Usually We’re Honest, But—
Fundamentally, most of us are not crooks, but there are some queer kinks in human nature.
IT WAS quite a simple thing for a person of Slim Alf’s calm effrontery to walk into the hospital and ask to inspect the register, on the rather vague pretext that he was a lawyer looking for the address of a client in one of the wards; and once with the register in his hands, the bare space of five minutes was all he needed. Slim Alf departed, with a fascinating smile for the young lady at the desk who saw quite too much of the solemnness of life, and then, just outside the drab building, he encountered Bunty Pert who carried with him the air of having awaited this eventuality.
“Any luck, Slim?” he asked, with an expectant air which seemed but formality after all.
“Luck?” Slim Alf laughed easily.
“That’s my middle name, Bunty.
Sure thing. There’s a gink by the name of Walter Barber, of 261 De Ville Street, left the hospital this morning. He was in a motor wreck, and it will be two weeks before he is able to get around right. . And . as you were about to say, Bunty, two weeks are more than enough.”
With that, Slim Alf and Bunty Pert walked gaily away, and there was about them the brisk attitude of men who have a work to do, who know well the routine, and who yet find a definite thrill in the doing.
It was upwards of an hour later when the Alibi Twins, as they came to be known in later years, were to be seen making a much slower and less dignified progress down one of the busiest of thoroughfares; and as they threaded their way among the crowds, Bunty Pert made somewhat of a pathetic figure. There were bandages about one foot where the shoe should have been; there was a crutch tucked under one arm, and there was a bandaged splint running down the back of the other hand, so that on the whole Bunty was a spectacle to reach down and stir the emotions. It was in this guise that he reached the legal office of Andres &
Perkins less than a half hour before the regular closing time, and as Slim Alf helped him to a chair it was obvious that even the stern features of Andres relaxed somewhat.
, With that flicker of sentiment to urge him on, Slim Alf tendered a business card, so virgin and unsoiled that the ink still seemed to be fresh upon it, and that card served the purpose of informing Andres that one, Mr. James Barber, contractor, of 261 De Ville Street, was in his presence. Bunty’s bandages seemed to tell him the rest, for Andres nodded swiftly.
“Gentleman hurt in an accident,” Andres supplemented his nod, “Wants to collect damages, I’ll bet.” “Precisely,” Slim Alf returned, as smoothly as the word itself. “My brother, Mr. Walter Barber, from the Maritimes. Visiting me. Was hit last week by a motor car, and just came out of the hospital to-day. Fortunately he has accident insurance, so the matter should be quite simple We sent for the policy as soon as he was hurt. Will you show it to Mr. Andres, Walter?”
Andres turned his head slightly to one side; for even after his years of experience it sometimes became difficult to understand why people should come to him for the doing of business which they could perform just as perfectly themselves.
“Policy is quite all right,” he declared, “Seems to have been written in Moncton. That will add to the difficulties, but I am certain I will be able to collect through the head office.” •
At that point Slim Alf decided to laugh with nervous relief.
“We have had so little experience with such things,” he apologized instantly, “I was quite confident that it could be collected here. You see, my brother was more than unfortunate. Something happened. We do not know quite what; but he lost all his money at the same time, and his expenses have been considerable.”
“Ah!” said lawyer Andres, as he contemplated that insurance policy and the simple ease with which he could collect upon it. Four thousand was the sum, without the faintest possible hitch in the proceedings. An hour’s work at the outside. Still, by throwing it aside and letting it gather dust for a month or two, and by seeming to struggle through the imaginary tangles of law, he could doubtless collect the modest little fee of five hundred, perhaps more.
Making the Touch
SLIM ALF rose, and Bunty Pert tottered to his side, still a pathetic sight. And again Slim laughed nervously.
“We rather hoped,” he began; then he stammered like a man approaching an embarrassing moment, “My own money, you know, what little I have is tied up inbuildings. My brother thought ... I mean we hoped that the policy would be good enough for a little advance, just enough to help him through a few weeks ...”
That, of course, was the uncertain moment. Yet almost instantly Andres rose, and with a gesture, walked into another room. Even one less experienced than Slim Alf could have told that he was telephoning the hospital.
“I have spoken to my partner,” Andres lied calmly upon his return. “He thinks we might be able to let your brother have a couple of hundred in advance. I don’t mind telling you, Mr. Barber, that we have looked you up in the directory and find that you have some standing...”
Andres paused just there, for the look of gratitude which flitted into the eyes of Bunty Pert was a confusing thing, particularly to a man who planned to rob him of some hundreds of dollars for a mere hour’s work. It was so subduing that Andres again left the room and returned almost at once with a roll of bills in his hand.
The Alibi Twins made their way slowly and pathetically down into the busy thoroughfare, and so far as Andres & Perkins were concerned, they were lost forever to view; yet they were not totally above visiting others of the legal profession, for it was just after opening hours that Slim Alf and Bunty Pert paid a formal call upon Robins & Jester. The latter, it seemed, was perfectly willing to take up the cáse of the bandaged Bunty, particularly after an unassailable insurance policy was presented; and when Bunty stood pathetically upon one leg, with the quiver of courage at his lips, Jester rather improved Andres' donation of two hundred dollars.
From that time on, it was a case of busy and shining hours for the Alibi Twins. No one ever did learn the exact number of legal gentlemen who contributed to their future support; but at the end of the month the insurance company made the astonishing discovery that there were fourteen legal firms handling the fake claim of Walter Barber of De Ville Street. As to Slim Alf and Bunty Pert, it must be confessed that they were so careless as to vanish; yet they had one thin strain of decency within them, as they left a note for the insurance people, signed “Slim Alf and Bunty Pert, the Alibi Twins,” in which they declared that the real Walter Barber was in no way an accomplice.
A Desperate Experiment
IN SPITE of the above carefullyplanned raid upon the coffers of the legal gentlemen, with the accident policy in the background, the insurance people, those engaged in the business, declare that they have but little trouble with the deliberate crooks. At the same time, they recognize that their comparative freedom from attempted frauds may be largely due to the fact that there are so few ways in which any person can collect upon an accident-insurance policy without undergoing actual bodily injury; and that is something which the ordinary citizen would pay money to avoid. So, on the whole, the crookedness which crops up to worry the business houses handling this type of policy has to do largely with the attempts of men to create the impression that they have been injured, when they were not, or with men who have been bitten by the malingering germ. Malingering, naturally, is the most common source of annoyance; still, it is really a matter for the medical men rather than for the police. Yet, in spite of the cowardice of the average human in the face of bodily harm, there have been some striking illustrations where a man will incur actual suffering for the sake of the money he hopes to get.
As an example, there was the case of a man whom we will call Henry James because he wasn’t Henry James. From the first, James never had been given to toil; he lived by habit on the remnants of a father’s purse; then he discovered one night that his heritage had dwindled, and that all that stood between him and work was a bare hundred and fifty dollars. The spectacle was a frightening one, for never in his more prosperous days had Henry taken the trouble to learn even the rudiments of earning a living.
' So, through the processes of his type of brain, Henry evolved a plan.
The plan took him to the offices of four different companies dealing in accident insurance; and with each company he took out a policy for five thousand dollars. Such policies, of course, were of the normal type, provid-
ing half liability for an ordinary accident, and double liability for injuries sustained while traveling upon some public form of transportation. Henry’s four policies, being for a limited period, cost him an hundred dollars flat; and by carefully conning their terms he discovered that either of his hands, if lost in a railway accident before the policies expired, would be worth the flat sum of twenty thousand dollars to him.
“Twenty thousand dollars for a hand!”
Don’t shiver, for of course it would be the poorest kind of a bargain—to anybody except Henry’s type. But Henry, it must be remembered, had never been on even distant bowing terms with Demon Toil, and he was in the corner, with his back to the wall. According to his theories of life, the hand is not made to Labor. His big problem really was to meet up with that essential railway accident.
So, with the remaining dollars in his pocket, Henry purchased a railway ticket, and he chose it with the utmost care, both as to direction and time.
Owing to this caution, Henry found himself, one dark night, stepping daintily down from a passenger car into the dust-laden yard of a flag station, where, to the best of his observations, there were but two humans about. Those two were round-house men making a belated tour of inspection; and scarcely had the train begun to move on into the night before they were alarmed by a most violent screaming from the direction of the rear car. Screams of that kind could mean but the one thing, so the pair dashed to rescue.
Through the murk of the night, they found a human form sitting by the side of the track, wailing incoherently and waving the ragged stump of a hand.
“Gad, that’s awful,” Smirks, the round-house worker exclaimed, “We’ve got to get him help quick. Run, Barker, and get a doctor; I’ll do what I can for him/’
Barker, the junior of the two, ran; and by the time he returned, Smirks had heard the blurted-out story of Henry James.
“How did it happen?” the doctor asked.
“He was standing on the step smoking a cigarette,” Smirks repeated the somewhat labored explanation of Henry James, “when the train gave a sudden jerk and threw him off. He fell sideways, and as he rolled over to get out of the way of the train, his hand touched the rail. The wheel caught it; that’s all.”
Obviously, to those grim men accustomed to such human woes, it was all. To Dr. Ernst it was a different matter; for he was a firm believer in the theory that there are few stories which really have either beginning or end. When his work was over, and Henry James was leaning back in the fatigue of woe, Dr. Ernst used his eyes, and he tried to patch together the thin threads of the tragedy which had come into the life of this stranger.
“You brushed his clothes off, of course,” Dr. Ernst remarked abruptly to Smirks.
“Didn’t touch them at all,” the man protested, “Why would I brush his clothes off when the man was screaming with the pain?”
“That’s just it,” Ernst agreed, “I may be thinking of things which concern me not at all; yet I must admit that it seems strange to me that a man who has just been rolled about in the dust of that station yard out yonder, and who is wearing a blue suit, would not have any marks of dust on his clothing.”
Smirks peered cautiously at the half-conscious man.
“He has got dust on him,”
Smirks protested, “See them two marks on his knees.”
Dr. Ernst nodded, for though he was housed up in the environs of a wayside station, he had learned much through the passing of the years concerning the waywardness of mankind.
Still, he kept his observations to himself until the four insurance companies, being pressed to pay twenty thousand dollars for Henry’s lost hand, called upon Dr.
Ernst to give his statement.
In such a case as that, the man had but the one thing he could do. He told what he had seen, and Henry, being confronted with cleverer brains than his own, broke down. Still, the insurance people were human at the end. Had they been strict, they might have sent Henry down for a few years, in view of his confessed fraud; but on the other hand, they saw him through his sickness, then they
turned him loose to repent the folly of fraud.
Benny and the M.P.
'T'HERE are times, of course, when a man can get away with it, up to a certain stage, and that recalls the case of Benny Leitvitch.
Benny, it must be admitted, had brains, and a willing accomplice, or he would never have chosen to be knocked from his bicycle by so great a man as the Member of Parliament. The M.P. was driving his own car, and where Benny and his bicycle came from, he never could tell. He knew only that when he slackened up at a definite corner, there was Benny, under the wheels, mud-plastered and screeching, and there was the bicycle, a humiliated wreck.
The M.P., of course, was on the point of scurrying Benny to the nearest hospital, when Benny so much relaxed his groans as to mumble the name of a medico of his own choosing. It happened to be one whose surname hinted at the same nationality as that patronized by Leitvitch, but the M.P. cared for nothing but time.
He placed Benny under Rosen’s care, and remarked, quite recklessly, that he “would see the boy through.”
But Benny was too wise to have been a mere boy. For he submitted to the restrictions of Dr.
Rosen’s bandages for the full period of three months. At the end of that time, the M.P. merely passed along to the Automobile insurance company a claim for four thousand dollars, damages and doctor’s costs. The company grouched, but in the face of Rosen’s frank statements, they had but little option. In the end, they parted with three thousand.
For a period, Benny Leitvitch passed out of sight. Then in time he blossomed out as the proprietor of a novelty goods store; and things were running along smoothly until misfortune struck him again. This time it was Demon Fire which visited his premises; but just here Benny overstepped himself. He misjudged the primary disposition of fire. For he fancied that a room, with all openings plugged, would be burned thoroughly on the inside; and he forgot that under such conditions there is really more smoke than fire. At any rate, when the fire reels arrived, there was still enough of the ruin left in one corner to show that an electrical wire had been cut, that the current had been turned on, and that it had been concentrated upon a pile of waste in one corner.
Benny went down for arson; and in the process of going he confessed that he had buncoed the M.P., as well
as Dr. Rosen. But the latter portion of the statement seems hard to belieVç.
Passing the Gems Around
HEN there are the theft insurance worried which some firms refuse to touch at all, and which others grade as second only to the fire insurance problem in their precariousness. For there are experts who will tell you that it is in the theft insurance that the big crook is more apt to work than in the fire insurance; and there are so many temptations thrown out to the average honest man that the yielding to them becomes a simple thing. It is not implied, however, that the normal citizen insures some article or stock of articles, with the aim of putting over a crooked deal, for the percentage of crooks who take out theft insurance is not much greater than in some of the other lines. The statement simply is that it offers a rich field to the man who is looking for such.
In a petty way, theft insurance has its openings for the man whose balance is slightly off centre. For instance, it is quite simple for him to insure his automobile against theft, and then when the decrepi-’ tude of age creeps upon it, he can leave it some night in the pathway of the ever-present motor bandit, with engine running and with gasoline tank brimming over. He could, if he chose, insure many an undesired article and then leave it about where sooner or later the hands of another would close about it. But it is not that type of minor crookedness which worries the big insurance companies; it is, instead, the organized gang which has made a study of the game and which goes about it with all the finesse of art. Such gangs are known to be fairly common across the line, but only at long intervals do they show up on the Canadian side. Still they have paid their migratory visits from time to time, and that recalls what we will term the Bloomfield case, simply because Bloomfield is about as far from the name as one might pick.
It is assumed that the Bloomfields were careful and patient workers, for, to the best observations of all, they came from nowhere and they chose the new city as the site of their pickings. At first glance, they looked like a progressive firm, for old Samuel Bloomfield appeared one day, picked a site on Main Street, and in due time he opened up a jewelry store.
“Nothing but the best. First class trade only,” was the slogan which Bloomfield held out; and his rivals from the high grade stores who drifted in occasionally on their tours of inspection, agreed that Bloomfield was really in the tony class.
In a few months, Bloomfield was established; and at that same period he dictated a letter.
“Bertie, my son,” he wrote, in part, “It is time that you should arrive ...”
Bertie did arrive, supposedly fresh from college. The bloom was upon his garments, and he was such an untamed thing that Bloomfield, in the observation of all, haltered him by tieing a jewelry store about his neck and locating him in the western section of the city. Shortly after that, a nephew, Joe Berger, had to be anchored in the same way; only he was placed in the east.
That, of course, is nothing but the preliminaries.
The next scene shows Samuel Bloomfield in a fever of excitement and urging on the police to catch the burglars who had just broken into his main store at night and stolen fifty thousand dollars’ worth of his choice jewelry.
“The robbery is genuine,” the police chief decided, in consultation with a number of his subordinates, after Bloomfield had taken his excitement from their midst, “though I did think at first that he was a trifle artificial about it. It’s your job, Kracher. Study every inch of that building and see if you can find the faintest sign that it wasn’t an outside job.”
Kracher studied. The evidence was undoubted. It had been crude work, but there was not the slightest doubt that the rear doorway, facing upon a dark alley, had been forced from the outside. The thing was suqh a decided clean-up and such a clear get-away that the police had no option but to report it as such. A few weeks later they learned that the Junker Insurance Company had parted with $45,000, according to the terms of the theft policy with which Bloomfield’s foresight had provided him. That, of course, was no concern of the police; and they Continued on page 50
Continued, from page 13
thought nothing of it even when two months later Joe Berger was so unfortunate as to have his jewelry store in the east end broken into in the same manner and stripped of twenty thousand dollars worth of diamonds.
Berger was even more excited than Bloomfield had been.
“There must be a gang, watching,” he complained to the police chief. “These were choice diamonds. They hadn’t been in stock more than a month. There’s a bunch of clever crooks somewhere. They watch until we get some fine diamonds in, then they rob us.”
At that stage the police were not aware of the relationship between Bloomfield and Berger, so they were inclined to accept Berger’s views, with the result that Kracher worked for weeks on the theory that there was a big diamondstealing gang somewhere in the background, watching for the shipment of jewels and laying their plans accordingly. Kracher still held to the theory, even after Bertie Bloomfield was added to the list of the unfortunates and was stripped of his jewels to the tune of twenty-five thousand dollars.
“It’s the same gang,” he informed the Chief. “They’ve got away with nearly a hundred thousand dollars worth of diamonds in the past nine months, and they have done it the same way every time. They break in the back door by sawing around the hinges and prying the whole door right out. Every gang leaves its pet hand-marks, you know that; and this is this one’s trick. They pick out places where nobody could possibly see them at work, then they cut the door away.”
“Why couldn’t anybody see them at work?” the chief demanded, with awakened interest.
“Because every place the gang picks, there’s a high board fence hiding the back doorway.”
Kracher recalls even to this day how the Chief laughed just at that point.
“Yes, there is a gang at work,” he pronounced. “Your next job, Kracher, is to find out when those board fences were built. Don’t make a mistake even to a day. Tell Burton to find out if Joe Berger had any insurance on his diamonds, if he has collected it, and if Bertie Bloomfield is insured.”
Naturally, both were insured, heavily. Berger had collected sixteen thousand, and Bertie Bloomfield already had his application in, though the Junker Insurance Company, it was to be observed, carried neither of the policies.
Yet it was those high board fences which provided the first real clue. For each fence, it developed, had been constructed shortly after the various premises had been taken over by the Bloomfields; and the police chief, hearing that, knew instantly that it ivas a gang, and thac he had no, far to seek for them. The trouble was to tack it down to the Bloomfields and to Berger. It was the insurance companies which were instrumental in that, for the three concerns which were being milked suddenly got together and compared notes. The comparison disclosed the interesting fact that the same diamonds were insured by all three companies.
“And they have been passing them around from store to store to be stolen by themselves,” the chief decided, the moment the insurance report was received, “Kracher, take two men with you and arrest the Bloomfields and Berger for burglary and fraud.”
Kracher tried it, but, to his great woe, the birds had flown. They had vanished over night, and they left behind them a vast list of unpaid rentals and a great stock of cheap jewelry. Everything of real value was stripped from the three stores; and it was not until two years later that Kracher heard the sequel to the story.
The Bloomfields had tried the same thing in St. Louis, and had stubbed their toe. When they come out from their ten-year terms, Kracher still hopes to get them.
ASSUREDLY one must not forget the case of Tubby Jones, who, at the time he becomes of interest, was a moderately well-to-do citizen of Knob-
town, with a wife and family and a pleasant home “upon the hill.” But one midsummer night, while Tubby’s family were up Nortn, and while Tubby himself was supposed to be in the East, the special policeman on the beat found only a shattered wreck where once Tubby’s rear window had been.
That brought Tubby’s wife home much quicker than Tubby himself, and long before he arrived in person he had bden informed through the medium of the press that his home had been broken into and that all his wife’s jewelry was gone.
But in the meantime Detective Connor had visited the scene.
“Looks fishy,” Connor reported to his chief. “I was the first person in the house after the patrolman gave the alarm, and I don’t see how any person could break into the house the way that was broken into.”
The chief became curious and expressed a demand to know.
“Because, from the way it was done, you would have to be inside the house before you could break in,” Connor involved himself somewhat. “What I mean to say is that there was only one window disturbed, and from the way the glass fell, the breaking must have been done from the inside. Besides, there is a mark on the leg of the chair which did it.”
“Oh!” said the Chief reflectively. “To think Tubby Jones would do a thing like that. How about the jewelry?”
Connor shook his head in doubt.
“Makes it look all the worse,” he declared. “Whoever pulled that job was a bungler of the rankest type. You could see that the dining room was in a badly mussed condition. And it took more than one person to do it. . . .cigarashes all over the carpet, some playing cards under the table, and an empty bottle in the back yard. And that was the only room which was disturbed in the house, except that somebody had walked straight to the cabinet where Mrs. Jones’ trinkets were kept. That had been broken open with a poker which was left beside it.”
When Tubby Jones reached town, Friend Wife already had her claim in with the insurance company for the lost jewels. The police watched; they discovered that Tubby tried to withdraw the claim, and at that psychological moment they stepped into the scene.
Up to a certain stage, Tubby’s story was quite a normal one and was peculiar to this particular age and generation. With Wifie away, Tubby had dropped back to town; three friends had accompanied him, and they had made a night of it. But the night was so perfect, when looked at from that definite angle, that Tubby realized the hopelessness of clearing up the mess and concealing his visit from Friend Wife. So he decided to disguise it instead, and to lend color to fact, he took along the jewels.
That is the point where the police stepped out of the game, with grins upon their lips. Mrs. Tubby, however, was seen to wear a new pendant shortly afterwards, and one cannot help but wonder if she could stoop so low as blackmail.
There is, as well, the story of how a minor fraud was brought to light in an unusual way. Benjamin, Senior, was beyond that age when the affairs of the world have their keen appeal; yet he was quite willing that his noble pair of sons should treat him as so much chattel and should put the price of twenty thousand dollars upon his head. Benjamin, if he was a day, was seventy; but through one of those strange oversights which are often the counterpart of a hurried business transaction, it slipped down upon the application form that he was but fiftyeight.
Fortunately for the insurance company, Benjamin had a daughter whose confidence in her brothers was not unlimited. It was that which took her to the insurance office, where, in an agitated manner, she made known her fears.
“They kill him, I’m afraid. Twenty t’ousand dollars on an old man. It ain’t right.”
There was a whole lot more to her vocal fears, though they really were without foundation. However, they served the purpose of revealing the fraud as to age, so L is scarcely necessary to say that the Benjamin policy was never issued.
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