The Spanish Consul Case
A true detective story in which is described the u of a caballero of Spain by the J\[arcotíes Squad of the R. C. M. P.
T. MORRIS LONGSTRETH HENRY VERNON
WAITER No. 6 of the Blank Hotel at Montreal, Gaston Benoit in private life, rather prided himself on his ability to classify his patrons according to type. But for once he was undecided, as he placed three men at a table near a window.
Not that there was anything particularly disturbing in the trio. One was striking in appearance, deep chested, muscular, and topping his companions by several inches; a six-footer. He was young, too; certainly not more than thirty-two or -three, whereas the others were middle-aged.
Of these, one was stout, a reflection of good living, as soft as the other looked hard, and clearly a Latin, while U.S.A. was written all over the younger man. Yes, reflected the waiter, the fat one is a Spaniard. The big man has just addressed him as Señor.
The third man was the least prepossessing of the trio, short, but capable of quick movements which accentuated an impression of cunning conveyed by his brighteyed swarthiness, and which might, on occasion, be dangerous. His attitude of deference toward his companions suggested that he was the least important of the three.
The big man’s name was Robino, the waiter remembered. He had been a guest at the hotel at frequent intervals of late, though invariably alone and by choice at a secluded table. It was his evident desire to be inconspicuous that had attracted Gaston’s attention. Well, it was his own affair, and at least he was always pleasant and reasonably generous.
The waiter was too much of an artist to eavesdrop, but the men’s talk occasionally reached him. The Spaniard, certainly, and Mr. Robino were rich. It was of thousands they spoke, and of big cities—Paris, London, Barcelona, Chicago. Gaston was puzzled. Señor Maluquer fitted into the picture; Mr. Robino was harder to place; the little one might fit into anything. Had the waiter followed the trio to Mr. Robino’s upper suite he might have clarified his doubts, for no sooner was the Spaniard comfortably seated than he expanded:
“I am so glad, Mr. Robino, that my good friend Delane have introduce us. It is a pleasure, a magnificent pleasure, to have negotiations with a man of affairs like you. This will be the start of many good things for both of us. With your associates in New York and mjf connections in Europe we can develop many and great things. This is a most auspicious occasion, and that delightful lunch was a good omen. Never shall I forget that salad, and with the real olive oil from Spain. It is so rare to find good salads in this country. They all are of the same taste,” he concluded mournfully.
An expression of distaste flitted over Mr. Robino’s face; salads bored him, he wished to get to business. “About this matter we discussed last week at your office, señor?” he asked. “Have you learned anything more from your friend?”
“But yes, it is all arrange. You have only to go ahead. You will say how much you want, write out the cheque, and wait for the shipment to arrive. When one
deals with caballeros—gentlemen—everything is very simple; simplicisimo.” The Spaniard beamed.
“Can you guarantee that your friends in Spain are caballeros?" asked the big man curtly. “No one’s a gentleman with twenty-five grand for the taking.” “You doubt my friends, Mr. Robino?” asked the Spaniard in pained surprise. “When I have such excellent connections here and there! It is most unfortunate. I am accustom to have negotiations in a big way with my clients. Always it is the same everywhere, in Spain, in India, in this country. At times I have suffer for confidence in my friends, it is true, but never before have I been distrust like this time.”
“That is distressing, señor, I’m sure,” commented Mr. Robino without noticeable regret, “but my experience has made me vulgarly suspicious. What happens if anything goes wrong? If your friends’ memories slip once, they have the money. Of course I’d hold you responsible, but that might not bring back my roll from Spain. Besides I’m told that the chivalry of old Spain isn’t what it used to be.”
Señor Miguel Maluquer deprecated Mr. Robino’s
doubts. “You are very suspicious, dear Mr. Robino, and a little hasty perhaps. If you cannot trust my friends, can you expect them to trust you?” He shrugged his shoulders. “Me, I am in between. You can see how difficult it is for me, no?”
“The Don is right, Mr. Robino,” said the small man, who had so far kept silent. “You can’t play this game three ways and in the middle. How does he know you’ll not grab off the stuff when it comes, and leave him holding the bag? He could not squawk, not in his position, while you could, and then fade. Don’t you see? All you risk is the money. It is something, of course, but he stakes everything—his place, which has not been arrived at in a year.”
“That is true,” nodded Maluquer.
Mr. Robino did not appear to be touched.
“If you’re afraid to trust him,” continued the little man, “why not go after the stuff yourself?”
“To Spain?” ejaculated Mr. Robino doubtfully.
“To Spain. You can see it, handle it, and know it’s there. Even then you’ll have to take a chance that the ship doesn’t sink on the way over. But you can’t expect everything without risk. Through him you pay two dollars an ounce and the grease to slide it through Customs; the other way, buying it here, it’ll cost you twenty-five dollars, perhaps thirty-five dollars, an ounce.”
The Spaniard sighed ecstatically. “Delane, you have genius,” he cried. “It is the solution. Mr. Robino, you must visit my beloved country. I shall notify my friends when to expect you, and they will welcome you to their hearts. It will be no danger. You have a bon voyage and come back to Montreal, and soon, very soon, everything will be finish and you will make much money.” He turned again to Delane, “My friend, you must have been inspire to think that way.”
Mr. Robino was considering deeply. “That sounds better,” he said slowly. “I’d not only see the stuff before I pay for it, but also I would know the people I was dealing with for another time. There’s risk enough left in the Customs here, but that’s where you come in, señor. Naturally it’s a speculation with me. This time I spend a lot of money to make a little; but if everything is ‘jake,’ as these Canadians say, the next time it will be a horse of another color. Are you sure, señor, that your friends can get the real stuff? Cocaine’s got to be good or a man soon queers himself with his customers.”
The Spaniard shifted uneasily. “Not so loud, my friend. Never speak that word. It is dangerous. ‘Cognac’ is better, and they do not suspect, and
‘Malaga’ for the other one. Be assured, my friends will find you only the best quality. I am only just come from Spain; I know these connections, they are the best.”
“ ‘Cognac,’ eh?” and Mr. Robino smiled. “Nobody’d get wise to that. Th'ey’d figure it was just bootlegging. This talk’s beginning to make me thirsty; let’s get out of here. You go ahead, señor, and conclude the arrangements. Tell your friends in sunny Spain that I’ll be over by the first boat, after you give the word. Is it a go?”
They shook hands solemnly and picked up their hats. Delane left first. Mr. Robino nodded slightly in his direction. “Is he safe, señor?”
“When he gets his share, yes,” and the Spaniard’s gesture was expressive. “But we shall not let him know enough to be dangerous.”
“Then it’s adios till I hear from you, señor.”
“Adios," said the Spaniard, “and thank you for the salad.”
The big-shouldered Mr. Robino compressed his lips and went away.
While the three men had been conferring in the hotel
room, another man was poring over a file of papers in the office at the back of a brownstone dwelling on the same street but four or five blocks away. His posture, even in study, suggested a latent aggressiveness, and the obvious power of his thickset muscular body was continued in the set of his jaw and the lines of his face. As he read the last page, he nodded in confirmation of a thought, seized a pen and signed. Below the writing were these lines:
E. C. P. Salt,
Det. S. Sergt.,
Reg. No. X354
The dwelling was the Montreal headquarters of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Inspector J. W. Phillips in command, and the small office in its rear housed the detective branch of the detachment with Staff Sergeant Salt in charge. From these premises a pitifully small number of men made valiant essays to enforce all of Canada’s federal laws throughout the Immense Quebec district, and the most difficult of these was that against the traffic in narcotics.
The Mounted Police had been installed in Montreal in 1920 at a difficult time. The waves of post-war restlessness were breaking in licentiousness of every sort. Bootlegging meant instant, easy money. So did counterfeiting. The island metropolis was becoming a smugglers’ paradise. And the abuse of drugs, a vice practically unknown in Canada before the war, had made its slimy presence felt everywhere in the short space of two years.
The mere presence of the narcotic traffic was proof of the most arrant smuggling, since drugs are imported into Canada only on federal license, in small quantities, and are distributed under supervision. Against this traffic there were two lines of defense: the Customs Department, authorized to detect and seize all illegal shipments at the frontier, and the Mounted Police, designated to ferret out illicit importers and send them to jail.
To Salt and his men the job must often have seemed like transferring the ocean with a spoon. The source of supply in Europe, Asia, and South America was inexhaustible. The nature of the goods was doubly advantageous to the smuggler, since $50,000 worth of cocaine had a smaller bulk than a few dollars’ worth of silk, and not only could be hidden in many places aboard ship, but also, once realized on, the profit was so large as to yield a fortune from only infrequent efforts, thus allaying suspicion by long intervals of quiet. And finally, the frontier was long and—even if the first line of defense had been perfect—still highly vulnerable.
But the narcotic squad had grown sure that the first line was full of gaps. They had only to watch their barometer—the price of the deadly powders—to find it decidedly low, meaning a glut of opium and cocaine in the market. The ocean was gaining on the spooners. Many of the small fry, the street pedlars of dope, the middlemen, had gone to jail—on ridiculously light sentences, but the higher-ups, the fountainheads of the traffic, went scot-free.
There were two reasons for this. In the first place, the Mounted Police had no chance to act until the narcotics had been smuggled into the country. In the second place, the technique of importation had been worked out most skilfully by the invisible master minds, multi-millionaires, aloof and protected by anonymity, who directed the movements of the stuff with the smallest devisable risk. To begin with, the drugs were disguised for transport. They were shipped from a false name to a person who did not exist at a carefully prepared address. At the first intimation that a shipment was suspected, the shippers and the consignees evaporated into their native nothingness.
Plugging a Leak
SALT had already seized one such shipment, 10,000 ounces of cocaine, representing $50,000 to the importer and $200,000 to the ultimate consumer, the poor devil of an addict. The investigation showed that, enormous as this seizure was, it was only a fifth in a series of successful shipments, all of which had entered Canada through the regular Customs channels without detection. It seemed impossible that the first line could be so easily broken through. And what was the net result of the police seizure? A mere fraction of the drugs, a few meaningless names, an inability to satisfy the laws of evidence, and an added proof of the hopelessness of cutting off the traffic at the wrong end.
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To a man of Salt’s energetic nature— and it was because of a painstaking energy that Inspector Phillips had made him responsible for this department—the importers’ elaborate ingenuity was a challenge. Through an able squad he already knew most of the traffickers working in and out of Montreal, many of their assistants, pedlars, street corner deck men. But this was a fruitless knowledge. Who were the master minds? Did they live at Antwerp, Berne, Constantinople, or perchance in Montreal? Would the next raid disclose someone too indiscreet, or a trusted lieutenant with a grouch who might disclose the identity of his superior? Thus there was always an interest ahead to ease the sixteen-hour day that occasionally came, and finally a whisper had come to Salt’s ear, a whisper that had grown into this “secret and private file.’’
It was a whisper of so startling a nature as to seem but another of the usual baseless underworld echoes. The fact that it hinted at looseness and corruption in the highest places almost deprived it of any practical value; for without confirmation no detective, not even one whose experience had taught him that there is no sanctity in any position however high, could dare to act. And yet it did shed light on unsuspected aspects, began to breed definite suspicions in Salt’s mind, and finally gave birth to a theory. At the same time the usual methods of procedure began to look valueless, owing to exposure and explanation in the courts. It seemed necessary to meet the traffickers at their own game. A new informer was hunted up and steered patiently toward an opening which would never have been accessible to a regular detective or the usual type of stool-pigeon.
He was,' undeniably, on the shady side. What he lacked in scruples he made up for in practice; his own activities had been so questionable for so long a time as to give him the entrée into Montreal’s darkest circles. Or rather the darkest but one, for he virtuously declared, and perhaps sincerely, that he had drawn the line at dope. For a consideration he was willing to place his assets at the disposition of the Mounted Police.
With the first line of defense crumpling and the second in a poor position to combat the flow of drugs, this new weapon seemed heaven-sent, and Salt was given permission to use it. The informer was instructed to negotiate with Montreal’s leading traffickers with a view to effecting a large importation of drugs. The man’s reputation made his approaches plausible, as of one who was merely transferring his energies to a new form of law evasion. By importing rather than buying locally he would be in line for greater profits, withal assuming some of the risks, and ultimately intending to establish his own connections with the European sources of supply. If he could induce the traffickers to divulge their methods in return for a commission on the drugs to be imported, they would be delivered into the Mounted Police hands. The channels used would be watched for future shipments which, at the right time and place, could be intercepted. As soon as the informer had learned all that was necessary, he could delay an actual deal until the information obtained had been tested, when he could pretend to lose his enthusiasm for the venture, and drop out of sight.
Thus began a counter-attack on the forces of evil with the informer as the spearhead, but closely followed by Salt and his men, now augmented by two detectives from other divisions of the
Force, who were endeavoring to corroborate the informer’s reports while remaining unknown to that worthy. A month passed and then another, with the informer improving his position, the detectives checking him up, Salt covering other angles, and Phillips forwarding reports of increasing interest to headquarters at Ottawa.
A climax in two investigations came almost simultaneously. The informer reported that the drug ring with which he had been in contact bought its drugs at Barcelona, shipped them to Liverpool, repacked them in trunks, and transshipped them to Montreal There, the smugglers attested, a prominent official of the Customs Department intercepted the trunks and delivered them to the traffickers for an honorarium of $1,000 per trunk. Six traffickers, the informer definitely said, were importing in this way. Another detective reported an identical scheme in another quarter, except that the drugs were procured in England. Neither the informer nor the detective had been able to learn the names of the smugglers’ allies. These took no chances of being followed. One of the trunks, if so much as thought to be suspected, remained suspended between sender and ‘consignee forever, something like Mahomet’s coffin, and the Force was no nearer a capture. But one great fact had been learned: the high official first mentioned in the whisper was actually implicated in the plot.
Salt spent a sleepless night. By the very nature of the official’s position it would be almost impossible to check up on him. Only Ottawa could assume that responsibility, and the staff sergeant, with perhaps unconscious cynicism, decided that that was something Ottawa would never do. But he put in his report to his Chief, letting the scandals follow as they might.
An important conference between high Mounted Police and other officials followed. The facts reflected, at least in presumptive evidence, upon the officials of another government department, and the measures suggested to right the situation required that department’s cooperation. At first there was a natural disinclination of the department to believe ill of itself, but this disinclination could not stand against the statements of the detective named Brown. Here was no paid informer, but a federal detective of solid character and sound experience. He had a respectful appreciation of the seriousness of his charges, but he was convinced and he infected his listeners with his conviction. There was looseness in the system, corruption in the service. He had been offered drugs, or for that matter any other form of contraband which would come through Customs illegally. And was there not a wholesale increase of other smuggling on every hand? The revenues were being seriously affected. And now the wholesomeness of the cities was menaced. It was no time for ordinary considerations of sensitiveness.
The conference listened to the proposed cure. It was drastic and, worse, likely to be expensive. But Brown had foreseen every objection and was persuasive to the end that the conference unanimously agreed that unusual circumstances required unusual measures, and gave the Mounted Police its blessing, hoping that in the drama to begin they would deal a body blow to the drug traffic, restore the lost revenue, and, if corruption did actually exist, purge the Customs of its undesirable elements. Brown returned to Montreal, and to Phillips, and to Salt.
Mr. Robino Meets Captain Parker
IN THE dining room of the Ritz at 1 Barcelona on a morning two months later there was only one guest apparent
to Mr. Robino as he stepped in for breakfast. Travel had not dampened the American’s native ardor for companionship and he looked hopefully across the waste of empty tables for a nod, a smile, or, if God was very good, for a “hello.” “Buenas dias, señor." It was the waiter. “It ees nice morning, yes?” “You’ve answered yourself, waiter,” said Robino cheerfully, “the morning’s all right. Tell me, could that gentleman by any chance be an American? He looks English. Eh? Americano? Ingles? Sabe?"
“I teenk she’s Americano, Señor Robino. Señor Capitan Parker ees the name.” “Parker? Well, I’ll chance his being another English frosty face again,” and rising, Mr. Robino crossed to address the stocky and obvious Englishman about his own age.
"Excuse me, sir, for a stranger so dead anxious to hear the sound of his own language again that he intrudes like
The other rose. “Delighted, I’m sure. Will you be so good as to have breakfast at my table, sir? I know few here myself, and the city, with this revolution going on, is more than a bit lonesome. My name’s Parker, Captain Parker, just out from London on leave.”
Mr. Robino was relieved at his reception and said so, after announcing his identity, the part of the States he came from, and the fact of his recent arrival. “It’s the way they do things here that gets my goat,” he said, more familiarly. “I’ve been searched so many times I’m losing count. Every time I step outside with a parcel in my hands one of those guards at the comers holds me up and goes through it. I was searched leaving France, searched entering Spain, searched here. It would be comic if it wasn’t tiresome. The last policeman who stopped me was armed with a rifle, two revolvers, a sword and a knife, and he may have had a bomb in his pocket. If the police here carry that equipment all the time, they must require trucks to carry them to their beats. Who is this Rivera chap, anyway?”
Captain Parker smiled. “General Primo de Rivera has just set up a dictatorship, hence the revolutionary antics. From the little I know of Spanish politics, he has just anticipated an opposing faction. The trouble is, no one can tell how long the turmoil is going to last, and while it does, ordinary business is at a standstill. We’re both getting poor impressions of Spain, I’m afraid, on our first visit; at least, this is my first.” “Poor is right,” admitted Mr. Robino. “I came over to see if I could line up something new for a firm of importers I’m connected with. Of course I expected to find things different from America, but not this queer. Did you see the fellows with the satchels of money on the trains? I don’t know what they call them, but they’re money changers for the passengers. They’d last about a week in my country; then the railroads would build steel safes into the trains.”
“And even then the coaches would be in danger of being lifted?”
Mr. Robino laughed at Captain Parker’s jest. The captain went on, “Let us hope we improve our opinion of Spanish methods before we leave, Mr. Robino. They excel here in some things, at any rate. Their salads ...”
Mr. Robino visibly shuddered, “Please don’t say it, captain. I’d rather not talk of salads, if you don’t mind. Before I left the other side, I saw a lot of two Spaniards, and one of them could talk of nothing but salads. He ate them, as musicians say, with expression. I’ve heard so much about dressings, that just to talk of olive oil makes me feel not very sure of myself.”
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“Will you be here some while?” asked the captain.
“I was hoping to get done in a hurry, but everything’s gone wrong. Have you a line on their business methods here? The people I’m dealing with say they can’t supply me with what I want for another month, and I can’t wait that long. They blame the revolution. So now I have to go empty-handed or take the next best article.”
“They’re leisurely, these Spanish, decidedly,” said Parker. ' “A day or two is of no importance in their lives. If they said one month, it means three. You’d better take what they offer, if it will do at all, or give up the deal.”
“Three months!” and Robino’s tone seemed to condemn the race. “What a way to do business. It reminds me of the church they showed me yesterday, 1,200 years in building, and another 900 years to finish. In America ...”
“Pardon me, señor . . .’’it was the waiter, “but two gentlemen request the pleasure ...”
Mr. Robino took the cards. “Excuse me, captain It looks as if somebody had wakened up,” and the American hastened to meet his visitors, Señor Martorell and his son Felipe.
In the three days that Mr. Robino had spent in Barcelona he had paid calls upon the two firms whose names had been given to him by Señor Maluquer, presenting his letters of introduction and expecting an instant and affirmative response, since he had been given to believe that the negotiations were completed. At each house he had been expected, it is true, but he was met with elaborate expressions of regret. Narcotics were unobtainable, under any consideration. The police and military supervision was excessively strict. He would have to wait until the city was quieter.
Señor Felix Martorell was particularly desolated at not being able to do business with Mr. Robino, and he repeated this many times, much to Mr. Robino’s ire. It was heart-rending, protested the fat little Catalan Spaniard, to think that so long a trip had been made at such an inopportune time.
As Robino shook hands with Martorell, père, he was reminded of a stuffed olive. He was short, rotund, and with greygreen pop eyes, and he endeavored to force his features and podgy hands to illustrate his thoughts which an inability to speak English prevented from becoming vocal. Martorell, -fils was scarcely more impressive. He was also short, also podgy, and his eyes had the additional fascination of becoming violently crossed in stress of emotion. But he at least could speak English, which he at once began to do, repeating the desolation that he and his father were still experiencing at the thought of Mr. Robino’s disappointments.
Robino, looking down at the two, could not restrain a smile. At this evidence of the success of their efforts to hearten the customer, both Martorells beamed with pleasure, and young Felipe, breaking out on a new tack, said: “My father wish to say he can give you alcohol at very good price; as much as you like. It will be pack most carefully in special . . . how do you say it?”
“Receptacles,” suggested Robino.
“Si señor, receptacles, so no one can tell it is not olive oil. In each receptacle can be pack one half alcohol and one half olive oil. The duty on olive oil in Canada, it is almost nothing, but the duty on alcohol is big. You will make very much money to pay for your journey, and when the ‘cognac,’ as we say, can be obtain, it can be sent the same way.”
Robino, remembering Parker’s advice to accept what was offered, nodded. “I wanted drugs, but perhaps the alcohol will do just as well. I didn’t expect to make a big profit this trip. I came to establish connections here with your firm
and make sure that Señor Maluquer at Montreal can do what he said he could. But alcohol will show how easy the Customs are. I won’t need much. What’s the price now?”
Felipe spoke rapidly to his father who replied at an eloquent length. The son interpreted: “One case, with four special cans inside, one gallon each, two cans being of olive oil and two of alcohol, will cost 275 pesetas. My father can supply you with 2,000 cans at the same price.”
“Not that much, I couldn’t use it,” replied Mr. Robino, decidedly. “There’s lots of alcohol in the States and Canada, and there’s too much risk in a big shipment like that. What about fifty cases? If that goes through, I could order more the next time when you can get the drugs.”
Martorell, senior, shrugged his shoulders, and Felipe interpreted the gesture as: “My father say it is not worth while to make such a small shipment. That is too small business.”
“Tell your father, does he expect that I’m going to take the chance of losing big money when I have no use for alcohol? I’m not sure that I’ll take any alcohol. Tell him that I’ll have to think it over. It’s my turn to be desolated.”
His air of finality, coupled with his size, impressed the Martorell audience, and for a few minutes father and son harangued each other.
“How soon could you have the shipment ready?” asked Robino, breaking in on the dialogue.
“It will require one month to have ready the receptacles,” said Felipe. “My father have ask the manufacturer this day.”
“Ye gods!” exploded Robino, “do you think I’m going to wait around this joint for a month just to see some cans thrown together?”
“No! No! My father will attend to that. When the deal is made, you go at any time. You will pay sixty per cent of the price to my father in his bank, and forty per cent to another bank to be paid to my father when the shipment is deliver to the railroad.” The son seemed to sense Mr. Robino’s doubts. His eyes crossed in great emotion as he said, “My father is beeg landowner and wine merchant of Barcelona; his cousin is beeg statesman at Madrid. You need not to be afraid for your money.”
“It sounds fair enough,” agreed Mr. Robino, hastily glancing aside to prevent bursting into laughter. Previous enquiries had shown these statements to be true. “We’ll call it a deal, and fix it all up tomorrow. Then I can get away. I’d rather wait for the shipments in some place where I’m not being searched every time I go out for a walk.”
Suspense in Montreal
BACK in Montreal, as month after month went by with no sign of his shipment, the restless Mr. Robino wondered, feared, became almost convinced that he had been made the victim of an elaborate hoax. He had been talked out of his narcotics, talked into alcohol, and now he did not even have that.
Señor Maluquer, who had been so accessible during the period of arrangements, had become difficult of approach. He assured Mr. Robino that he could be certain of satisfaction, but that it was better for them not to be seen together. Señor Ramon Tey de Torrents, briefly known as Tey, would keep Mr. Robino informed of progress.
“If any, and when,” muttered Robino, unrelieved concerning the fate of his pesetas, and totally unconsoled by the appearance of the envoy Tey de Torrents. This man was reputed to be one of Montreal’s leading importers, with a private fortune running into six figures. That he was the brains of the shadowy combination Robino had decided on sight. De Torrents was shrewd, cautious, well versed in all trickery, energetic, and resourceful.
As the fourth month arrived Robino fancied that De Torrents showed signs of worry also. This was somewhat a relief, since it could be taken for proof that the deal was not a hoax. Then news came from the family Martorell. There had been delays in connection with the manufacture of the cans. Then further news: The shipment had left Barcelona on December 8. At the end of February, Señor Martorell regretfully wrote to correct this impression: the news was incorrect. The shipment had been intended for December 8, but the boat had had the misfortune to be consumed by fire, and so the actual departure was not until January 23. One boat had been skipped because of a seizure of $800,000 worth of narcotics in New York, which made one nervous. But at last the shipment was upon the waters, packed, marked, and consigned as arranged.
Mr. Robino remarked that he would have to be forgiven for appearing sceptical, but his scepticism was weakened by the receipt of invoices from the bank at Barcelona for fifty cases of olive oil in his name. With the shipment due at Montreal any day from New York, he paid De Torrents the duty at the olive oil rate and the commission, plus bribes, for successfully bringing it through Customs.
Another month had nearly elapsed, and the shipment was still undelivered. Robino began to call himself names for paying out more money. Invoices, like everything else, could, he reflected, be forged. He was on the point of one more visit to Maluquer, regardless' of his desire for the protection of an intermediary, when forty-six cases were delivered to Delane, on his order. Four of the cans were leaking alcohol, while eleven showed signs of having been tampered with; but Mr. Robino, who by this time had reached the same degree of nervousness as De Torrents, was well satisfied. A few days later three of the four missing cases were obtained by Delane; one, it now appeared, had by some serious mischance been lost sight of, and had strayed to the Customs examining warehouse.
Señor Maluquer did not share Mr. Robino’s satisfaction at their next meeting. In addition to being very nervous over the delay in the shipment, and the missing case, he suspected—and rightly— that De Torrents was trying to interest Mr. Robino in other deals in which he would have no part. And above all he distrusted Delane.
The senor’s jumpiness was disturbing enough to Mr. Robino, but it was nothing compared to De Torrentss’ for another reason. Tey had just been summoned to the Customs House and questioned about this Mr. Robino and his shipment. De Torrents had told the Customs that Mr. Robino, a stranger to him, had asked him, in his capacity as importer, to clear a shipment of olive oil, and had given him the money for that purpose. What, he had enquired, was the matter? He was shown the fiftieth case, leaking not olive oil but alcohol, and seized. Apparently when repacking the case, after passing through the examining warehouse and while waiting to be carted away, the careless packer had driven a nail through the concealed tin, and by next morning so much alcohol had leaked out as to be noticed by several. One other thing was on De Torrents’ mind. Martorell had reported from Barcelona that a Captain Parker had arrived at the hotel where Mr. Robino was stopping, had remained about the same time as the latter, and that Mr. Robino had been seen in conversation with him. There were fears that Captain Parker might have been an English secret service person and that Mr. Robino might have been indiscreet Mr. Robino laughed at Martorell’s fears.
But De Torrents shook his prematurely grey head. “I think, Mr. Robino, all things considered, that it would be as well for Mr. Robino to disappear from
this world. There are many names which would become you just as well, at any rate in Montreal. These foolish Canadian Customs officials will run around in circles for a little while, and will then decide it is just as well to do nothing, because they cannot. Another time we shall not put contraband in every case. In a shipment of fifty cases we can make up five cases, all with olive oil, and I shall arrange to have those cases sent for examination. Then there will be no possibility of error.”
Mr. Robino agreed in the wisdom of Señor de Torrents and hinted that as Mr. Robino’s existence had actually endured only since coming to Montreal, it would cause no hardship to revert to another identity. The señor received this decision with satisfaction and heightened courage.
rT'HE offices of the Spanish consul are but a few blocks from those of the Mounted Police at Montreal. At 10.30 a.m., June 2, Staff Sergeant Salt, accompanied by two of his detectives, walked into the consul’s office. Salt identified himself and his companions.
“Are you the consul for Spain in Montreal?” he asked. The consul nodded.
“Is your name Don Miguel Maluquer y Salvador?”
Again the consul nodded.
"Then I have a warrant for your arrest and to search this office.”
Señor Maluquer went grey and could not speak for a long moment; then he broke into a babble of incoherent protest. Finally his words became intelligible. “But you cannot do this thing. I am immune. I am immune, I tell you, from such actions. I am consul. This is terrible. You will make serious diplomatic difficulties with my country,” he declared vehemently.
“Here is the warrant, señor,” was Salt’s response, and he detailed his men to make the search. “You are charged with conspiracy to defraud His Majesty’s Canadian Customs to the extent of $5,700, contrary to the Criminal Code of Canada.”
The consul smoldered while the search went ahead and was requested to accompany the police to the barracks. The consul now remembered hls high position and requested to be spared the embarrassment of the escort. Salt acquiesced, going with the consul himself, when suddenly another Spaniard materialized from the crowd and began to disburden the consul of letters. Salt protested, but the consul waved him aside. Salt took his prisoner’s arm, but the man of high position broke his hold lightly, raised his cane, and swung Salt over toward his comrade. The fear of publicity had again forsaken Maluquer’s mind. Salt sprang back and the consul, tripping over a doorstep, fell. The sound of it sped across the cables to Europe. The Spanish Ambassador in London was especially distressed and hurried about until it was made clear to him that the consul—to whose position no diplomatic rights appertained—had been treated leniently instead of ill, and the delicate situation which Maluquer had craftily relied on did not materialize.
Meanwhile he was taken before a judge for immediate arraignment, only to have the remnants of his equanimity suffer another blow at the sight of Señor Tey de Torrents, likewise in custody. De Torrents however was entirely composed. The police had been precipitate, he said. There would be another story when they had to justify their actions.
Two days later the Spaniards appeared in court and the case was called. The lawyer for the Crown addressed the judge.
“Your Worship,” he said, “I would ask that Sergeant C. C. Brown of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police be called to give his evidence in these charges.”
As the two Spaniards turned in the direction of the door leading from the witnesses’ room, Staff Sergeant Salt watched their faces with a heartfelt smile.
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Continued from page 53
The door opened and a deep-chested, muscular, young Mounted Policeman stood there. But to De Torrents, to Miguel Maluquer of Salvador, he was more than striking in appearance. He was fateful. The Spanish consul made a queer gurgling sound; Tey de Torrents went as grey as his hair. For Mr. Robino had answered to the name of Sergeant Brown.
Everyone in court felt the drama of the moment, understood the thunderbolt that had hit the prisoners. It was all perfectly clear; comprehension stood naked on the Spanish Consul’s face, and Tey de Torrents’s was almost as revealing. Their Mr. Robino—whom the wily Maluquer had just asked a few days before for a large private loan—to whom both had revealed their most secret methods of rascality—was no American millionaire at all, but a mere Mounted Police noncommissioned officer standing there, huge, and somehow embodying the inexorability of justice. It could not be . . .
But it was. And his evidence, every detail of his negotiations with the two Spaniards from the time he had first made their acquaintance, the conversations in Mr. Robino’s expensive suite, the letters they had given to him, the money he had paid to them, each item of this evidence was damning in itself. Together it was overwhelming. The prisoners were beyond surprise when Mr. Delane'justified their suspicions and proved to be Salt’s original informant.
Not even diplomatic intervention could affect the result, although that weapon
was wielded to its greatest extent; Ramon Tey de Torrents and Don Miguel Maluquer were convicted and sentenced to jail terms.
The ambitious police were only partly satisfied. As Staff Sergeant Salt said in an official communication to his superiors in summing up the situation and the results obtained, he—and with him, Brown—had set out to obtain the removal of the Spanish consul, the conviction of Tey de Torrents, and. if such existed, to show the implication of any Customs officers who might be part of the scheme, to show the weakness of the present Customs system of examination and inspection and thereby obtain a reorganization. As he pointed out, Canada’s revenues had been robbed of $5,700 in one small shipment. If Mr. Robino had agreed to Martorell’s wishes, there would have been 2,000 cases shipped and the loss would have been forty times greater.
The Customs Department was convinced. That anyone, not to mention a person without existence such as Mr. Robino, without address, or office or telephone or business connections, could bring contraband goods into Canada with astonishing ease had been graphically demonstrated. A reorganization was urgently needed, and the first impetus had been given, although it was to take a parliamentary investigation two years to bring this to a head, an investigation at which the Spanish Consul case was resurrected and relived, and Salt and Brown again went through their parts for the benefit of the august committee.
The press gave unstinted praise to the work of Sergeant Brown, alias Mr. Robino, and Staff Sergeant Salt, alias Captain Parker, and the Government agreed that it was well deserved.
To the two detectives it had been a period of intense work, of ticklish situations, large responsibility, and even some danger. But as usual in the Force these things were hidden under badinage. “Your life of luxury is over now, Brown,” Salt told him. “You’re going to find it hard to come down to earth again and live on the pay of a poor hard-working sergeant, after nearly a year of being a swell millionaire crook from the States. That’s where I have it on you.”
“You’re all wrong, Salt,” retorted Brown, “I’ve still got the edge on you, for I’m sure of a job, anyway. That trip cost me so much and I owe the Government so much, that they can’t afford to fire me. Adios"