The Copper Disc
In which the Law sets a snare and a crook counters with a daring reprisal
By ROBERT STEAD
The Story: Morley Kent, senior partner of the firm of Kent and Powers, electrical engineers, literally skids into adventure when a taxi in which he is a passenger crashes into a car carrying Gladys Hensley, daughter of Angus Hensley, millionaire radio manufacturer, whom he rescues from an embarrassing situation following the accident. Friendship develops between the two and Kent learns that Gladys is under the influence of a mysterious power which at times seems to be able to control her will.
Kent suspects that Professor Martin Herzton, technical adviser to the Hensley firm, is in some way responsible for this control. Herzton is obviously interested in Gladys, as is also Gordon Brace, a friend of the Hensley family, and of Kent.
Herzton is secretly plotting to secure for himself an allimportant technical patent, and in order to divert suspicion he accuses Brace of having similar designs. Peter Galut, an agent of Herzton’s, is shot while spying in Brace’s office, and with the police on his trail Brace leaves for Northern Ontario in search of Miles Freeman, the actual holder of the patent.
While motoring with Gladys, Kent notices that the steering-wheel is coated with some substance which smudges his hands. A few hours after this drive, he receives a summons from Herzton to visit, the latter in his laboratory. Herzton informs Kent that his fingerprints have been taken from the steering-wheel, and threatens him with arrest as the murderer of Galut. Kent defies him to do his worst.
Next day Gladys helps Kent to escape in a seaplane on the track of Brace. He takes ten thousand dollars in a package with him, but on landing discovers that, wrappingpaper has been substituted for them.
In the North Country he attempts to get into touch with Gladys, but, although he hears her singing over the radio, receives a mystifying rebuff. His wires and Gladys’ fall into police hands.
WHEN Gladys Hensley turned from the seaplane bearing Kent and Williams out of the immediate reach of the law, it was into the ample arms of a bodyguard of four policemen.
For a moment all of them stood too nonplussed for words.
“Well, young woman,” the officer in charge blurted out at length, “what’s all this about?”
“Tell us, won’t you?” Gladys retorted. “It’s your party.”
“That won’t get you far.”
“Then suppose you offer me a ride home, and I’ll tell you what I know.”
The car headed about. “Fifty-four Lake Boulevard,” Gladys directed the driver.
“The facts are these,” she began, when all were seated. “Mr. Kent has important business up north for my father. It was arranged that he should leave at noon, but father decided the business was so urgent he should travel by plane. A machine was engaged, and our chauffeur, Williams, who is an expert aviator, was placed in charge. Meanwhile I drove down to Mr. Kent’s office to deliver a package of money for expenses, when I discovered that through some silly blunder the police were trying to detain him. So I gave them the high sign, and here we are.”
“Don’t you know that it is a very serious matter to assist a criminal to escape from justice?” the officer demanded with an attempt at severity,, which failed
rather lamentably. Snuggled between two policemen in the back seat of the car, the girl excited emotions inconsistent with official austerity.
“I don’t know that he’s a criminal, and I don’t always call escaping from the police escaping from justice,” she retorted.
They had reached Hensley House. “Won’t you come in?” Gladys invited, in her best society manner. “Perhaps you would‘like to talk the matter over with father?”
The officer hesitated. It might be to his advantage to meet Angus Hensley. And then, again, it might not. Perhaps this was not the auspicious occasion.
“Well, no, I think I’d better report to the Chief first," he answered: and the four drove off.
The Hensley family lunched alone that day, and Gladys took advantage of the opportunity to lay the situation, from her point of view, before her father and mother.
Mr. Hensley’s round, youthful face, under its benevolent grey hair, looked serious enough when Gladys had recounted the morning’s adventure.
"This is going further than I expected,” he told his daughter, soberly. “I agreed at your request to supply the money and the plane, but a clash with the police was not in the bargain.”
Gladys faced him with upturned hands. “I didn’t want that either, daddy, but they just insisted. And we have to get the Freeman patents, don’t we?”
“I am trusting Herzton to attend to that.”
“You trust Herzton too much. After what I told you this morning about the steering-wheel I should think you would want to have him arrested.”
Mrs. Hensley took up the discussion. “Professor Herzton is an old friend of ours, and has been of great service to your father. And yet, without any reason that I can see, you put all the blame on him: and this new friend of yours, who seems to have been mixed up in all sorts of things, goes flying off like a war hero.” The girl sprang to Kent's defense. “That’s hardly fair, mother. Mr. Kent has put himself about tremendously on our account, and is doing so at this minute. You ought to be very grateful to him—and kind, too, because when he comes back he is going to be your son-in-law.”
For a moment Mrs. Hensley was too stricken for speech. “Gladys, do you know what you are saying?” she managed at length. “Who ever heard of such a thing? Angus, did you hear what the child said?”
Mr. Hensley’s appearance was that of a conspirator in crime. “Yes, she told me that this morning, he admitted.
“I had to tell him, mother, before he would let me have the money. You know what men are “The money? What money?”
“The money for the trip—for Morley’s expenses.
We hardly could expect—”
"Oh! So we are paying his expenses! How much?”
‘‘Ten t h o u s a n d dollars.”
Mrs. Hensley’s soft round arms flew up to her breast.. "Ten thousand dollars! Heavens,
Angus, what arc you thinking of? You’ll never see man or money again. Even if you must pay his expenses I suppose he has nothing of his own—you need not have treated him like a prince. Mark my words, you’ll never sea man or money again. He’ll send Williams back on some pretext ”
‘T had thought of that,” her husband returned, undisturbed, "and it seemed a very good arrangement. If he doesn’t come back, ten thousand dollars is not too much to pay in saving our daughter from such a mistake. If he dot's come back— well, he’s proved his mettle.”
“He’ll never come back.” Mrs. Hensley had already mentally written off a ten-thousand-dollar loss.
Gladys, angry and defiant, was on her feet. “He will come back,” she cried. “He’ll come back, and account for every dollar. If he doesn’t” . she searched for words that would express her confidence in Kent, “if he doesn’t, our engagement is off, and I’ll say you’re right about Professor Herzton; marry him, if you want me to.”
HT HE MEAL broke up unhappily. Although it was Saturday afternoon, Mr. Hensley decided to go back to the works. Gladys elected to drive alone into the country, where she could consult her soul and steady herself after these tumultuous events.
Mrs. Hensley took advantage of the absence of her husband and daughter to summon Professor Herzton for a conference on matters near to her heart. Responding posthaste, he found her ready to pour tea in a sunroom on the eastern wing of Hensley House, where the rays of the hot afternoon no longer invaded, and tall open windows wooed the shyest of zephyrs. She greeted him with effusion.
“It is so good of you to come, and the day so warm. Really, Professor Herzton, I am in distress. In my perplexity I turn to you. You are so clever, and I really know' so little of the world. Angus is the best soul that ever lived, but so unconcerned about family matters.
He always says everything will come out all right in time, if you let it alone, but I expect just the opposite will happen.”
From behind his pointed face and bristling eyebrow's Professor Herzton observed her keenly. “If I can serve you, that will be my greatest pleasure,” he assured her, wandering meanwhile the occasion of his summons.
She touched a bell, and a maid brought ices.
"I was sure you would help,” she sighed, already soothed by his presence. "You are an old friend of the family, Professor Herzton, and it is a matter which touches the family very closely that I want to discuss with you today. Tell me, what is this I hear about a man called Freeman, and some patents?”
For an instant Professor Herzton was almost taken off his guard; the subject was so far from that which had been engaging his mind at the moment. But before he had time to answer her question, Mrs. Hensley, apparently reassured by the mere fact of having asked it, rattled on:
"It is about Gladys I am concerned, Professor Herzton. You know these strange moods she has been having of late? Well, in some such madness she has set her heart on young Mr. Kent, whom you have met, I believe, in this house. The match is quite impossible, but the child, of course, cannot see it in its true light, and Angus as usual is unconcerned. He has even dispatched this Mr. Kent on a business errand, and has entrusted him with ten thousand dollars. In cash, if you please! As I told him at luncheon, that is the last he will ever see of man or money.” Mrs. Hensley, warm with the weather and her indignation, raised a tiny perfumed handkerchief to her pretty face.
“I am quite sure you are right,” Herzton agreed. Even as he spoke he was thinking rapidly to himself; "Ten thousand dollars. The old man is lining up with Kent.” Then, to Mrs. Hensley; “I recall Kent clearly enough. A rather pleasant fellow, but without depth. To men like him ten thousand dollars is a considerable sum—quite enough to silence the still small voice of conscience. Besides, he is, I understand, in some difficulty with the police. Be assured, Mrs. Hensley, you have seen the last of Kent. The ioss of the money is not to be regarded so philosophically.'’
"Oh, it is well spent if we are really rid of him. Angus,
I think, expects him back. He is but a child in dealing with sharpers, in spite of all his experience. And Gladys, of course, has no doubt whatever. Time will disillusionize her, and then it is my hope—may I say it, Professor Herzton . . . Martin—that our long and happy relations with you may be . . . may become even closer.” Mrs. Hensley revealed what lay in her heart more by a confusion which daintily painted a blush across her cheeks than by her words.
The professor jerked his mind back to the immediate situation. He allowed a becoming period to pass in silence before he spoke.
"You cannot measure, Mrs. Hensley, how greatly I am honored by what you have just intimated. It is surely not unknown to you that my hope has lain in that direction for many years. If I have not spoken in words, my eyes, my heart, must have revealed it many times. I hesitated to take what would appear to be the advantage of my friendship with you to press my case, at least until Gladys herself should indicate her preference. It seems, however, that the time has come to act. The child must not be allowed to throw herself away upon an adventurer. That is, if by some miracle the man should come back,” the professor added, remembering his prediction that the last had been seen of Kent.
Mrs. Hensley almost gushed. "I am so glad I have not embarrassed you, Martin. Now we must lay our plans. What do you suggest?”
Professor Herzton recalled his last interview with Gladys. A smile lit up his sharp eyes as he thought of a card still up his sleeve. The moods!
“I think you can leave it to me,” he answered calmly.
"Oh, I am sure I can. Gladys is driving this afternoon. Perhaps you would like to call this evening?”
“No, I think it would be a mistake to hurry matters. We must give her time to think. Her own good sense will soon point out the error she is making. And love, Mrs. Hensley, is a very beautiful thing, but very painful when misplaced. We must give her time.”
Mrs. Hensley beamed. "You are so wise, Martin.
I know I can trust you.” She arose to her feet.
For a moment he held her outstretched hand, then raised it to his lips. "You have made me very happy, Mrs. Hensley,” he breathed. ‘T hope I shall justify the honor you have done me.”
He left at once, walking with his rapid, agile stride to his car parked on the drive, and in a moment Mrs. Hensley saw him cut from view by a high hedge which bounded the grounds to the right. Here, where he knew he was out of her sight, he stopped his car and walked
quietly in the shelter of the hedge to a little gate giving entrance to the Hensley gardens. Inside the gate was a summerhouse, a secluded spot, little used by the family, but apparently well known to Professor Herzton.
He entered the summerhouse and sat down upon a bench. Reaching under the bench, his practised fingers found a concealed button. He pressed a signal on it. Then he nonchalantly lighted a cigar and settled down as though to enjoy in private the hospitality of his friend and employer.
Not long had he to wait. A quick step came down the secluded path, and Florence Manners entered the summerhouse.
The professor remained seated, pulling gently on his cigar.
“Well,” the woman challenged at length. “You called me. What’s the idea?”
Herzton looked up as though he had not been aware of her presence. “Oh, sit down, please. I have a little fairy tale I wish to tell you.”
“I am not interested in fairy tales.”
“You will be in this one. Listen. Once upon a time there was a poor young man of no particular merit who fell in love with the daughter of a rich family. That is, we will say he fell in love with the daughter, but it may have been her father’s money. And with that strange lack of perspicuity w'hich is part of the feminine character, Miss Manners, the young woman returned his passion. Now the course of true love seldom runs smooth, and the poor young man became involved with the officers of the law. In this predicament the girl went to her father, who, you will remember, was very rich, and begged the sum of ten thousand dollars with which to send the poor young man to a far country. The father, realizing his daughter was in love, felt that ten thousand dollars was not too much to pay for the permanent disappearance of the young man from her immediate vicinity. The money was paid, and the young man disappeared. Now I ask you to finish the story. Did the young man come back, or did he stay away?”
“There’s a chapter comes in before that,” the woman replied. She had seated herself, and was holding Herzton in a steady, distrustful gaze.
“Oh? I should be glad to hear it. Proceed.”
“Well. This young woman had a maid who had become involved—well, we needn’t go into that. At any rate, she knew the arrangements that had been made to get the ten thousand dollars from the bank. The chauffeur, a trusted employee, brought it up from the bank, and placed it in the hands of the young girl, who carried it to her room for safe keeping. While she was engaged with her. toilet, her maid found opportunity to cut the package open at one end, extract the bills, and fill the space with strips of wrapping-paper which she had provided for the purpose ...”
Professor Herzton was on his feet.
“Good Heavens, Pauline, is this true?” he demanded. “Do you think I am making it up?”
For a moment he studied her intently, his lynx eyes glittering. Then he burst into laughter, deep, subterranean laughter, subdued that their tryst might not be betrayed.
The woman apparently failed to share his mirth. She gave him no answering smile. “You seem much amused,” she remarked, in the hard, unemotional voice in which, from the beginning, she had conducted her part of the conversation.
“Immensely. Why, my girl, you have no idea how this works into our hands. Kent—”
“Your hands, you mean.”
“As you like. Let us not quibble over details. But you see how it places Kent. He has brains enough to realize that no one will believe such a dime-movie storeas that the package from the bank was stuffed with wrapping-paper. So when his natural annoyance gives place to reason, he will decide that the wisest thing for him is to stay where no explanations can be demanded. I think, Pauline, we have seen the last of Mr. Kent.” The woman’s face pictured unconcealed contempt. “You are very clever, Professor Herzton. You can manipulate your wave-lengths—or whatever it is—with my help, but you can see no farther than that pointed fox-whisker of yours. You have forgotten, of course, that Williams is along. The Hensleys may not believe Kent, but they will believe Williams. Now, Mr. Herzton?”
Herzton was pacing quickly back and forth across the floor of the little pavilion. “You’re right, Pauline,” he
admitted at length. “We may have to dispose of Williams, too.”
“What difference does one more make?” she asked.
“At any rate,” he continued, “you have the money?”
“No. You have it.”
“Yes. I sent it to you today at the office by registered mail.”
His narrow face became sharper than ever. “What in the world made you do such a fool thing as that?” he thrust at her.
“Because, Professor Herzton, I may be your tool by force of circumstances, but I am not a thief. What I did I did as your agent. It occurred to me that some day it might come handy if I could call upon the PostOffice Department to prove that they had delivered a certain package to you.”
He glared at her. “So you still distrust me, eh? After all I have done for you? How would you like—”
She interrupted him with a voice like a knife. “I know just what you are going to say, Professor Herzton. I have heard it from you so often. How would I like if you were to reveal my existence to my husband. He, poor fool, thinks I have been at the bottom of the river for three years. Oh, yes, I know he swore he would get
me after that discoveryin which you played so à gallant a part. He
Æfc-h thinks I closed the
ÆM.' .' chapter by jumping in
• v-H the r'ver> whereas you
concealed me, provided me with an alias, and, through your influence, placed me as your spy in the Hensley house-
hold. Well, it’s my medicine, and I’m taking it. I’ve done your bidding, Professor Herzton, and will continue to do it. When I steal, I steal as your agent. My score is growing, and some day it will balance yours. How would you like it if I were to tell Mr. Hensley all I know?”
“I should feel obliged to reveal your name and whereabouts to a certain gentleman who would be much interested in that information.”
“I know it. So each of us closes the mouth of the other —for the present. Whatever I did, and I am not excusing myself, I was within the law. But if you accept that money, and keep it, knowing it to be the property of Angus Hensley, you are a thief. That is the information with which I propose to buy my liberty, and your silence.”
She had risen, and the two faced each other. It was steel against steel.
Herzton was the first to call for a truce. “No use us quarrelling about it, Pauline. We’ve got along so far, arid there is no reason why we shouldn’t continue to get along. You’ve done a good day’s work today, and I’ll send you something extra to show my appreciation. Meanwhile, carry on. I’m trusting you not to miss any bets.”
“I never do, Professor Herzton,” she said.
“Then see that the disc is under her pillow tonight, and leave the rest to me.”
SICK at heart, Gladys Hensley retired early. She suffered her maid’s attentions in silence and dismissed her as soon as possible. Then for hours she lay thinking, trying to find some clear course through the complexities which surrounded her.
Suddenly she became aware that her mind was acting apparently from a volition outside of herself. She had a distinct feeling that the mind was separate from the body, functioning as a separate entity. It was as though the works of a watch had been taken out. of a case and set on a table near by. The works ticked on, but the case was empty.
She wondered if she were dreaming; she even wondered if by any possibility she was dead. She recalled speculations she had heard Dr. Alstice and Mr. Rogers discuss concerning the mind as an entity distinct from the body, but she could not follow the thought coherently. With something like panic she realized that her mind was getting out of control, that it seemed to be passing under the will of another. She had experienced this before, but never had she followed the process so clearly, tracing it step by step, as she did tonight.
Her mind seemed like a kite flying about the room, attached to lier body by a slender elastic ribbon. Sometimes it would fly to a far corner; again», it would be drawn back almost to her. The magic ribbon seemed to stretch indefinitely. She was sure now she was alive, because she could feel her heart beating, but she wondered if the ribbon should break, would that be death?
Presently she had a sense that the ribbon was tightening. She could feel its uncanny, irresistible strength. Her body, light as a feather, arose in response. She felt her bare feet on the floor, and she knew she was walking across the room. Then she was seated at a little writing table. She had turned the light on; she was making words on a sheet of paper; she was pressing a bell for her maid.
Manners entered, blinking. “Get the telegraph office on the phone, please, and send ♦ hat. message. Thank you. Sorry to disturb you. It had to be done tonight.”
Manners ret ired into her own room to carry out the instructions. As she unfolded the single sheet of notepaper she saw it was addressed to Morley Kent at the summer home of the Hensleys. She read: “Please forget my foolishness Friday night and all I said and promised then. You must realize that would be absurd and impossible. Gladys.” “Herzton wasn’t long in getting in his work,” Manners soliloquized, as she called the telegraph office. “However does he do it? It’s a mystery to me.”
When her errand was done she slipped into the room occupied by Gladys. The light was out, but the moon poured through the window, limning the slight form of the girl as it lay on the bed. Stealing silently across the room, Manners laid her hand on the girl’s wrist and bent over a face ivory-white in the moonlight. The pulse was beating regularly, the breath came in the steady diapason of sleep.
Manners slipped a hand under the pillow' and drew forth a gold compact w'hich she laid w'ith the girl’s
trinkets on a dressing-table nearby. Then, as silently as she had come, she returned to her room. When she had got into bed again her eyes found the outline of a club bag sitting on the floor. She raised her head on one hand and watched it intently, shaking herself from time to time to keep from falling asleep.
After a long while her patience was rewarded. An apparently innocent brass stud in the lock of the bag shone with a faint glow, like an inflamed eye peering at her through the thin moonlight.
Again she slipped silently from her bed, opened the bag, and took out a small telephone receiver and transmitter. In a moment she was in conversation, her voice subdued to a whisper.
“Yes,” she murmured. “She called me about an hour ago, and ordered me to send a telegram.”
“Of course I saw it. I had to phone it to the office.”
“It was to Kent.”
“At the Hensley summer home.”
“She said to please forget all she said and promised Friday night, and that he must realize it would be absurd and impossible.”
To further questions she answered merely yes and no, and presently replaced the instrument in its innocent-looking container. Then for the third time that night she returned to her bed, this time to sleep.
SUNDAY found Gladys in the condition of one recovering from an overdose of a powerful narcotic. She slept long and heavily, and after she arose moved about for hours in a partial stupor. Gradually the events of the night took shape out of a mist of hazy recollections. Foremost among those shapes was the outline of a telegram sent to Kent, charged with destructive and reprehensible content. As the fog cleared, she realized that she had sent such a message, and that Manners was the medium through whom the telegram had been trag^mitted.
She questioned the woman, who was disposed to give no information. “You seemed disturbed through the night,” Manners guardedly admitted.
But Gladys was after facts. "I want the truth,” she demanded. "If I sent a message to Mr. Kent I want to know it. If you will not tell me I can get the information from the telegraph office— and another maid tomorrow.”
So confronted, Manners gave her the story of the message, and even produced the copy which Gladys had handed her. As the girl read the words in her own handwriting her face hardened into an expression of resentful amazement.
“I must have been mad!” she cried. “And you were mad to send it. You know these troubles I have. Herzton is at the bottom of this. Fools, both of us. I can’t explain why I wrote it, but really I must expect you in future to use some judgment. You may go. I want to think.”
The result of her thinking was a long telegram, delivered with her own hand to the nearest telegraph office, imploring Kent’s forgiveness and assuring him that the previous message was sent while she was “under the spell.” Then, able to do nothing more, she settled down to await a reply.
Monday forenoon Manners announced a visitor. “A young woman, miss; looks like a business woman. She didn’t give her name; said it would mean nothing to you, but held it is very important she should have a private interview.”
“I suppose she is selling something?”
“I don’t think so, miss.”
“Or begging for some hobby . . Oh, well, I’ll see her. I will be right down.”
It was in the spacious living room that Gladys and Vera first stood face to face. Something about her visitor’s appearance softened the armor which Gladys, as a rich man’s daughter, found necessary to throw about herself as a protection from impostors.
She greeted her guest with a welcoming smile. “You wanted to see me?”
Vera, although openly nervous, had her voice in command. “May I speak with you alone'’”
“We are alone here. If I might know who honors me . ”
“I am Vera Masters. I work in the office of Kent & Powers.”
“Oh!” The flush which sprang to Gladys’ cheeks betrayed that which she woujd not, at the moment, have revealed for words, but no other key could have unlocked two hearts so quickly.
She flung out her hands. “I am glad you came. We will not sit here . it is too formal. I have a little bower . . . ” Already she was leading her through the corridors of Hensley House. “You have word from M . . from Mr. Kent?”
“Yes. A telegram.”
Gladys led her to a sun porch screened with ivy, and drew her to a seat by her side. She wondered why her fingers thrilled so at the touch of this strange girl.
“I have a telegram from Mr. Kent,” said Vera, summoning her composure, “but first there are many things I must tell you.”
“Yes? Do go on, Miss Masters.”
And there, while Gladys sat in mingled surprise, dismay, and anger, Vera told the story of the transcripts. “So you see,” she concluded, “I have the background, or at least much of the background, of the tragedy in which Mr. Kent is involved, and which, I believe, even threatens his life. I would not be doing justice to your intuition or my own, if I pretended not to know why he has so gladly undertaken this mission.”
Their eyes met, and this time the color rose in both faces.
“And you will not be doing justice to my intuition, Miss Masters,” Gladys answered, “if you pretend that I do not understand the interest you feel in Mr. Kent. You call him Morley, do you not?” “Yes at times. I have known him for three years.”
“Have you any claim on him?”
Vera rose to her feet. “I hope you do not think I came to bicker . . .”
“Please sit down, Miss Masters. I apologize. I really do, very humbly. My words sounded harsher than I intended. I meant that if you really had a claim ... it would break my heart, but . . . I would try to respect it.”
“It is just the claim of friendship, and of loyalty to one with whom I have worked for years,” Vera told her. "As for anything more—that is the fortune of war.” She tried to smile, but her lips were dry.
“At any rate,” she continued, when Gladys found no words, “you can count on me as Morley’s friend. That is what brought me here with this telegram.” She produced the yellow sheet. Gladys took it and read;
Please see Miss Hensley and tell her the money was removed from the package she gave me and wrappingpaper substituted stop I did not wire her direct for fear the message would be intercepted by Manners and delivered to Herzton stop give her the transcripts and get detectives at work stop the bank may have serial numbers of the bills which will help in tracing stop going ahead with our mission here best regards. Morley.
Gladys read the telegram a second time before her mind, numbed by such startling news, could accept its contents. But the short, staccato sentences left no room for misunderstanding.
“Gone!” she exclaimed. “The money gone! How could that be possible?” “That, I suspect, is what Morley is asking, too,” Vera observed, watching her closely. “It is a serious matter for him.”
“Of course it is. He cannot do much without money. I will see father at once and send him more.”
Vera, trembling, came close and laid a
hand on her shoulder. “Now it is my turn to apologize,” she said, in a strained voice. “I thought you might suspect him—”
“Suspect Morley? Of what?”
“Of removing the money—”
Gladys recoiled as though she had been struck.
“Are you capable of that?”
“No, but I thought perhaps you were. You see, I did not know you. So now it is my turn to apologize. Please forgive me.”
Gladys’s hand went up and clutched Vera’s on her shoulder. Together, for a moment, they hung upon each other.
“But who could have taken it?” Gladys demanded, returning to the problem that was pressing upon them. “I gave him the package myself. Williams is out of the question.”
“Did anyone else handle it?” “Williams, the chauffeur, who is flying the plane for Morley, brought the money from the bank and placed it in my own hands. I placed it in Morley’s.”
“And no one else between?”
“No one. Wait. It was lying in my room while I was getting ready to meet Morley at his office. Ah! Manners— that is, my maid—was in and out. You see by his message he apparently suspects her; that is why he sent it to you. Forgive me. You understand. It was a necessary precaution. Now the thing is to do what Morley says. We must tell the bank, and have a dragnet out for the bills. We must get detectives at work; we must be detectives ourselves.”
She had sprung to her feet, her languor and indecision gone. The joy of conflict was upon her.
“I want you to meet my father,” she resumed, suddenly. “We will lunch with him down town. It is wiser not to tell mother about it at the moment. Can you spare us your luncheon hour?”
“I am sure it is what my employer, Mr. Kent, would wish me to do,” Vera answered, forcing a little smile with her whimsical speech.
The luncheon hour stretched out to two, and three. Before it was finished, a plan of campaign had been mapped out, with Mr. Hensley, Gladys, and Vera each playing important parts.
WHEN Gladys reached home she found a notice from the telegraph company that they were unable to deliver her message addressed to Mr. Morley Kent. The agent at point of delivery had reported that Mr. Kent had moved on, leaving no address. “So he is carrying with him, through all that northern wilderness, the belief that I have jilted him for Herzton,” Gladys reflected bitterly. “And I can’t reach him—until he wires again.”
Despite the heavy heart she carried on Kent’s account, Gladys found the days that followed among the most thrilling of her young life. There were conferences with her father and Vera, with bank officials and with chiefs of the detective bureau which Mr. Hensley had engaged.
One of the first pieces of information disclosed by the detective bureau was that Miss Manners had sent a registered parcel through the mails to Professor Herzton on the very day the money was supposed to have been delivered to Morley Kent.
Somewhat to the surprise of Gladys, the professor during this period showed no disposition to take advantage of the absence of his rival to press his suit. His gallant explanation to Mrs. Hensley that the child must be given time to recover from the blow was, of course, unknown to her, and his silence was more disturbing than any open attack could have been.
DAYS dragged on for a week or more without other important developments, without a word from Kent or Williams, or any break of the ominous silence of Professor Herzton. When at last he again appeared at Hensley House
he was as shrewd, as incisive, and as genial as ever.
“I am begging favors again,” he told Gladys. “I am here to beg that you sing for us again tomorrow night. In urging this duty upon you, I know I am expressing the wish of a few million radio fans who cannot speak for themselves.”
Gladys demurred. “I am afraid I do not feel much like singing, these days,” she begged, rather weakly.
The professor’s face mirrored his concern and sympathy. “I am sorry to hear that,” he said. “But something like this— to serve the public and your father by your marvellous voice—is just what will draw you out of yourself. Believe me, we all have our dark days. I know.” He paused to be sure his words carried the full meaning he intended. “And the quickest way to find the sunshine again is to get to work. You will not disappoint me, I am sure.”
Again the professor paused; then, dropping into a still more confidential note, continued: “If you have any misgivings over my, shall I say, indiscretion on a previous occasion, let me assure you that hiy heart is now well in hand. You will excuse, I am sure, the physical absurdity of my figure of speech. I shall be glad to have your mother, or father, or any friend, come with you to the studio.”
Clever Professor Herzton. It was just the word needed to put the girl on her mettle.
“I will be glad to come,” she said. “And I don’t think I will burden myself with a bodyguard.”
The night upon which Gladys was to sing again from Herzton’s studio arrived. The professor, careful not to overplay his hand, telephoned his regret that he could not call for her personally with his car, as he was detained by an unexpected visitor. Detained by a visitor he was, but not an unexpected one.
Even through his plain tweed suit the stranger who tapped at Herzton’s door betrayed in the set of his figure and his long, deliberate stride, the city police.
“Come in, inspector,” the professor welcomed him. “You are right on the stroke of eight.”
The inspector returned his greeting. “Time is the essence of the contract, or words to that effect,” he remarked. “Your performer is to be here at eightthirty, is she not?”
“We can count on her to the minute. But half-an-hour will allow enough time for the preliminaries. Sorry I cannot ask you to smoke; it might affect her voice. But we can go into my laboratory.”
“Are there still women whose throats are affected by tobacco smoke?” the inspector enquired in mild cynicism as his host led him into one of the rooms opening from the studio. “Well, this is quite a shop you have,” he continued, as his eye took in the array of paraphernalia.
“Yes, we need it in our business. Sit down.” The professor indicated a chair and produced cigarettes.
“Try my lighter, professor,” the inspector invited, extending a little silver device. “It is quite a novel machine. It sometimes works.”
Herzton manipulated the lighter successfully, and the inspector dropped it back into his pocket.
“This is a wild bet of yours, Herzton,” the inspector began, when he had made himself comfortable, “but wild bets are sometimes winners. You think there is no doubt Kent will stumble into the trap?”
“Not a doubt in the world, if he hears her. That is where the uncertainty comes in. But I’ve done everything possible. The programme has been wired to every daily paper in Canada, and also a special story that Miss Hensley will sing tonight. Of course, Kent may be miles from either newspapers or radios. We have to take a chance on that.”
They discussed their plans until Miss Hensley’s knock on the outer door disturbed them.
Continued on page 26
The Copper Disc
Continued from page 22
"You had better remain here, inspector,” Herzton urged, hurriedly. "Your presence in the studio would disturb my temperamental artist.”
"Oh, very well.”
Indeed, Inspector Malcolm was not averse to a few minutes by himself in Herzton’s laboratory. In his study of the case he had not overlooked one significant circumstance—the alacrity with which Herzton had submitted evidence likely to be damaging to Kent. He was too experienced an investigator not. to know that, the wily crook’s first line of defense is to throw suspicion on someone else. And he had been more impressed than he would admit by a visit from Patrolman Murphy that morning.
"Mr. Malcolm,” Murphy had said, "it’s not for the likes o’ me to be givin’ advice to such as ye, but things ain’t always what they seem, praise the Lord, or I’d be a bigger fool than I am. But you’re on that Kent case, an’ my word fer it, look further in. Look further in, Mr. Malcolm: it’s not in the young man ye’ll find the criminal, but further in. There were two sets o’ fingerprints on that body o’ Galut’s; get the man with the other set, Mr. Malcolm.”
Those other fingerprints had been bothering the inspector ever since he had been put on the case. Every clue had run to earth because it would not produce the telltale prints. Then suddenly, like a flame from the darkness, leapt the one word — Herzton !
He could scarcely wait until he got back to headquarters to develop the prints on his cigarette lighter.
He heard the birdlike voice of Gladys Hensley soaring in the next room as he tiptoed about among Herzton’s apparatus. “I must put a man on this who knows something about this kind of junk,” he commented to himself.
The song ended. There was a period of silence, unnecessarily long, it seemed to the inspector, before he heard the outer door open and close. A moment later Profeasor Herzton was again by his side.
"Sorry to have kept you here like a prisoner, inspector," Herzton apologized. “There seemed no way out of it.”
But Malcolm was not without a sense of humor. "Oh, that’s all right,” he said. "One of these days I may do as much for you.”
WITH the fingerprint photographs developed, and matching exactly the unidentified prints on Galut’s body, the inspector felt that the occasion for returning Herzton’s compliment was nearer at hand than he had dared to hope. But in his zeal for the new clue he was not neglecting the old ones. True enough, the ruse of having the girl sing over the radio brought a wire from the incautious Kent, and a reply from the equally unsuspicious Gladys. The ink on the messages was scarcely dry before copies were in the hands of the police.
Although he was now in possession of
evidence to warrant the immediate arrest of Herzton, Malcolm elected to play a waiting game. He was convinced that Herzton knew more than ever would be dragged out of him in court, and his plan was to capitalize the relations which had been, outwardly at least, established between them. He called at the laboratory almost daily, smoked Herzton’s good cigars, and discussed with him the development of the case. Herzton was consistently cordial and talkative, but, as Malcolm ruefully admitted to himself after each interview, the talk disclosed nothing. Nothing, that is, except a growing impatience on the part of Herzton that the police had so far failed to arrest Kent, a fact which puzzled and annoyed the inspector no less than it did the professor. The conviction was deepening within him that, notwithstanding the ruse which had betrayed Kent into an incautious telegram, the fugitive had in some way taken fright and successfully covered his tracks.
Malcolm would have liked very much in those days to have been able to read the mind of Gladys Hensley, but she completely baffled him. At one moment she seemed submissive to the will of Professor Herzton: an hour later she was in open revolt against him. Upon occasion she would talk freely of Kent; it was from her own lips that Malcolm knew no further telegrams had been received; again, the whole subject seemed repugnant to her. The girl was plainly distressed; her paling cheeks suggested the load she was carrying, but whether on account of Kent, or Herzton, or herself, Malcolm was unable to learn.
Meanwhile, the detective bureau engaged by Mr. Hensley was following another line of leads, and as the days dragged on with no definite disclosures Detective Anderson’s curiosity over the contents of Herzton’s laboratory developed to a point where it could no longer be resisted.
"We’ll have to go through that shop of his,” he explained to Mr. Hensley, "and we won’t need any help from Herzton. Can’t you find imperative business for him somewhere else?”
“That’s easy,” Mr. Hensley agreed. "I’ll have one of the branch houses wire in for him tomorrow.”
The telegram was to call Herzton out of town at four o’clock the following day. At five, a conference of the various investigators on the case would be held in the Hensley home, and immediately following the conference an investigation of the laboratories would be made.
TT WAS a strangely assorted group which
gathered in Mr. Hensley’s smokingroom at the appointed hour. Anderson, of the detective bureau; Malcolm, of police headquarters, accompanied by Murphy, who, for services rendered, had also been assigned to the case; Vera Masters and Harry Powers; Dr. Alstice and the Rev. Mr. Rogers, who, as friends
of the family, had been taken into confidence; Mr. and Mrs. Hensley, and Gladys. In suppressed excitement they sat in Mr. Hensley’s luxurious room and awaited developments.
"We are here,” Mr. Hensley announced, “to exchange notes and conduct further investigations into the very baffling case with which we are all so much concerned. A number of developments, I believe, are about to be disclosed. I want to thank you all for the deep interest you are taking in our problem, and for any contribution you may make toward its solution. It goes without saying, of course, that our discussion will be regarded by all present as being in the strictest confidence.”
The situation was then briefly reviewed. The registered package, supposed to contain the missing money, had been traced to Herzton but had not been located. This was Anderson’s contribution. The other set of fingerprints on Galut’s body had been positively identified as Herzton’s. This from Malcolm, who announced his intention of placing Herzton under arrest as soon as he returned to the city. The wily inspector felt sure enough of his case to divulge that much, but he kept to himself the scheme by w'hich Gladys had been made a party to tricking Kent into an indiscreet telegram, and the fact that Kent was probably by this time a prisoner.
“Well, that’s that,” Anderson summed matters up, "and we are not likely to get much more light until we look for it in the proper place—that is, Herzton’s laboratory. Mr. Hensley has sent him out of town to give us a chance to do a little investigating, and I suggest that my professional friend, Inspector Malcolm, and myself should go down to the works.”
"Murphy will come along,” Malcolm amended.
"And of course I will go,” Mr. Hensley said.
"And I,” said Gladys.
Her father sought to dissuade her. "No saying what we may run into,” he suggested.
"That is just what I want to find out,” she answered. “I am the cause of all this trouble, anyway. If Professor Herzton has any way of creating these moods of mine, perhaps I am the one who could detect it.”
"That’s good reasoning,” Malcolm agreed. “Let us be going.”
"But we must have you, doctor,” Mr. Hensley suggested to Dr. Alstice. "You are something of an expert in brain waves, or whatever it is, and we may need your scientific mind before the evening is over.”
"As a more or less qualified electrician, perhaps I might be of service,” Harry Powers proposed.
With Murphy at the wheel of the police car, the little expedition whirred out to the plant. The impressive building lay back from the street in the warm gloom of a midsummer’s night. A seasonal lull
in the business of the Corporation had dispensed with night work, and the only lights were those which marked the general entrance and picked out, story by story, the elevator shaft and stairways.
A surprised watchman admitted Mr. Hensley and his party.
“You can run us up in the elevator, I suppose?” the president enquired.
“Yes, sir; yes, sir, Mr. Hensley, I certainly can do that.” It was not every day a watchman had the privilege of engaging in conversation with the head of the Corporation. “Yes, sir, I began as an elevator boy, Mr. Hensley, right with this here Corporation that you have the honor to be the head of. That was back when you were in the musical instrument business, an’ maybe you wasn’t as rich an’ maybe I wasn’t any poorer than we both are now, Mr. Hensley, sir.”
The president herded the loquacious watchman to the elevator and gave him his instructions. But at that moment a telegraph boy appeared from somewhere and picked Gladys out from the company.
"A message for you,” he said in a low voice. "Very personal, and to be read at once.”
She dropped back unnoticed, and the car shot up without her.
She was tearing the envelope open, wondering if at last Kent had wired her again. As she stood there, the door of the other elevator—two of them ran side by side in adjoining shafts—opened, and she stepped inside.
“Up, please,” she said, her eyes still on the yellow missive.
The car started, then suddenly stopped between landings.
"I think you had better read your message.”
It was the voice of Herzton. Gladys turned terrified eyes up to his foxlike face. She had no words with which to address him.
“A rather clever ruse, wasn’t it, my dear? But don’t blame the poor telegraph boy. He merely followed instructions. He had no idea anything sinister was connected with it. Had he suspected that he was playing into the hands of the terrible Professor Herzton, no doubt he, too, would have turned against me.” There was bitterness as well as cunning in his voice.
But Gladys had recovered speech. "Professor Herzton, what does this outrage mean? I should think you have enough trouble on your hands without inviting more. Take me up at once and let me join my party.”
"You had better read your telegram first. Perhaps it is from Mr. Kent.”
"Now you are merely insulting.”
She glanced at the lines on the yellow slip in her fingers. "You are completely in my power,” she read. “Upon your behavior depends your own life, and the lives of those who are dear to you.”
To be Continued