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II

THE FAST WATCH


Originally published Hampton's Magazine, June 1909. Also appeared in Scientific Detective Monthly, January 1930.


Police Captain Crowley—red-headed, alert, brave—stamped into the North Side police station an hour later than usual and in a very bad temper. He glared defiantly at the row of patrolmen, reporters, and busybodies, elbowed aside his desk sergeant without a word, and slammed into his private office. The customary pile of morning papers, flaying him in stinging front-page columns, covered his desk. He glanced them over, grunting; then swept them to the floor and let himself drop heavily into his chair.

"He's got to be guilty!" The big fist struck the table top desperately. "It's got to be," the hoarse voice iterated determinedly—"him!" He had checked the last word as the door swung open, only to utter it more forcibly as he recognized the desk sergeant.

"Kanlan, eh, Ed?" the desk sergeant ventured. "You have him at Harrison Street station again the boys tell me."

"Yes, we have him."

"You got nothing out of him yet?"

"No, nothing—yet!"

"But you think it's him?"

"Who said anything about thinking?" Crowley glanced to see that the door was shut "I said it's got to be him! And—it's got to, whether or no, ain't it?"

A month before, Randolph Bronson—the city prosecuting attorney for whose unpunished murder Crowley was under fire—had dared to try to break up and send to the penitentiary the sixteen men who formed the most notorious and dangerous gambling "ring" in the city. It grew certain that some of the sixteen would stick at nothing to put the prosecutor out of the way. The chief of police particularly charged Crowley, therefore, to see to Bronson's safety in the North Side precinct, where the young attorney boarded. But Crowley had failed; for within twelve days of the warning, early one morning, Bronson had been found dead a block from his boarding house—murdered. Crowley had been unable to fix a clew upon a single one of the sixteen. He had confidently arrested them all at once, but after his stiffest "third degree" had to release them. Now, in desperation, he had rearrested Kanlan.

"Sure," said the desk sergeant, "Kanlan or some one's got to be guilty soon—whether or no. But if you ain't got the goods on Kanlan yet, maybe you'd want to talk to a lad that's waiting in front."

"Who is he? What does he know?"

"Trant's his name—from the university, he says. And he says he can pick our man."

"Who is he? What does he know?"

"Trant's his name—from the university, he says. And he says he can pick our man."

"What is he—student?"

"He says some sort of perfesser."

"Professor!" Crowley half turned away.

"Not that kind, Ed." The desk sergeant bent one arm and tapped his biceps. "He's got plenty of this; and he's got hair, too "— the sergeant glanced at Crowley's red head —" as red as any, Cap."

"Send him in."

Crowley looked up quickly at Trant when he entered. He saw a young man with hair indeed as thick and red as his own; and with a figure, for his more medium height, quite as muscular as any police officer's. He saw that the young man's blue-gray eyes were not exact mates—that the right was quite noticeably more blue than the other, and under it was a small, pink scar which reddened conspicuously with the slightest flush of the face.

"Luther Trant, Captain Crowley," Trant introduced himself. "For two years I have been conducting experiments in the psychological laboratory of the university —"

"Psycho—Lord! Another clairvoyant!"

"If the man who killed Bronson is one of the sixteen men you suspect, and you will let me examine them, properly, I can pick the murderer at once."

"Examine them properly! Saints in Heaven, son! Say! that gang needed a stiff drink all round when we were through examining them; and never a word or a move gave a man away!"

"Those men—of course not!" Trant returned hotly. "For they can hold their tongues and their faces, and you looked at nothing else! But while you were examining them, if I, or any other trained psychologist, had had a galvanometer contact against the palms of their hands, or—"

"A palmist" Lord preserve us!" Crowley cried. "Say! don't ever think we needed you. We got our man yesterday—Kanlan—and we'll have a confession out of him by night. Sergeant!" he called, as the door opened to admit a man, "do you know what you let in—a palmist!" But it was not the sergeant who entered. "A-ah! Inspector Walker!"

"Morning, Crowley," Trant heard the quiet response behind him as he turned. A giant in the uniform of an inspector of police almost filled the doorway.

"Come with me, young man," he said. "Miss Allison was passing with me outside here and we heard some of what you've been saying. We'd like to hear more."

Trant looked up at the intelligent face and followed. A young woman was waiting outside the door. As the inspector pointed Trant toward a quiet room in the rear of the building, she followed. Inspector Walker fastened the door behind them. The girl had seated herself beside the table in the center, and as she turned to Trant she raised her veil above her brown, curling hair, and pinned it over her hat. He recognized her at once as the girl to whom Bronson had become engaged barely a week before he had been killed. On her had fallen all the horrors as well as the grief of Bronson's murder, and Trant did not wonder that the shadow of that event was visible in her sweet face. But he read there also another look—a look of apprehension and defiance.

"I was coming in with Inspector Walker to see Captain Crowley," the girl explained to Trant, "when I overheard you telling him that you think this—Kanlan—couldn't have killed Mr. Bronson. I hope this is so."

Trant looked to Walker. "Miss Allison's father was Judge Allison, the truest man who ever sat on the bench in this city," Walker responded. "His daughter knows she must not try to prevent us from punishing a man who murders; but neither of us wants to believe Kanlan is the man—for good reasons. Now, what was that you were telling Crowley?"

"I was trying to tell Captain Crowley of a simple test which must prove Kanlan's guilt or innocence at once, and, if necessary, then find the guilty man. I have been conducting experiments to register and measure the effects and reactions of emotions. A person under the influence of fear or the stress of guilt must always betray signs. A hardened man can control all the signs for which the police ordinarily look; he can control his features, prevent his face flushing noticeably. But no man, however hardened or trained to control himself, can prevent many minute changes which by scientific means are measurable and betray him hopelessly. No man, however on his guard—to take the simplest test—can control the sweat glands in the palms of his hands, which always moisten under emotion."

"A scared man sweats; that's so," Walker assented.

"So psychologists have devised a simple way of registering the emotions shown through the glands in the palms of the hand," Trant continued, "by means of the galvanometer. I have one in the box I left with the desk sergeant. It is merely a device for measuring the varying strength of an ordinary electric current. The man tested holds in each hand a contact metal wired to the battery. When he grasps them a weak and imperceptible current passes through his body or—if his hands a...

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