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   Chapter 2 THE BLACK BOOK

The Ear in the Wall By Arthur B. Reeve Characters: 16435

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


I had scarcely finished pouring out my suspicions to Kennedy when the telephone rang.

It was Carton on the wire, in a state of unsuppressed excitement. Kennedy answered the call himself, but the conversation was brief and, to me, unenlightening, until he hung up the receiver.

"Dorgan-the Boss," he exclaimed, "has just found a detectaphone in his private dining-room at Gastron's."

At once I saw the importance of the news and for the moment it obscured even the case of Betty Blackwell.

Dorgan was the political boss of the city at that time, apparently entrenched, with an organization that seemed impregnable. I knew him as a big, bullnecked fellow, taciturn to the point of surliness, owing his influence to his ability to "deliver the goods" in the shape of graft of all sorts, the archenemy of Carton, a type of politician who now is rapidly passing.

"Carton wants to see us immediately at his office," added Craig, jamming his hat on his head. "Come on."

Without waiting for further comment or answer from me, Kennedy, caught by the infectious excitement of Carton's message, dashed from our apartment and a few minutes later we were whirling downtown on the subway.

"You know, I suppose," he whispered rather hoarsely above the rumble and roar of the train, but so as not to be overheard, "that Dorgan always has kept a suite of rooms at Gastron's, on Fifth Avenue, for dinners and conferences."

I nodded. Some of the things that must have gone on in the secret suite in the fashionable restaurant I knew would make interesting reading, if the walls had ears.

"Apparently he must have found out about the eavesdropping in time and nipped it," pursued Kennedy.

"What do you mean?" I asked, for I had not been able to gather much from the one-sided conversation over the telephone, and the lightning change from the case of Betty Blackwell to this had left me somewhat bewildered. "What has he done?"

"Smashed the transmitter of the machine," replied Kennedy tersely. "Cut the wires."

"Where did it lead?" I asked. "How do you know?"

Kennedy shook his head. Either he did not know, yet, or he felt that the subway was no place in which to continue the conversation beyond the mere skeleton that he had given me.

We finished the ride in comparative silence and hurried into Carton's office down in the Criminal Courts Building.

Carton greeted us cordially, with an air of intense relief, as if he were glad to have been able to turn to Kennedy in the growing perplexities that beset him.

What surprised me most, however, was that, seated beside his desk, in an easy chair, was a striking looking woman, not exactly young, but of an age that is perhaps more interesting than youth, certainly more sophisticated. She, too, I noticed, had a tense, excited expression on her face. As Kennedy and I entered she had looked us over searchingly.

"Let me present Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Jameson, Mrs. Ogleby," said Carton quickly. "Both of them know as much about how experts use those little mechanical eavesdroppers as anyone-except the inventor."

We bowed and waited for an explanation.

"You understand," continued Carton slowly to us in a tone that enjoined secrecy, "Mrs. Ogleby, who is a friend of Mr. Murtha, Dorgan's right-hand man, naturally is alarmed and doesn't want her name to appear in this thing."

"Oh-it is terrible-terrible," Mrs. Ogleby chimed in in great agitation. "I don't care about anything else. But, my reputation-it will be ruined if they connect my name with the case. As soon as I heard of it-I thought of you, Mr. Carton. I came here immediately. There must be some way in which you can protect me-some way that you can get along without using-"

"But, my dear Mrs. Ogleby," interrupted the District Attorney, "I have told you half a dozen times, I think, that I didn't put the detectaphone in-"

"Yes, but you will get the record," she persisted excitedly. "Can't you do something?" she pleaded.

I fancied that she said it with the air of one who almost had some right in the matter.

"Mrs. Ogleby," reiterated Carton earnestly, "I will do all I can-on my word of honour-to protect your name, but-"

He paused and looked at us helplessly.

"What was it that was overheard?" asked Craig point-blank, watching

Mrs. Ogleby's face carefully.

"Why," she replied nervously, "there was a big dinner last night which Mr. Dorgan gave at Gastron's. Mr. Murtha took me and-oh-there were lots of others-" She stopped suddenly.

"Yes," prompted Kennedy. "Who else was there?"

She was on her guard, however. Evidently she had come to Carton for one purpose and that was solely to protect herself against the scandal which she thought might attach to having been present at one of the rather notorious little affairs of the Boss.

"Really," she answered, colouring slightly, "I can't tell you. I mustn't say a word about who was there-or anything about it. Good heavens-it is bad enough as it is-to think that my name may be dragged into politics and all sorts of false stories set in motion about me. You must protect me, Mr. Carton, you must."

"How did you find out about the detectaphone being there?" asked

Kennedy.

"Why," she replied evasively, "I thought it was just an ordinary little social dinner. That's what Mr. Murtha told me it was. I didn't think anyone outside was interested in it or in who was there or what went on. But, this morning, a-a friend-called me up and told me-something that made me think others besides those invited knew of it, knew too much."

She paused, then resumed hastily to forestall questioning, "I began to think it over myself, and the more I thought of it, the stranger it seemed that anyone else, outside, should know. I began to wonder how it leaked out, for I understood that it was a strictly private affair. I asked Mr. Murtha and he told Mr. Dorgan. Mr. Dorgan at once guessed that there had been something queer. He looked about his rooms there, and, sure enough, they found the detectaphone concealed in the wall. I can't tell any more," she added, facing Carton and using her bewitching eyes to their best advantage. "I can't ask you to shield Mr. Dorgan and Mr. Murtha. They are your opponents. But I have done nothing to you, Mr. Carton. You must suppress-that part of it-about me. Why, it would ruin--"

She cut her words short. But I knew what she meant, and to a certain extent I could understand, if not sympathize with her. Her husband, Martin Ogleby, club-man and man about town, had a reputation none too savoury. But, man-like, I knew, he would condone not even the appearance of anything that caused gossip in his wife's actions. I could understand how desperate she felt.

"But, my dear lady," repeated Carton, in a manner that showed that he felt keenly, for some reason or other, the appeal she was making to him, "must I say again that I had nothing whatever to do with it? I have sent for Mr. Kennedy and--"

"Nothing-on your honour?" she asked, facing him squarely.

"Nothing-on my honour," he asserted frankly.

She appeared to be dazed. Apparently all along she had assumed that Carton must be the person to see, that he alone could do anything for her, would do something.

Her face paled as she met his earnest look. She had risen and now, half chagrined, half frightened, she stood irresolute. Her lips quivered and tears stood in her eyes as she realized that, instead of protecting herself by her confidence, she had, perhaps, made matters worse by telling an outsider.

Carton, too, had risen and in a low voice which we could not overhear was trying to reassure her.

In her confusion she was moving toward the door, utterly oblivious, now, to us. Carton tactfully took her arm and led her to a private entrance that opened from his office down the corridor and out of sight of the watchful eyes of the reporters and attendants in the outer hall.

I did not understand just what it was all about, but I could see

Kennedy's eye following Carton keenly.

"What was that-a plant?" he asked, still trying to read Carton's face, as he returned to us alone a moment later. "Did she come to see whether you got the reco

rd?"

"No-I don't think so," replied Carton quickly. "No, I think that was all on the level-her part of it."

"But who did put in the instrument, really-did you?" asked Kennedy, still quizzing.

"No," exclaimed Carton hastily, this time meeting Craig's eye frankly. "No. I wish I had. Why-the fact is, I don't know who did-no one seems to know, yet, evidently. But," he added, leaning forward and speaking rapidly, "I think I could give a shrewd guess."

Kennedy said nothing, but nodded encouragingly.

"I think," continued Carton impressively, "that it must have been

Langhorne and the Wall Street crowd he represents."

"Langhorne," repeated Kennedy, his mind working rapidly. "Why, it was his stenographer that Miss Blackwell was. Why do you suspect Langhorne?"

"Because," exclaimed Carton, more excited than ever at Kennedy's quick deduction, bringing his fist down on the desk to emphasize his own suspicion, "because they aren't getting their share of the graft that Dorgan is passing out-probably are sore, and think that if they can get something on the Boss or some of those who are close to him, they may force him to take them into partnership in the deals."

Carton looked from Kennedy to me, to see what impression his theory made. On me at least it did make an impression. Hartley Langhorne, I knew, was a Wall Street broker and speculator who dealt in real estate, securities, in fact in anything that would appeal to a plunger as promising a quick and easy return.

Kennedy made no direct comment on the theory. "In what shape is the record, do you suppose?" he asked merely.

"I gathered from Mrs. Ogleby," returned Carton watchfully, "that it had been taken down by a stenographer at the receiving end of the detectaphone, transcribed in typewriting, and loosely bound in a book of limp black leather. Oh," he concluded, "Dorgan would give almost anything to find out what is in that little record, you may be sure. Perhaps even, rather than have such a thing out, he would come to terms with Langhorne."

Kennedy said nothing. He was merely absorbing the case as Carton presented it.

"Don't you see?" continued the District Attorney, pacing his office and gazing now and then out of the window, "here's this record hidden away somewhere in the city. If I could only get it-I'd win my fight against Dorgan-and Mrs. Ogleby need not suffer for her mistake in coming to me, at all."

He was apparently thinking aloud. Kennedy did not attempt to quiz him. He was considering the importance of the situation. For, as I have said, it was at the height of the political campaign in which Carton had been renominated independently by the Reform League-of which, more later.

"You don't think that Langhorne is really in the inner ring, then?" questioned Craig.

"No, not yet."

"Well, then," I put in hastily, "can't you approach him or someone close to him, and get--"

"Say," interrupted Carton, "anything that took place in that private dining-room at Gastron's would be just as likely to incriminate Langhorne and some of his crowd as not. It is a difference in degree of graft-that is all. They don't want an open fight. It was just a piece of finesse on Langhorne's part. You may be sure of that. No, neither of them wants a fight. That's the last thing. They're both afraid. What Langhorne wanted was a line on Dorgan. And we should never have known anything about this Black Book, if some of the women, I suppose, hadn't talked too much. Mrs. Ogleby added two and two and got five. She thought it must be I who put the instrument in."

Carton was growing more and more excited again, "It's exasperating," he continued. "There's the record-somewhere-if I could only get it. Think of it, Kennedy-an election going on and never so much talk about graft and vice before!"

"What was in the book-mostly, do you imagine?" asked Craig, still imperturbable.

Carton shrugged his shoulders. "Oh, almost anything. For instance, you know, Dorgan has just put through a new scheme of city planning-with the able assistance of some theoretical reformers. That will be a big piece of real estate graft, unless I am mistaken. Langhorne and his crowd know it. They don't want to be frozen out."

As they talked, I had been revolving the thing over in my head. Dorgan's little parties, as reported privately among the men on the Star whom I knew, were notorious. The more I considered, the more possible phases of the problem I thought of. It was not even impossible that in some way it might bear on the Betty Blackwell case.

"Do you think Dorgan and Murtha are hunting the book as anxiously as-some others?" I ventured.

"You have heard of the character of some of those dinners?" answered Carton by asking another question, then went on: "Why, Dorgan has had some of our leading lawyers, financiers, and legislators there. He usually surrounds them with brilliant, clever women, as unscrupulous as himself, and-well-you can imagine the result. Poor little Mrs. Ogleby," he added sympathetically. "They could twist her any way they chose for their purposes."

My own impression had been that Mrs. Ogleby was better able to take care of herself than his words gave her credit for, but I said nothing.

Carton paused before the window and gazed out at the Bridge of Sighs that led from his building across to the city prison.

"What a record that Black Book must hold!" he exclaimed meditatively. "Why, if it was only that I could 'get' Murtha-I'd be happy," he added, turning to us.

Murtha, as I have said, was Boss Dorgan's right bower, a clever and unscrupulous politician and leader in a district where he succeeded somehow or other in absolutely crushing opposition. I had run across him now and then in the course of my newspaper career and, aside from his well-known character in delivering the "goods" to the organization whenever it was necessary, I had found him a most interesting character.

It was due to such men as Murtha that the organization kept its grip, though one wave of reform after another lashed its fury on it. For Murtha understood his people. He worked at politics every hour-whether it was patting the babies of the district on the head, or bailing their fathers out of jail, handing out shoes to the shiftless or judiciously distributing coal and ice to the deserving.

Yet I had seen enough to know the inherent viciousness of the circle-of how the organization took dollars from the people with one concealed hand and distributed pennies from the other hand, held aloft and in the spotlight. Again and again, Kennedy and I in our excursions into scientific warfare on crime in the underworld had run squarely up against the refined as well as the debased creatures of the "System." Pyramided on what looked like open-handed charity and good-fellowship we had seen vice and crime of all degrees.

And yet, somehow or other, I must confess to a sort of admiration for Murtha and his stamp-if for nothing else than because of the frankness with which he did what he sought to do. Neither Kennedy nor I could be accused of undue sympathy with the System, yet, like many who had been brought in close contact with it, it had earned our respect in many ways.

And so, I contemplated the situation with more than ordinary interest. Carton wanted the Black Book to use in order to win his political fight for a clean city and to prosecute the grafters. Dorgan wanted it in order to suppress and thus protect himself and Murtha. Mrs. Ogleby wanted it to save her good name and prevent even the appearance of scandal. Langhorne wanted it in order to coerce Dorgan to share in the graft, yet was afraid of Carton also.

Was ever a situation of such peculiar, mixed motives?

"I would move heaven and earth for that Black Book!" exclaimed Carton finally, turning from the window and facing us.

Kennedy, too, had risen.

"You can count on me, then, Carton," he said simply, as the recollection of the many fights in which we had stood shoulder to shoulder with the young District Attorney came over him.

A moment later Carton had us each by the hand.

"Thank you," he cried. "I knew you fellows would be with me."

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