they walked up to it but after Duncan had rung the door bell in manner prescribed, they heard a stealthy step approaching down the hall. The door was opened a few inches and, after a careful scrutiny on the part of the person within, they were admitted. It was W’illiams himself.
HE ushered them up to a cozy den on the second floor, where, with blinds closely drawn, he had been comfortably reading Gibbons’ “Rise and Fall.” Books of Balzac, Ruskin and Carlyle lay about on the table. It was apparent that Williams had been making his headquarters at home all along.
“Well, Mr. Man,” said Duncan, “the Canadian goblins are not as bad as they sound from a distance. I must compliment you on your choice of literature.” Williams smiled appreciatively. “To get down to brass tacks,” went on Duncan, “the facts are you have been doing things contrary to the laws of Canada. You have a good proposition there, however, and things all shaped up to start. We don’t want to put you out of business. We want to help you. It’s the policy of our government to encourage the advent of new industries.”
“Well, gentlemen, what do you propose?” asked Williams. “I may as well tell you that I haven't any money. And without money I can’t go very far.” “We’ll tell you exactly how much you require to release your whole plant.” They furnished him with the figures. Williams tacitly admitted their accuracy, and, after he had promised consideration, the conversation turned to other topics. They even d'scussed btoks before the two officers left On Williams’ suggestion they agreed to meet him and his lawyer at their hotel the following day to consider some proposition.
Continued on page 65
The Smuggler and His Drum
Continued from paffe 36
It looked as though the man meant to play square. The Canadian officers felt convinced of this when they happened to learn that Johnson, the lawyer, was in reality working in the interests of the mortgagees. But they little knew Williams—or Johnson, for that matter.
DUNCAN attended the conference next day with the evidence that had been gathered up, including the papers found in the safe at Diamondville, in a small black grip. The four men got together in one of the hotel rooms. Williams appeared nervous and refused to take a seat, pacing up and down the room while the three others talked. The grip, with the documents, had been placed on the table. Williams kept getting closer to the table with each turn that he took. Finally, when he believed the others were too engrossed in conversation to be paying any attention, he pounced upon the grip, whirled quickly and made for the door. Duncan, who had been half reclining on the bed, had been watching the inventor out of the corner of his eye and observed the manoeuvre. He vjas up like a flash and started down' the hall in pursuit Within twenty feet he got close enough to trip the fleeing Williams, who pitched headfirst with a yelp and a lead clatter.
Johnson took a hand at this stage. He had been following close after Duncan, and, when the grip went spinning from the hand of the sprawling Williams, the lawyer got it
It was a great scramble, a free-for-all, the outcome of which was that Williams and the grip went down the stairs in the lead with Duncan close on his heels again. The two officers felt that they were “in wrong.” They were employees of the Canadian Government, and so were devoid of all power and right If they injured either of the two welchers in regaining the grip, they were liable to be held for assault Nevertheless, when Williams, groggy and panting hard, reached the rotunda, Duncan did not hesitate to take him by the shoulder and force him into a private parloT.
Here Williams stood at bay and refused to hand over the paper». ^They were his, he contended, and He was at home in his own country. Duncan, he said in a voice pitched to a falsetto with excitement, could go to the devil. It was a situation where both men felt decidedly uncomfortable; Duncan because he had no legal right, Williams because he wanted to avoid publicity above everything else.
It ended iirh compromise. Duncan got the papers back, but Williams made copies of them first. When Dun'can emerged from the parlor with the grip in his hand, Edwards was sitting not ten feet away. He jumped up and grabbed the grip with a hurried, “Come on!” Duncan followed without asking questions and in a few seconds they were seated in a taxi that Edwards had retained at a rear entrance. The driver shot off for the depot.
“What did you do to him?” asked Edwards.
“I got the papers back,” replied Duncan, “without resorting to violence.” “Well, we had better get out of this burg right away,” said Edwards, “before they can arrest us for hammering that pair up. As soon as I got clear of that lawyer crook, I got our luggage and checked it out. Then I got the taxi and waited for you. We’ll have to get out pretty quick before Johnson gets the police on us.”
In due course and in the usual way, the equipment in the factory at Diamondville was taken over by the customs and sold for a sum which allowed the full duty and paid all expenses. No one w’as anything out but Williams and the men who had backed Eim.
Diamondville was out an industry, but the loss was a temporary one.. The enterprising town council had soon secured another concern to use the factory. This time they landed a real one,