The Affair at Isle Ste. Therese
T. MORRIS LONGSTRETH
Another Mounted Police "case”—a story of a lonely island, hidden treasure and of cunning matched by cunning.
EVERY crook instinctively knows that sooner or later he must expect a showdown with the police. So long as he can avoid their attention, just so long has he a tremendous advantage over his less fortunate fellows. Once that advantage disappears, much of his energy and ingenuity is expended on matching wits with the police rather than in forwarding the job in hand. The moment he is put on the list of suspects he becomes a potential goat for any ill deed, a goat on which headquarters can always lay its hand. The invisible cloak of anonymity is the crimeworker’s most valuable asset. So it is the more startling to find a man of this ilk sufficiently venturesome to depart from the shelter of this cloak and dare to tilt with the forces of law and order.
This case treats of such a man. It is a case of shadows and doubts, a lonely island and hidden treasure, a case of subterranean passages in human nature and astounding intricacy; and it begins where much crime begins, in a period of business depression when the very hope of being able to live seems to be disappearing.
Such was the situation in Montreal early in 1922. All business was slack, but none was slacker than the engravers’. The larger business houses were cutting down their advertising, and competition for stray orders was dishearteningly keen. Like many others, the Laurentian Engravers on Bleury Street were at the end of their tether.
Early in April their creditors had tightened up sharply and had granted a month’s extension only after a strong plea by the owner, and even then with visible reluctance. The business was sound in every way. The artists, engravers, and finishers were able; in fact, the foreman, Albert Grignon, was one of the ablest in North America. The spirit of the place was keen. But they had no orders, had had none for too long. Each employee knew that his job hung by a thread; the owner had known it first. But Grignon’s courageous optimism threw a ray of light into the Bleury Street gloom. He was on the point of raising money to buy the business and continue the men in their employment. Time was short, for the creditors’ month was nearing an end, but the money was practically in hand.
And then an untoward event took place. A new
customer named Varet had visited the shop and had asked to see Grignon on a matter which he did not wish bruited about. It was an order for a block for a ten-dollar American bill. Grignon was not so dull as to be unaware of the implications in such an order, and at once told Mr. Varet that the Laurentian Engravers could not undertake work of such a nature.
• The customer insisted, saying he had "heard of Grignon’s skill and would pay any price. Grignon regretted that he must turn down work at such a moment, but he declined to make the block, or a wooden plate, or even to prepare wood for the purpose. Mr. Varet became voluble and said that he would get what he wanted elsewhere. At this an idea slipped into Grignon’s mind and he threw out a question or two, discovering that Varet intended to return to a place in the hills a hundred miles north of Montreal when he had bought paper suitable for his purpose. When the visitor was gone, Grignon slipped from the shop and made his way to the Mounted Police headquarters nearby with this information.
Planning a Clean Sweep
INSPECTOR WILCOX, commanding the Mounted * Police at Montreal, heard Grignon with a grateful appreciation of his news. Undoubtedly this Mr. Varet was a counterfeiter or an agent for counterfeiters, and counterfeiting was a crime with far reaching effects. Once a bad bill is put into circulation, it poisons the well of credit. It also turns people into rogues, for few men are honest enough to assume the loss of turning it in. Rather there is a positive anxiety to pass it along and allow someone else to be the loser. Worse still, although the almost superhuman vigilance of the banking authorities and the police may locate the bad bills, there remains the constant threat that new batches of them will be printed unless the plates are discovered. Hence it was important for Inspector Wilcox to make use of his information with dispatch.
His course was clear cut: to enlist Grignon’s co-operation, ask him to reopen negotiations with Varet, and acquire every possible piece of information about the membership and workshop of the counterfeiting crowd, so that, when it was advisable to act, a clean sweep could be made of the entire gang. Owing to the necessity of splitting up the work of making a plate, counterfeiters rarely essayed the business alone.
Grignon was willing to assist. As the Mont Laurier line led to the wilderness of the North where these men could easily find a seclusion for their work, Detective Stevenson, a specialist in counterfeit trouble, was detailed
keep watch on the trains.
For days nothing of a suspicious nature was observed, with the exception of one passenger who answered to the description of Varet and who was carrying aboard the train a package which might or might not have contained a ream roll of watermarked paper.
Discouragement might well have descended at the outset but for Grignon, who reported a discovery. Mont Laurier itself had been selected as the site for the counterfeiting operations. Constable Stevenson that night again noted the suspicious passenger on the hilltown train. But further investigation revealed that the work was still in the experimental stage, and presently Mont Laurier was abandoned in favor of some location nearer Montreal, quite possibly a suburb.
This step confirmed Grignon’s story that no bills had yet been issued, and very soon he was able to support this belief by showing the police a facsimile of a twentydollar American bill printed on ordinary paper. This, he said, had been given him by Varet as being not quite satisfactory.
Constable Stevenson had hardly recovered from the surprise at this proof of a second set of plates—the tendollar bill being the first—when Grignon produced even more striking evidence of a third set, a perfect specimen of a counterfeit fifty-dollar bill. It seemed flawless and would be very dangerous. With this proof Grignon said that Varet and an accomplice named Brodette were
doi n g the printing of these bills, but that the financier behind the scheme was another French-Canadian named Painchaud.
Tens, twenties, and fifties! This was substantial proof of Grignon’s suspicions, and the Mounted Police laid plans to outwit so ambitious and well-supported a gang. There was just one small but worrying detail which bothered headquarters: Grignon’s record was not absolutely clear. His recent activity was beyond reproach; but once, in the dim past, he had been active in a counterfeiting job. He was clever, quick, an expert. Why, reasoned Stevenson, could he not have made these plates for the PainchaudVaret-Brodette crowd, and then, taking alarm, decided to protect himself by turning informer? The facility with which he had resumed contact with Varet was recalled to strengthen Stevenson’s views. On the other hand, Grignon’s motives mattered little for the moment. Excellent engravings of the American bills were in existence. The thing to do was to prevent their entering circulation by way of Varet or Painchaud or Brodette. With these men in custody, Grignon might have something to say about his qualms. The next step was to watch friend Grignon and bring a little more pressure, to push the enquiry.
Enquiry pushing, Grignon explained, was just not what to do. It made people suspicious. Proceed slowly, that wras the way,'then nervous counterfeiters were in less need of disappearing or of hiding the plates. The
very thought of crowding the gang made Grignon uneasy, and as nothing could be done without him, the police accepted his tempo rather than endanger securing the plates. Plates were prized by counterfeiters above their plant, bills, and liberty itself, and they could be trusted to hide them well at the first hint of danger. A good plate could be made only by expert engravers, and as there were not enough experts who were willing to lend themselves to criminal work, the plates were the central object of any raid. Without more knowledge about them, little could be ascertained. Stevenson made a quiet trip of exploration to the suburb where their printing was supposed to be progressing, but it was fruitless. And perilous, too, for there might be a chance that the gang was giving Grignon false leads in order to test him out. Shadowing in such circumstances was doubly difficult. Stevenson considered that, after all, it would be better to humor Grignon while not letting up in the matter of pressure.
The reward was swift, for Grignon produced Painchaud in person. Grignon had gained his confidence and got his ear, had made him a source of information; and now Painchaud, for some reason not yet known, had become alarmed and told Grignon that he was ready to talk to the police. He was visibly agitated when making his admissions to Stevenson. He had a matter of further interest to disclose. He said that he had advertised in a local newspaper offering an interesting opportunity to anyone with money to invest, and in spite of the hard times a farmer named Loisin had responded. Loisin was to arrive in Montreal that night, prepared to pay over good money in return for a supply of the counterfeit cash already printed.
This was of vital interest, but Painchaud, like Grignon, did not know where the plant now ready to produce the bills was situated. Grignon was an engraver, Painchaud was a financier, with others’ money, and to neither of them had Varet and Brodette confided the exact location of the counterfeit factory. Painchaud was not only willing but anxious, he said, to find this plant. He would do anything he could to find it on one condition; his activities as double-crosser were to be kept secret and most confidential.
To this the Mounted Police agreed—there was no alternative but to agree—and Constable Stevenson waited for the farmer to appear at the expected spot. He failed to appear, and Stevenson was forced to the distasteful conclusion that his troubles were increasing, that now he would have to test the stories of two men instead of one. Nor was his first essay encouraging, for while Grignon explained that he and Painchaud had just taken a private trip to the American border, Painchaud, at a separate interview, reported that they had merely visited the nearby residence of Loisin. Both agreed, however, that Loisin was in Montreal, that he wished to lay eyes on the false bills and their plates before investing his money, and that Varet and Brodette had an appointment with him that night at his hotel.
Another night of fruitless shadowing increased Stevenson’s rapidly rising choler at his unusual rôle of trailing an investigation. This was not the Mounted Police way. Painchaud, next seen, was all apologies, saying that Varet refused to produce the plates, and so Loisin, who was not as stupid as hoped, had departed without seeing him. Painchaud further stated it as his
belief that Varet had used the plates clumsily, that they were unfit for demonstration, and that Varet expected to bring them into town for repair, whereupon Painchaud hoped to find out the scene of the actual work.
Meanwhile Painchaud’s record contained a surprise. It was found that he had a reputation for double-dealing in police circles, and that his partners knew this and were taking no chances. He, too, like Grignon, had been interested in a counterfeiting scheme, and by reason of his reputation as an authority in these dark matters had been given entry into the gang.
Grignon did not entirely trust Painchaud, he told Stevenson, even as traitor to the gang; and it was clear that Varet did not trust him. Otherwise—and this point had struck the constable as strange—why should Painchaud know nothing of any plates other than the tens? Grignon suggested that Stevenson say nothing to Painchaud about the twenties and fifties, for if he did Varet et al might realize that he, Grignon, was betraying them should Painchaud ask any questions.
Stevenson was now to realize the exquisite angers of a forthright nature which was being played upon by th? delays, natural or intentional, consequent to the situation. For two weeks Painchaud alternated between two moods, optimism and nervousness. Varet was always on the point of letting him have the ten-dollar plates to fix them, yet never quite did. Time after time Stevenson or his fellow detectives shadowed places specified by Painchaud, but Varet never appeared. Finally Painchaud announced that the plates were ready, but he insisted that they were for the ten-dollar bills only; he knew of no other plates, neither did he know where the plant was located except that it was in the suburb of Montreal which he had previously mentioned.
The Plot Thickens
CONSTABLE STEVENSON raged. Painchaud was either a fool or a fraud; Grignon was accomplishing nothing. The case was at a deadlock. Then, as so often happened in this affair, just as the tension became dangerous a new development sprouted from the manifold root. The farmer, Loison, was located. He also had grown frightened and had asked Varet for the money he had “invested.” Varet, he said, had promised him a hundred per cent return on any money turned over by him. The lure was great. He had no cash at the time, so gave a promissory note, and in return had been shown the impression of the ten-dollar American bill and the plates. It was then he had refused to do anything with the proposition. Since then he had received notice that his note had been discounted. He had instructed a lawyer to protest the note.
Grignon, who had faded for a while, now reappeared, and with a skill nothing short of dramatic managed to hint mysteriously that he had fallen upon something new, something big, something extraordinary. Varet and his partner were nothing, merely small fry in comparison with the gigantic development soon to be revealed.
“How soon?” one can hear Stevenson demanding with Irish impatience.
Grignon could not tell, but he said that he believed
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j The Affair at Isle Ste. Therese
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the members of the Varet gang were j double-crossing one another, and that while the ten-dollar plates were being fixed the other denominations were being printed. There were four sets of plates— tens, twenties, fifties, and hundreds. Painchaud had cold feet. They had turned to him, Grignon. He had completely replaced Painchaud in the gang’s affec! tions. But Varet still had the plates. Grignon produced another bogus fiftydollar bill and told Stevenson to be alert, that things were coming to a head. Stevenson did not need to be told. Things were indeed coming to a head. Off stage events had taken a sinister turn.
Varet was the victim of an accident and had been taken to a hospital, never to recover.
Painchaud now chose this inopportune moment to bring an alleged message from an ostensibly happy and healthy Varet to the effect that the printing of the bills ! was to be done in a deserted house. Stevenson heard Painchaud without comment. Grignon was seen. He knew of Varet’s accident, but said that it would make no difference to the gang’s activity. Not yet did he know where the press was, but it was large, requiring several men to operate it, and was at some place reached only by a boat.
The case had now expanded from what had promised to be a fairly simple investigation into one of bewildering intricacy, and the Officer Commanding determined to throw all available forces in that direction, putting Staff Sergeant Salt in charge.
In his first review of Stevenson’s valuable findings so far, Salt seconded the other’s belief that Painchaud was untrustworthy. Grignon was a necessity, but it chafed the Staff Sergeant to depend overmuch on any informer, knowing how little weight his uncorroborated information had with a court. Despite Grignon’s fear j that if he should be followed success would be endangered, a shadow was i secretly placed on the man. The hope was that some clue to the gang’s movements and its centre of operations might be gleaned through Grignon’s irregular meetings with them.
The impetus added by Staff Sergeant Salt broke through the zone of resistance, and one Saturday morning Grignon came with the important news that he had discovered the scene of the actual counterfeiting. It was being done on Isle Ste. Thérèse, an island a mile wide and four miles long and harboring only eighteen or twenty farmhouses, which was astonishingly rural considering that Isle Ste. Thérèse was within a stone’s throw of Montreal, downstream. The j counterfeiters’ place was opposite the mainland.
Here was something definite at last, and Salt determined to delay no longer. With masterly swiftness a raid was planned and put into execution that very night. Headed by Salt, a party of Mounted Police left the barracks in motor cars, and by careful choice of roads approached the Isle from the rear at its farther end. The night favored the plan, though it scarcely could have been more miserable. A cold rain fell with gloomy persistence; no lights were permissible; the way to the place had been described sketchily by Grignon, and in the unfamiliar blackness it required hours of straying about to locate the rambling house with its barn.
Torches were distributed, every place of exit was covered, the signal was given, and with startling suddenness the house was entered and its inhabitants wakened from sleep. There were but threej Grignon, Alfred Jean and Philippe I Durocher. They were placed under arrest, the latter two protesting furiously that they were peaceful fishermen who
knew nothing about counterfeit money, but had merely dropped into the farmhouse for shelter.
Their claims to innocence looked remarkably lame in the face of the farmhouse furniture—a huge printing press, an automatic numbering machine, inks, blank bill paper, and about three hundred counterfeit twenties and fifties. Stevenson discovered one half of the twenty-dollar plates, and Grignon surreptitiously indicated the place where the other half was hid. These plates and the $15,000 in bills made quite a haul, but it was most unsatisfactory not to find plates for the tens, the fifties, and the hundreds. Ominous also was the fact that no tendollar bills or hundreds had been unearthed. Grignon said that the raiding party had just missed two bootleggers from a border town who had taken $23,000 in bad bills with them. He was positive that $50,000 and the fifty-dollar plates were hidden somewhere on the island.
The prisoners were bundled off to Montreal, where Grignon, according to covenant, was released, the morning newspapers obligingly describing his desperate escape from custody. In the guise of fugitive, the inimitable Grignon was confident that he could soon locate the bootleggers, the members of the gang still unknown to him, and perhaps the money and the plates.
The Missing Plates
rT'0 THE layman it might seem that a
difficult case was almost concluded; but Salt had reasons to suspect that the raid was but the curtain-raiser, and now events began to move with a more generous celerity.
On the morning after the raid a Mounted Police truck started from the Isle to barracks with the dismantled press. A high-powered car roared past, but the constable driving the truck, one of the previous night’s raiders, caught a glimpse of its passengers and recognized them as the self-styled fishermen of the night before. Their car was speeding toward the Isle. The constable did not know whether these men, lately prisoners, had escaped or been bailed, but their haste had a guilty look. He turned and tore aftei their car, which came to a halt when Jean and Durocher became aware of his pursuit. The constable discovered that they had been released on bail. It did not explain their haste. He telephoned his suspicions to headquarters and was instructed to guard the farmhouse on the Isle until relieved. Undoubtedly, reasoned Salt, an attraction remained at the Isle; a still more intensive search might find what it was.
Meanwhile the picture puzzle had been clarified greatly by the finding of the press. The firm that sold it to the prisoners was located; the sales staff remembered the transaction and produced a slip with “Theoret” written on it, the name of the purchaser and his phone number, given that he might be called when the press was ready. Jean and Durocher were identified as the men who had taken the press away in a truck. The farmhouse owner was definite, too. His wife had rented the place to a man for fishing purposes. Jean and Durocher had come with money to supplement the deposit. Similarly, a record of the sale of the counterfeit paper was secured.
While these leads were being followed to their satisfying ends, the guard was maintained at the Isle. The fields, the hedges, every clump of grass, were ran-» sacked for the missing plates and money, and at night, watch was kept for enemy prowlers. Several times the constables imagined that the Isle was receiving a more than casual scrutiny from passing
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craft, though that might come because of the widespread publicity in the Montreal papers; yet it was more furtive than mere curiosity. The farmer, who had been reinstalled, became not unreasonably nervous.
At last, shortly before midnight, the constables under cover noticed a boat making its stealthy way toward them with only one occupant. The man stepped out and walked cautiously up to the farmhouse and asked the farmer to extinguish the one light that was burning before he continued behind the house to the barn. The constables closed in upon him. But their anticipations fell flat; it was only Grignon.
He had a new chapter to relate. He had found the bootleggers who had obtained the counterfeit money just before the raid. They were on the mainland, but had seen the light and were afraid to cross. He would make another attempt to persuade them that night or the next. A few hours later an automobile came to the water’s edge and stopped opposite the farm, but soon made off toward Montreal. Grignon did not return.
Salt decided that the moment had come to turn over every inch of soil on the farm, if need be, to discover the plates. But first the house was again gone over painstakingly. The barn and stables came next. A constable noticed that a board at the side of a stall had a dozen nail holes in it but only two nails, and the holes were new. It seemed impossible for anything of bulk to be hidden behind, but thoroughness was the word; he tugged at the board and was soon calling to the rest. He had brought to light the fifty-dollar plates and $5,000 in counterfeit twenties. The find was a triumph of zeal, but Salt determined to wring still more from the discovery. He arranged a dummy package for substitution and bid the guard watch for any attempt to remove it; then he hastened back to Montreal.
A Startling Theory
rTHE press had given columns to the
case, praising the neat reasoning that had led to the raids and hailing the cleanup as a justification of the far-sighted policy which had brought the Mounted Police to the East on federal work. But Salt, back in his office in the barracks, allowed himself little satisfaction as yet. Until all the missing plates had been located there could be no surety that counterfeit ten-dollar bills would not appear. And as a court case there were too many loopholes to suit Salt’s logical mind, with its restless need of having every detail cleanly in its place. For the month had built up only a sketchy case against Varet, now a hopeless invalid; against Jean and Durocher, who were but tools; and against Theoret as yet unlocated. Salt summoned Grignon and urged action.
But Grignon was having bad nights and starting to display the symptoms of panic which had been the prelude to Painchaud’s waning usefulness. He was afraid, he said, of what would happen if his rôle of informer should be exposed. Perhaps the others, he added, already suspected. He was in danger.
“All right,” said Salt in effect, “the way to avoid danger is to get these men in jail. Whom else have you up your sleeve?”
“A young American named Diamond,” said Grignon.
“Produce him,” said Salt.
If assured of protection against retaliation, Grignon thought that he could lead the police to both Theoret and Diamond. Grignon stated that on that very day Theoret had disbursed $6,000 more of the false money. Salt was furious. The understanding with Grignon had been that none of this stuff was to get into circulation if it could possibly be helped, and here $6,000 had to be watched for. But Salt concealed his fury; its time would come when he should have more grounds
for confirmation of a new and startling theory of the crime in its totality.
Next day the evening papers carried a continuation of the story. Paul Theoret had been taken into custody by the Mounted Police. Grignon had been arrested at the same time—they did not add,as a blind—and released as if on bail. Theoret was identified as the purchaser of the press. The arrest of Diamond followed. In the same papers was mentioned the appearance of counterfeit one-hundred-dollar bills at the New York racetracks.
In the barracks an intensive check-up of every detail of the counterfeiting scheme was made, and each fact squeezed for new implications—the story of Loisin, the bootleggers who had received the $23,000, Jean and Durocher who kept obstinately silent, and Theoret who was just as reticent. Each question, however scantily it yielded, impressed Salt with the fact that his theory, no matter how startling, might be true. And when he had arranged his artillery of accumulated information in the one true order—on the one hand, indubitable facts and on the other, Grignon’s information—he called in his crucial witness, the dapper Diamond.
Now Diamond was not as hard as his name implied: he was a beginner in crime. He began steadily enough with denials of everything, especially of any relationship to the bills found on the Isle. Then Salt fired his big shot. The fingerprints on the bogus bills and young Diamond’s tallied. The ground was cut from under him, and with an almost pathetic eagerness he tried to convince Salt that his connection with the Isle gang was of the slightest. Salt’s purposely assumed expression of cynical disbelief threw Diamond into fervent protestations of his sincerity. And then he said, “Do you want to know who the big men were?—Grignon and Theoret.”
The extraordinary story poured out: Grignon and Theoret were the ringleaders, the others only tools. Diamond had been out of work when the Laurentian Engravers finally closed down and had been attracted to the scheme unsuspectingly, as messenger and general handyman, especially in buying supplies. Grignon had, it was true, sent him to Valleyfield to interview two men who had given him real money and the fiftydollar plates in return for the counterfeits he had brought them. These Valleyfield men also had the hundred-dollar plates at the time, but had retained them as security for money advanced to the gang. On another occasion he had gone there with Grignon, who showed the men some unfinished bills and received more good money. Grignon had told the Valleyfield accomplices that he, Diamond, was doing the work, and he was afraid to deny it. Painchaud he contemptuously exonerated of complicity, saying that he was a bluffer and the gang would have nothing to do with him. He had seen Grignon with Painchaud and it led him to believe that Grignon might be doublecrossing the gang; he feared this, especially after seeing Painchaud with a man who had been pointed out to him as a Mounted Police detective. Two days before the raid he had seized the opportunity to leave the Isle and had never gone back or had anything more to do with the gang. Such was Diamond’s narrative.
Alone, Salt became very thoughtful. Diamond’s rage at Grignon appeared genuine; the young American really believed he had been betrayed. Was there not in this the confirmation of his theory, the one convincing explanation of the matter of the tens, those bills that, with their plates, had not been found? Salt thought so, and, if Ottawa approved, he determined on the grim step involved. To be wrong here was very dangerous, to be right a stroke of genius in this game of hidden moves.
Ottaw-a concurred and now Salt moved
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swiftly. Theophile Michel, late fellowengraver of Grignon’s at the defunct Laurentian Engravers, was a surprised man when a Mounted Police constable tapped him on the shoulder and produced a warrant for his arrest. He was too surprised to offer one convincing argument and accepted the plight philosophically.
Not so Albert Grignon. In aggrieved indignation he hastened to the police barracks to ask why his friend, Michel, a good man, had been treated so undeservedly, so miserably.
“Is it the Mounted Police custom,” he asked, “to treat so unbefittingly the friends of those who do your work for you?”
“Under certain conditions, yes,” said Salt. “And now that you are here, read that. I believe your name is on it.” Grignon stared in stupefaction at the warrant. He realized that he was under arrest for the third time, but on this occasion without prearrangement. He was caught.
The Startling Truth
SALT’S report to headquarters left no room for doubt as to the justification of the extraordinary step he had taken in turning on an informer who had given such valuable assistance to the authorities. He had first become suspicious, he said, when Grignon had asked Constable Stevenson to say nothing to Painchaud about any of the plates or bills except the tens. Why this mystery? There must be a reason even for mysteries. Secondly, when Varet was injured so terribly as to make certain that he could never deny any act imputed to him, Grignon had become suddenly positive that Varet was in possession of the four sets of plates. The time of his illumination on this point was suspicious. Thirdly, why had none of the Varet-Painchaud gang been implicated in the night raid on the Isle? Especially as Grignon had made no mention of Jean and Durocher. Fourthly, Diamond had shown that those arrested had no use for Painchaud and exonerated him from any of these doings. Fifthly, was it not more than possible that Grignon’s surreptitious midnight visit to the Isle after theraid might have been an attempt to retrieve the plates and money hidden there, especially as he was foiled by the appearance of the constables when he had reached almost their hidingplace, a strange place in which to be lurking at that hour? What deduction was left but this, that Grignon was no mere double-dealing penitent but rather a diabolically clever cunning weaver of a plot which would house his accomplices in jail, leave him with the money and the means for making more, and, what was better, yield him a safe conduct from the police who could be relied on never to reveal his betrayal? Ingenuity could scarcely hope to accomplish more—except that which had outwitted him.
Seen in the light of the unravelled plot, Grignon’s scheme stood out boldly. Worried because the Laurentian Engravers were about to fail, he had reverted to a former frame of mind and had started to make the counterfeit plates, knowing he had the skill. But his hand had last something of its cunning, and the ten-dollar plates were poor. So he disposed of these, thriftily, to Painchaud. Painchaud had no intention of starting a mint with money which would never pass inspection, but they could be used in confidence deals.
But Grignon now began to plan more intricately for the future, determined to be safe, no matter what jail his associates should land in; and so he sought the Mounted Police. Varet would be the first victim of his duplicity, and so Grignon started to prime Stevenson with Varet’s efforts to dispase of the tendollar counterfeits to farmer Loisin. At i the appropriate moment the police would
be tipped off to take Varet in, and when Grignon’s private flood of twenties and fifties should descend on the market the informer could sadly explain to Stevenson that this must be some of Varet’s work before he was arrested. Who could doubt such an excellent tale? Nobody but Varet. And would they believe Varet, the penitentiary convict, rather than himself, Albert Grignon? Mais non!
But to the cautious Grignon there was a danger in so innocent a man as he knowing Varet’s affairs with so great a familiarity. Very well, call in Painchaud. This idiot could easily assume a change of heart and still retain the confidence of his associates. And what a superb barrier between himself and suspicion !
Yet, stay! This incapacitating accident of Varet. In one way it was the hand of Providence, for now Varet could never be able to deny anything imputed to him. But in another way it was not, for who would now be victim? Who was to be thrown to the police? This was a serious problem.
Suddenly the solution presented itself. Why not apply the same scheme of betrayal to the actual counterfeiting gang at Isle Ste. Thérèse?
The idea must have appeared to Grignon as the climax of inspirations, the very essence of genius. For, after all, the plates were the important, the valuable things. Hide them, leaving the less worthwhile ones to be sacrificed, stage the police raid, satisfy the authorities with bunches of fake money, be arrested along with the rest of the gang. Could his fellow-counterfeiters suspect if he were clever enough to escape? Could the
police suspect if he were cunning enough to have reserved a fortune for himself? One did not question such valuable assistance as he had given. That would be the height of ingratitude and unthinkable. They would not even call upon him to give evidence at the trial.
But they did. The whole scheme, reconstructed thread by thread and clarified to ordinary comprehension, was laid bare before the court. And to explode any possible doubt, the police discovered a second set of twenty-dollar plates in the possession of Grignon and Painchaud just before the trial as they were about to sell them to another client.
It was no longer a sketchy story that was presented to the court. Unremitting police investigation had uncovered ramifications of the original scheme spreading from Montreal to Valleyfield, several border points, and the United States. There were twelve defendants to answer to the charges arising out of the money manufactory at Isle Ste. Thérèse, and forty-seven witnesses supported the facts which the prasecution built into an imposing structure of condemnation. Most of the counterfeit money was recovered. It had figured in many deals already, especially in bootlegging transactions. The Valleyfield pair swore that they had destroyed the hundred-dollar plates left with them by Grignon, but the United States Secret Service, which had been kept closely posted by the Mounted Police, located them in that country.
Grignon struggled desperately to convince the court that he had worked solely in the interests of the Mounted Police, but his own statements damned him, and his fellow conspirators rose to prove him the instigator of everything. The judge voiced the universal conviction when he said: “I have no hesitation in saying that he was using the police to hide his crime.
I find him guilty.”
The presentation of the police case before the court made a profound impression on everyone, for it was the first time since being stationed in Montreal that the Force had been called upon to solve so unusually intricate an affair. Much favorable comment was heard from bench and counsel. Headquarters was pleased, and said so—which is rare—mentioning particularly the acumen and effective
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! leadership of Salt. The Staff Sergeant
! was not entirely satisfied, for the tendollar plates were still missing. No bills had been printed and the plates were supposed to be useless, yet they constituted a menace if unfound.
And at last they were unearthed— after a two years’ hunt. From the moment it was discovered that the case had slopped over into the United States with bills passed at racetracks around New York, the Mounted Police had been in close co-operation with the Secret Service at Washington. A man named Barrick had been under the supervision of the Field Force in this connection, and a careless mention of a Montreal hotel had led the investigation temporarily back to Canada. The management remembered the man. He had talked loudly of oil wells and oil stock, and, with two companions named Crest and Charlevin, had been traced to a private house.
Now it happened that Crest had found the daughter of the house attractive. Not knowing French, he had called for a dictionary, and—forgetting his wife— had started to pay court to her. The dictionary, it seems, furnished him with sufficient eloquence, for she did not forget him. She wrote to him, and the address was Houston, Texas.
Again the search crossed the line. Crest was found, and Charlevin, and in the latter’s keeping were the ten-dollar plates. Nor was the discovery too soon. Already notes had been passed in many of the cities of the South, and the gang was busy extending “the green goods exchange.” This was now closed, forever. The plates were identified by Grignon as the set which he had worked on.
Then, but not till then, did the men in charge feel that the job was concluded and that the bulky files of The Affair at Isle Ste. Thérèse could receive its longawaited dead sheet.