The Luck-Pin! — a tiny thing of metal and gilt, but overbalancing, in the scale of circumstance, two human lives, and pointing guilt like the finger of Justice.
FOR the dark purpose John Donzell had in mind, no section cf the city was better suit 1 than Dale Street.
Twenty years ago it had been an important thoroughfare devoted to wholesale interests, but with the establishment of new freight yards in another part of Toronto, firm after firm had moved away,s that of late the one-time busy street was almost as deseried as a summer resoit in January.
Standing new in the dusk of a March evening in an alley between two ramshackle buildings, Donzell re-tested for the hundierith time the alibi which he sc carefully had prepared. And for the hundredth time, he told himself, he could find no flaw in it.
He had telephoned his request for the rendezvous when his victim was alone in the office, and, even if he were not, Donzell knew Robert Dawes well enough to feel assured that the old man, anxious to keep in the good graces of his temporary chief, would obey orders and disclose to no person any details of the confidential conversation.
That was at half-pastfive, after which Donzell had walked from the telephone booth in the drug store to his own boardinghouse a block away. At a quarter of six he had visited the kitchen and told his landlady of his fictitious headache. She had given him some vinegar and a promise not to disturb him unless he called. Then having locked the door of his bedroom he had waited five minutes before slipping on an old, black coat, a dark cap and rubber-soled shoes. After which he had softly opened the window and had crept as noiselessly as a cat onto the roof of the summer kitchen. Thereafter it had been an easy matter to catch hold of the bough of the black oak tree
and swing himself to the ground fifteen feet below.
No one could have seen him leave the darkened, lonely house, for he was the only boarder, and the landlady and her invalid husband were in the kitchen; and no kitchen window looked out on the back yard. Slipping through a jagged hole in the back fence he had struck up the lane, and thence, through three-quarters of a mile of little frequented streets, he had made his way to his present lurking-place; and he could count on the fingers of one hand the persons he had passed en route.
Yes, he assured himself, his long supple fingers restlessly stroking his well-trimmed Vandyke beard, his alibi was proof against the most adroit barrage of inquisitive queries.
And everything was in readiness for the supreme effort of his sinister undertaking—even to the silencer on his revolver; even to the luck-pin which he had carried for seven years, and which never yet had failed him.
The pin! Not for worlds would he have embarked on this desperate adventure without it.
His fingers fondled it in his vest pocket. Just an ordinary hairpin, heavily gilded because of the sentiment which he attached to it. For with that pin, thrust into an empty pocket in an idle moment seven years ago, he had picked the lock of the small town cage in which he had been placed by a flustered country constable who had caught him burglarizing the ancient safe in the depot—had picked the lock and won his way to freedom.
And since then prosperity had been with him, for to-day
he was the trusted manager of the old-fashioned importing house headed by Jonathan Bush, the gentle-minded philanthropist now recuperating after a mental breakdown in Bermuda, and with little thought that the man he had left in charge of his affairs had been faithless to his trust.
A distant church clock chimed half-past-six, the hour of the rendezvous, and then Donzell’s straining ears caught the sound of the footstep for which he waited.
AT THE mouth of the alley, silhouetted against the dim, flickering light of a street lamp on the opposite side, the newcomer halted a moment as though in doubt; then advanced slowly up the passage. It was dark in the alley, very dark, and as the person came opposite the place where Donzell lurked in the blackness he suddenly stopped. Donzell stepped forward.
A l the mouth of the alley, silhouetted against the dim light of a street lamp, the newcomer halted as though in doubt, then came opposite where Donzell lurked in the blackness.
“Hallo! Dawes,” he said.
Startled, the newcomer answered somewhat shakily, “Why, Mr. Donzell, I had quite a time finding—”
He said nothing more.
A hand steel-like in strength reached forward and seized the lapel of his coat. There came a faint report from the silenced revolver pressed against his heart, and his body swayed to and fro in the grip of those vise-like fingers. Then as a snow-burdened branch sags and drops from a tree, so did Dawes’ body sway sideways and fall—not noisily, for Donzell’s fingers still preserved their grip on the coat, but with a subdued thud on the cobble stones, thereafter to lie very still.
Finger on trigger, the slayer waited for a moment before bending down to complete the last act of the grim drama. Then hurriedly he ripped open the dead man’s overcoat, with a savage jerk, snatched watch and chain from the vest pocket, and tiptoed silently dc^wn the alley into the street. The timepiece and chain were dropped through a sewer grating, and Donzell was back in his own darkened room within thirtyfive minutes of the time he had left it. In another five, he had turned on the light, unloaded and cleaned his revolver and replaced it in his trunk. Then he went to the door and unlocked it.
“Mrs. Barnsby,” he said. “Could I trouble you to bring me some hot water.”
HE WAS in a dressing gown, with his hair rumpled, when she complied with his request, and after he had accepted with feigned patience her advice as to the best means of curing his fictitious headache, he re-entered his room and crept into bed with a cheap novel to bear him company. But the printed words danced before his vision, for his mind was charged with the happenings of the last fateful hour.
He had not the slightest regret for what he had done. The slaying of the aged bookkeeper had been decided on three days ago when Donzell had reached the conclusion that there was no other way out of his dilemma.
None but Dawes knew that the ten thousand dollars had not been deposited in the bank, and the old man had not seemed satisfied with Donzelbs elaborate explanation that he was cabling the whole amount to Jonathan Bush at the latter’s request. In fact, it was when Dawes had intimated that he would mention something about the matter in the letter which he mailed weekly to the absent head of the firm, that Donzell had planned the dark enterprise which he had brought to a successful completion in the alley off Dale Street.
And so Jonathan Bush would receive no letter, except that which Donzell himself would write of the mysterious passing of the old employee who had been with the firm for twenty years. The murderer smiled.
Jonathan Bush, the old simpleton! He would have a rude awakening when he returned. In five days time, the ten thousand dollars already embezzled would swell to six times that amount; but never again would a dollar of it find its way into the rapacious hands of the bucket-shop people.
Damn that waspish Bennie Katzmann, who had hounded and hounded him until he had been compelled Never would Katzmann get a him again. When he had gotten eh was due the firm at the end of gest South American clients, he jnto as silently and unobtrusively > it seven years ago. With fifty ance his subsequent movements, ivy could never connect him with Hawes, thanks to his painstaking t satisfying thought, and the smile as Donzell recalled how his dupe lephoned story of the shipment y and had been responsible for ¡pot where his body was now lying :he heart. Yes. it had all worked As always his luck-pin had worked
>m the bed to turn off the light and his vest. His fingers dived into the upper ket to retrieve the luckpiece for a final ut. groj found nothing. It must locket, he told himself, and renewed his he and
lings out and went unrewarded. He l black coat, examined the pants he had efut journey, but the pin was in neither, u.'t i, he finally desisted from his frenzied nstru : his actions after he had pin in the alley off Dale Street. Then ie. He must have dropped it as he bent if his victim. And with this conclusion •epted definitely, he cursed himself with black fear gripped and held him. Not that the pin could betray his connection at the moment he could recall no one to hown it: but because he feared that the 1 im sin the pin had come into ight also take wings.
;e g :ng back to the alley and retrieving Hut the thought of the grim, silent form ■ halted him. No! he couldn’t face •:d the body also found the pin he rom suspicion. No other than Donzell He had shown it to no living soul in
He had len Katzler, Katziim take it t and had about its inzell now at he had íe incident, ann to bea souvenir ture. But years ago, iroker long ? forgotten course he’d a Donzell But his
:arn~ :~ted -a efI~r
as a good-living, hard-working employe, rge there, a Mr. Donzell, is badly cut up that Dawes had been working for Bush 3. Donzell told me that Dawes had been a bit of late, though he didn’t know
pector Robertson tapped a heavy hand k. “It’s your job, Williams—yours and I was tackling it I’d be inclined to say was mixed UP in it,”
\\ illiams shook his head. "The only thing in support of that is the pin 1 told you of.” He opened his pocketbook and produced a gilded hairpin. Balancing it on his palm, he went on. "I’ve made quite a few enquiries about this kind and all those I’ve shown it to say it’s just an ordinary hairpin gilded over for some special purpose. No factory turns ’em out that way.”
The inspector extended his hand for the pin. There was nothing to set it apart from any other of its fellows save the heavy gilt coat. "And this was found on the body, eh?"
"Right on top of the coat."
"Have you mentioned it to anyone, yet?”
\\ illiams shook his head. "Thought I’d better wait awhile.” he replied.
Inspector Robertson nodded agreement. “Just as well, until you check up. Is there any female help at Bush’s?"
"One girl, a Miss Lowry, and her hair’s as black as mine. Old Bush himself has been in Bermuda for the past month and Donzell’s in charge. He’s been with the firm around seven years. Dawes was the only other employe. It's a kind of an old-fashioned concern, though it does a pretty fair business with South American houses."
"It looks to me like a hold-up job, with a woman as the decoy. His watch and chain were missing, weren’t they, and one of his pockets turned inside out?”
W illiams nodded assent. “But there’s this against the hold-up theory,” he disputed. “Dawes never was in the habit of carrying much money, and eight dollars and thirty-five cents was found when Tyler searched his clothes. They’d hardly have overlooked that. The watch and chain are missing all right, but I’m told by Dawes’ landlady that it was a cheap timepiece and the chain was a common nickel one. . . . No, sir, I’m of the opinion that there’s something more than gunplay by a hold-up gang in this case. What beats me is what took the old man to Dale Street after he left his office. It wasn’t on his way home, and neither Mr. Donzell nor Miss Lowry can puzzle it out. He was the last man in the office: left there around six o’clock, the caretaker
says. He was found at seven this morning and the doctors say he must have been dead at least twelve hours. That looks to me as though he went straight from Bush’s place to the alley where he met his death. I’ve got to find out what took him there, Inspector, and when I’ve found out that I’ll be off to a good start,
. . . I guess I’ll take another walk down to Bush’s and see what’s doing. Tyler’s checking up on some other details.”
TN THE dingy, old-fashioned private office of the absent head of the Jonathan Bush importing company, the detective was greeted by Donzell.
“What, back again?” the manager queried with a smile that he strove to make cordial. “Any new development?”
The officer shook his head.
Through the partially opened door of the private office came the sound of a voice asking for Donzell. The manager sprang to his feet, a sudden dark frown chasing the forced smile from his lips. But before he could reach the door and intercept the intruder it had been pushed wide open by a short, aquiline-featured man who grinned complacently.
Donzell took the newcomer by the arm. The movement with which he impelled him outside was almost rough in its effort. “Can’t you see I’m busy?” the detective heard him say before the two moved towards the door of the outer office.
When Donzell returned a few minutes later, he carried with him a ledger and some papers. This time he closed the door carefully.
“Since you were here this morning,” he said, “I’ve found out something.” His face became serious. “Ten thousand dollars which should have gone to the bank last Tuesday never reached there.”
Williams stared at the speaker. “Why didn’t it?” Donzell shrugged his shoulders. “I hate to say anything against a dead man’s character, Mr. Williams,” he replied, reluctantly, “but it was Dawes’ job to have taken that money to the International Bank. The amount was due the firm on a commission sale and was paid to us in currency. It should have been banked to our credit three days ago—but the fact remains that it was not, and only Dawes could explain why.” He opened a ledger. “See! there is the entry, and here are the papers and the account of the transaction. But,” he held out a bankbook, “there’s no corresponding deposit in this, and the bank people assure me that the money never reached
Williams glanced over the papers. “Ten thousand, eh? What d’you suppose he did with it?” Donzell lit a cigarette and puffed out the smoke thoughtfully. “Heaven knows! What do embezzlers do with the money they steal—races, cards, fast living, that’s where it generally goes, doesn’t it?” “You’re going pretty fast, Mr. Donzell,” smiled the detective. “I haven’t quite satisfied myself that Dawes stole this money. There’s a chance that it’ll turn up somewhere yet. You see I’ve gone over his record and everybody including yourself until now, speaks highly of him. His landlady says he was regular in his habits and spent most of his evenings in his own room. He had three thousand in the bank and was all alone in the world; and he’d been twenty years with your firm. To tell you the truth, I can't quite see how this fits in— not yet.”
“What you say is all true,” answered Donzell.
“but, unfortunately, it
doesn't explain why $10,000
of the firm’s money is missing—$10,000 which it was Dawes’ duty to deposit in the bank last Tuesday. It’s a tremendous shock to me; it will be a worse one for my employer.”
Williams remained silent and Donzell went on: “Since I discovered this irregularity I have been putting two and two together, and I’ve come to the conclusion that Dawes had a confederate: that they quarreled over the division of the spoils and that Dawes was shot in the argument. I told you that of late he had been worrying, and I believe that this theft was at the bottom of the worry. Likely he was egged on by his accomplice to steal this money, and then was shot in its division. The old man could be pretty obstinate at times, and I wouldn’t be surprised if his obstinacy didn’t cost him his life. That,” concluded Donzell with decision, "is how 1 sum up things.” “You ligure that’s what took him to Dale Street— to divvy up, (eh?”
Continued on page 46
Continued from page 18
“Yes. What better place for a secret meeting than a deserted street like Dale?”
"You’ve no idea, I suppose, who was in with him on this?”
Donzell shook his head. “Not the slightest. In fact, what strikes me as the strangest part of the whole terrible business is the absence of any clue that might point to the identity of the slayer. That seems odd to me.”
Donzell puffed a cloud of smoke ceilingwards.
“In all the cases of murder I’ve heard of," he volunteered, “the killer generally leaves something behind him, no matter how careful he is. This chap didn’t.” "Well,” replied the detective, “we did find—”
“What?”—the word leapt from Donzell’s lips like a pistol shot. The next moment he could have bitten out his tongue, for he felt that the other man was watching him curiously.
He was. As a matter of fact, Williams, on the point of communicating the discovery of the pin, had suddenly recalled his decision to say nothing of it at present, and Donzell’s eager query caught his attention. Also, it confirmed the officer’s resolve to keep secret the finding of the hairpin. And so he answered carelessly, “Nothing of any account; only what was on the body, and you know about that.”
Donzell had himself in hand now. “Just the papers you told me of; is that all?” “You didn’t expect the murderer to leave his personal card, did you?” chided Williams.
The other laughed mirthlessly. “No, but I once read of a fellow—in Philadelphia, I think it was—who killed a woman and was traced by a p—pencil.” ‘"“By a pencil, eh? Well there’s no pencil in this case,” rejoined the officer. “It’s a tough nut to crack allright, and the embezzlement you’ve told me of opens up a new angle. I’ll have to check up Dawes’ movements pretty closely after he left this office. . . . By the way, who was that fellow who came in here just now? I seem to remember his face. Is he a customer of your firm?”
FOR the fraction of a moment Donzell hesitated as he inwardly cursed the importunate Bennie Katzmann for having chosen such an inconvenient time to pay a call.
“No,” he replied, striving to force conviction into his voice, for the question had taken him unawares. “He was in to enquire about Dawes.”
“A friend of his, I suppose?”
“No, no,” corrected Donzell hastily. “He just called out of sympathy; wanted to know if there was anything new. I told him there wasn’t.”
Williams nodded and rose. “I’ve a couple of questions to ask Miss Lowry before I go,” he said. He opened the door and stepped into the outer office.
“Did Mr. Dawes tell you when you left the office last night how long he intended to work?” the officer asked the girl.
“Did he usually stay late?”
“Have you any idea what kept him here last night?”
The young woman reflected. “No,” she finally replied. “I haven’t. Mr. Donzell left early, I remember, and when I put on my hat and coat, Mr. Dawes was standing by his desk—that one there, with the telephone on it.”
“And that’s the last time you saw him?”
“Yes. I didn’t know anything about— about what had happened to him until Mr. Donzell told me this morning. I wondered when I came in not to see him, because he was always the first down.”
“Was anyone in the office when you came here this morning?”
“Mr. Donzell. I think he’d been here some time.”
“But he couldn’t have told you then; he couldn’t have known.”
“Oh, no. It was after you called, or someone called up from the police, that Mr. Donzell told me about it.”
“You say that it looked to you as though Mr. Donzell had been here some time when you arrived in the office. What makes you think that?”
“Oh, I suppose I shouldn’t have said that. You see, the manager doesn’t often come down before nine o’clock; in fact_ this is the first time he has done so since Mr. Bush has been away. And so when I heard a noise in his office I went in thinking perhaps it was Mr. Dawes. But it was Mr. Donzell himself, and he had a lot of papers and books on the desk. It looked to me as though he had been going over them. That’s what made me think he must have been down some time.”
“That man who was in here just now —was he a friend of Mr. Dawes?”
Miss Lowry looked puzzled. Then her face cleared. “Oh, you mean the gentleman who went to Mr. Donzell’s office while you were there. No, I don’t think he was a friend of Mr. Dawes, but he used to come here to see Mr. Donzell quite often. I know he calls him up on the phone.”
“Do you know his name?”
“Katzer or Katzmann, or something like that, but Mr. Donzell can tell you.” But the manager had left the office while the two were talking, taking hat and coat with him. “Never mind,” said Williams, “I’ll call him up at his home.”
HE HAD the pin back. Regaining possession of the luckpiece had been a ridiculously easy task. In fact all John Donzell had to do was to go to the wellremembered alley off Dale Street— deserted as usual; go in broad daylight, and there was the gilded trinket resting beside a cobble stone.
For three days and three nights, sleep temporarily having forsaken him, he had endeavored to steel himself for this final adventure; and for that period of time he had shrunk from it.
Each morning and evening he had called up Williams to obtain the latest news of the detective’s investigations, and each time the same answer had been forthcoming—“Nothing to report.” Never once had the officer mentioned having found the pin, and that fact was still outside Donzell’s knowledge. The last time he had telephoned the detective, Donzell had detected a curtness in the reply, whereat he had laughed secretly. The job was beyond Williams or any other of his brother detectives, and they knew it. Truly he had laid his plans well. It was then that he had determined to search the alley the following afternoon in the hope that he might chance on his missing luckpiece.
Chance! His eyes detected it almost as soon as they fastened on the spot where Dawes’ body had dropped to the ground. There the pin reposed close against a cobblestone; a cobblestone that bore on its shiny surface a sinister stain. Swiftly he stooped down and plucked the pin from its resting-place, marvelling as he did so how it had escaped observation. As swiftly he came from out the alley and made his way to his boarding-house.
It was to be his last day in Toronto. In his pocket was the money which he had drawn from the bank earlier in the day. Fifty thousand dollars. The sum which he had decided on as a sufficient stake to spend the rest of his days in ease in some far distant spot. And tomorrow was Good Friday. He would have nearly forty-eight hours, perhaps much longer, before suspicions were roused in regard to his absence.
He was in his bedroom now, bending down at his trunk, wherein still rested the revolver with which he had slain the aged bookkeeper. That must be taken, or gotten rid of, for Donzell planned to take nothing else. He would just walk out of the house and leave the city with the clothes he wore on his back, the fifty thousand and the pin. In the act of unlocking his trunk, he paused, for a ring had come at the doorbell. Who could it be? He wondered. He heard footsteps ascend the stairs and pause outside the door. There came an imperative tap and without any invitation from the man inside Detective Williams •and another plainclothes officer entered. “Just thought I’d drop in for a moment,” said Williams. “Meet Detective Tyler, Mr. Donzell. He’s on the case with me.” Williams took a seat; Tyler remained standing.
“You remember that fellow who was in your office the other afternoon—• Bennie Katzmann,” continued the officer. “Well, he’s in the cooler. We pulled him for running a bucket-shop. Thought as you were a friend of his you’d be interested.”
Donzell turned a face, white as the collar he wore, to the speaker. “He’s no friend of mine,” he said thickly.
“Maybe, you’re right at that,” rejoined Williams. “Because as Tyler here can tell you he hasn’t acted much like a pal. In fact he’s squealed quite a lot about the dealings he has had with you. Told us about the big wad of money you lost trying to beat the tickers, and how you squared up with him eight days ago. That was about the time that ten thousand was supposed to have disappeared. But let that rest a minute; this is what we’ve come to see you about.” From his coat he took a well-worn pocket book. “You’ve been asking me pretty regularly—every morning and evening, in fact—if we’d found anything that looked like a clue. Well we have. We found this.” He opened the pocketbook and held up a gilded hairpin.
“Ever see it before, Donzell?” he asked.
TAONZELL bent fascinated eyes on the .A-' tiny trinket which the officer held before his gaze. Cold perspiration burst •from his pores and stood in tiny globules ■on his blanched forehead. His limbs felt leaden. Speech temporarily forsook him. He could do nothing save stare at the pin.
With a tremendous effort he recovered himself. His fingers shot into his vest pocket. Yes, the pin was there. There couldn’t be two! There couldn’t be . . . unless—unless . . .
He raised unsteady eyes to the accusing face of the detective. As a man emerging
from an anesthetic hears, he heard Williams continue: “Oh, yes, you’ve got another like it. That was the one we planted. But this is the pin you dropped when you shot Robert Dawes.”
Tyler darted forward, caught hold of Donzell’s hand and took the hairpin from his limp fingers.
“They look like twin brothers, don’t they?” went on Williams. “You see, Donzell, I figured out that whoever dropped that hairpin attached some sentiment to it, otherwise it wouldn’t have been so nicely gilded over. When you spoke about clues to me in your office the other day, you had that pin in your mind and you came pretty near mentioning it, only you caught yourself and said ‘pencil.’ That set me to thinking—that and the ten thousand dollars you said the old man had embezzled. You sure overplayed your hand then, Donzell, because I got to wondering what brought a shark like Ben Katzmann into your office, and why you were so anxious to get rid of him. You see, he’s been in our hands before.” “Damn him,” snarled Donzell, “I wish I had my hands around his throat now.” “Yes, I guess you feel that way,” retorted the detective, “because he certainly did spill the beans.”
“Told you I’d showed him that pin, eh?” half-shrieked Donzell.
“No, he didn’t, but thanks for the tip. Maybe, it’s escaped your memory that you went down to the office early next morning to fix up the books. Oh, yes, we know all these things. That’s why we waited on the first floor of that old building on the north side of the alley this afternoon and watched you pick up the pin we’d planted there, for somehow I figured all along you’d make an attempt to go back and retrieve it, particularly as you’d be leaving the city to-night. You had the stake you were after, and there was nothing to keep you in Toronto. But it was a dirty thing to try and hang theft on the man you murdered. A dirty thing. . . . But that’s where you made your first big mistake. . . . Better come along to headquarters, Donzell.”
And speechless, with downcast head and sagging lip, hand-cuffed John Donzell came.