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With Links of Steel, Or, The Peril of the Unknown By Nicholas Carter Characters: 12365

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:04

"Now, gentlemen, only a few more questions, and I then shall be ready to go at this case in a more energetic fashion," said Nick Carter, immediately after Chick's departure. "Were any of your clerks absent from the store, Mr. Venner, at the time of this robbery?"

"As I was absent myself, I cannot say," replied Venner, rather dryly. "How about it, Garside?-you were here."

"Only one clerk, a young man named Spaulding, was out of the store."

"Was he out on business?"

"Yes, under my instructions," Venner quickly explained. "We have numerous old accounts on our books, and just before I went uptown I sent Spaulding out to try to make a few collections. I think he has returned by this time."

"It does not matter, since he was out under your instructions," said Nick, closing his notebook. "Now, Mr. Venner, who among your employees knew you thought of buying this lot of diamonds from Hafferman, or that you had called at his store to examine them?"

"Not a soul," was the prompt reply.

"Are you sure of that?"

"Absolutely. I had said nothing of the matter, even to my partner, there being nothing definite about it before I saw Se?ora Cervera this morning. I am sure that none of my clerks had any idea of my intentions."

Nick was not so sure of it, yet he did not say so. He arose and took from Venner's desk a block of plain paper, which he laid upon the table.

"Gentlemen," said he, "I want the signature of your firm, in the handwriting of each of you. Kindly let me have this."

"What's that for?" demanded Venner, abruptly.

"I wish to make a comparison with the forged order which my assistant will presently bring from Mr. Hafferman," Nick coolly explained. "I would suggest that you do not delay me."

Venner made no reply, but took a pen and signed the firm's name upon the blank paper.

"Now yours, Mr. Garside."

"Mine also, Detective Carter?" queried Garside, with a look of surprise.

"If you please."

"Surely," cried Venner, with some resentment, "you do not suspect that Mr. Garside or myself-"

"Pardon me!" Nick bluntly interrupted. "I am not in the habit of discussing my suspicions. That I should suspect either of you, however, is utterly absurd."

"I should say so!"

"Therefore do not argue with me over an absurdity. If I am to continue this investigation, gentlemen, I must do it in my own way. Either that, or I shall drop the case at once. Your signature, Mr. Garside."

Garside hastened to take the pen, and dashed off the firm's signature below that of his partner. Nick tore the page from the block, then handed the latter to Venner.

"Now, Mr. Venner," said he, "have each of your employees, from first to last, write his name with pen and ink upon this paper. Don't overlook one of them, not one, from your bookkeeper down to your office boy. If Spaulding is still out, get his signature later, and send it to me by mail. I will wait here while you are thus engaged."

Venner now vaguely perceived Nick's suspicions and design, and he could not consistently offer any remonstrance. Yet he plainly resented the idea that any of his clerks could have been guilty of co-operation with the criminals who had committed the robbery that morning, and his dark features wore a grim and sullen expression when he took the block of paper and repaired to his main office.

Nick Carter sat and waited, silently sizing up the case as he then saw it.

Just as Venner returned with the numerous signatures, Chick also put in an appearance again, bringing with him the forged order which had been left at Hafferman's store. Nick merely glanced at it, then thrust it into his pocket.

"Did you see Boyden?" he inquired of Chick.

"Yes, and spoke with him," nodded Chick.

"What about him?"

"He looks all right."

"Did you get the signatures of Hafferman and his clerks?"

"They are on this paper."

"Good enough. Let me have those of your employees, Mr. Venner. Are they all here?"

"Yes, all of them."

"Very good," said Nick, putting the several papers into his pocket. "Now, Chick, what of the man who visited Hafferman's store with the forged order?"

"He merely left the order and asked that the diamonds should be sent here at once."

"What sort of a man?"

"Dark, about fifty, with a heavy mustache and wavy hair," said Chick, glibly. "Quite a big fellow, Hafferman states."

"H'm!" ejaculated Nick, with a significant nod. "Now, Mr. Garside, describe the man to whom you delivered the diamonds."


"If that is the name he gave you."

"He is a well-built, smoothly shaven fellow, of about thirty years, with a sallow complexion, slightly pock-marked-"

"Ah, I thought so!" Nick curtly interrupted. "That's quite sufficient, Mr. Garside."

"What do you mean, Carter?" quickly demanded Venner. "Do you already recognize these criminals?"

"I recognize their work."

"And the men?"

"I've them in mind from the outset."


"Not so, Mr. Venner," Nick now declared, with emphasis. "Without a shadow of doubt, sir, you have been victimized by the notorious Kilgore diamond gang, a trio of the shrewdest and most daring scoundrels that ever stood in leather."

"You amaze me."

"Do I?" inquired Nick, smiling softly. "Well, sir, if I were to tell you the history of these rascals, you would be more than amazed-you would be astounded. No crime is too desperate, no knavery too hazardous, no villainy too despicable, for them to attempt, and too often successfully execute. They have perpetrated their crimes over two continents, and are known to the police the world over."

"That is not very complimentary to the police," said Venner, dryly. "I marvel that such distinguished scoundrels are still at large."

"A fact which stamps them no ordinary criminals," replied Nick, pointedly. "Nor are they, sir."

"What do you know of them, Detective Carter?"

"David Kilgore, the chief of the gang, is one of the shrewdest and most daring of knaves, a man of splendid education, polished manners and broad experience. He possesses nerves of steel, the cunning of a fox, and would not shrink even from murder, if his designs req

uired it. Yet he invariably covers his tracks so cleverly, or so quickly vanishes when hard pressed, that thus far he has successfully eluded the police. That's David Kilgore, sir."

"And what of his associates?" inquired Venner. "I think you spoke of a trio."

"His confederates are scamps of the same sort, and nearly his equal in craft and daring," replied Nick. "Perry Dalton is one-the smooth, pock-marked rascal whom you, Mr. Garside, had the pleasure of meeting this morning. He is nicknamed Spotty Dalton, because of his slight disfigurement."

"And the other?"

"Is a man named Matthew Stall, more commonly called Matt Stall. He is a Western man, a graduate of a California university, and is an expert electrician. Oh, I know all about them," laughed Nick, "although this is the first time I have been up against them personally. I am rather glad to discover that they are here in New York."

"Why so, Detective Carter?" Venner carelessly inquired, with a subtle gleam in the depths of his dark eyes.

"Because I have long wanted to match my talents against those of Dave Kilgore and his rascally push," declared Nick, with grim austerity. "The last I knew of them they were in Amsterdam, Holland, where some of the finest work in diamond cutting is done, as you doubtless know."

"Indeed, yes."

"They probably had to jump that country for obvious reasons, and very likely the European continent," added Nick. "They have long avoided New York, and the fact that they are now here is significant of-well, well, we shall see! That's all, gentlemen!"

"But what do you intend doing about this case?" demanded Venner, as Nick abruptly rose to go.

"All that can be done, sir," the famous detective bluntly rejoined. "I accept the case, Mr. Venner, and will do my best with it. When I have anything to report, you shall hear from me."


"There really is nothing more to be said, gentlemen, and the sooner I get to work the better," Nick gravely interposed.

"But will you advise me of any steps that you may take?" persisted Venner, briefly detaining him by the arm.

"Very probably," nodded Nick, though really he probably would do nothing of the kind. "And now good-day, gentlemen. If reporters call upon you, you may give them all of the facts, and state that Nick Carter is at work on the case. I want this Kilgore diamond gang to know at the outset that I am after them-and fully resolved to land them where they belong."

"Behind prison bars, eh?" inquired Venner, with an odd smile.

"Yes, sir! Behind prison bars!" declared Nick, forcibly. "Again, gentlemen, good-day. You will hear from me later."

Mr. Rufus Venner, with his partner at his elbow, stood in the office door and silently watched the two celebrated detectives as they strode quickly through the elegant store, from which they presently vanished into Fifth Avenue.

There was a smile of subtle cunning, combined with cruel and malicious determination, on Venner's dark face and he muttered under his breath, as the store door closed upon Nick's imposing figure:

"Hear from you later, eh? Very good. Very good, indeed, Mr. Detective Carter! Hear from you again-that is precisely what I want! Early and often, Detective Carter; early and often, if you please! It is precisely for what the little robbery of this April morning was invented!"

"But was it necessary-was it really necessary, Rufus?" whispered Garside, who alone had overheard, and whose paler face and tremulous figure betrayed fears which his swarthy senior partner would have scorned to feel. "This Carter is a most artful and discerning man. I am so afraid you have barked up the wrong tree. Was it necessary, really necessary, Rufus?"

Venner turned upon him with a half-smothered snarl of contempt.

"Bah! You'd be afraid of your own shadow, Garside, if left alone with it," he sneered, between his white, even teeth. "Necessary-of course it was necessary! Otherwise, I should not have adopted the ruse. We are about to attempt a big game-an infernally big game! When it matures, when it is finally launched, the very first concern that finds itself bitten will rush to Nick Carter for aid."

"There is no doubt of that, Rufus."

"Surely no doubt of it! He is the greatest detective in the country-and the greatest will be none too clever, nor too expensive, for those who find themselves duped by our unparalleled design."

"I should say so."

"What will be the result, Philip?-what will be the result?" added Venner, with a curious mingling of exultation and asperity. "If our victims appeal to Nick Carter for help-are we not also already in his good graces? Have we not insured his confidence in us by this little move of to-day? Will he not reveal himself and his suspicions to us, just as I have designed, and keep us posted about his every move, and so forewarned and forearmed? Of course he will-to be sure he will!"

"But he is such a crafty and daring-"

"Bah! Is he more crafty than Dave Kilgore?" demanded Venner, significantly. "Is he more daring than Spotty Dalton, or more determined than anyone of the Kilgore gang? Not by a long chalk, Philip, and I know of them of whom I speak. Ay, as much and more of them than does Detective Nick Carter."

"Perhaps you are right, Rufus," murmured Garside, nodding. "We certainly are about launching a tremendous, an utterly unparalleled, swindle. The like of it was never, never known. There should be millions in it. Yes, yes, Rufus, you are right. It was wise to preface our gigantic operations by getting well in touch with Nick Carter."

"To be sure, it was wise, Philip, or I should not have taken the trouble to do so," said Venner, with much less acrimony. "So be a man always, Philip, and never a flunky. You have played your part admirably this morning. Let it be played as well, Philip, even to the finish-even to the last ditch!"

Philip Garside's color had returned, and he smiled confidently and nodded in approval.

Plainly enough, this hushed yet emphatic intercourse between these two indicated one fact-that Detective Nick Carter was up against a far deeper game than he then imagined.

* * *

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