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ents of Luther Trant

V

THE MAN HIGHER UP


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


EDITORIAL NOTE.— This is one of a series of stories which has been appearing in this magazine for several months. These stories have struck an entirely new note in fiction. Each is complete in itself, but all deal with the application of advanced psychology to the detection of crime. The series will continue in coming numbers.

THE first real blizzard of the winter had burst upon New York from the Atlantic. For seventy-two hours—as Rentland, file clerk in the Broadway offices of the American Commodities Company, saw from the record he was making for President Welter—no ship of any of the dozen expected from foreign ports had been able to make the Company's docks in Brooklyn, or, indeed, had been reported at Sandy Hook. And for the last five days, during which the weather bureau's storm signals had stayed steadily set, no steamer of the six which had finished unloading at the docks the week before had dared to try for the open sea except one, the Elizabethan Age, which had cleared the Narrows on Monday night.

On land the storm was scarcely less disastrous to the business of the great importing company. Since Tuesday morning Rentland's reports of the car and train-load consignments which had left the warehouses daily had been a monotonous page of trains stalled. But until that Friday morning, Welter—the big, bull-necked, thick-lipped master of men and money—had borne all the accumulated trouble of the week with serenity, almost with contempt. Only when the file clerk added to his report the minor item that the 3,000-ton steamer, Elizabethan Age, which had cleared

on Monday night, had been driven into Boston, something suddenly seemed to "break" in the inner office. Rentland heard the president's secretary telephone to Brooklyn for Rowan, the dock superintendent; he heard Welter's heavy steps going to and fro in the private office, his hoarse voice raised angrily; and soon afterwards Rowan blustered in. Rentland could no longer overhear the voices. He went back to his own private office and called the station master at the Grand Central Station on the telephone.

"The seven o'clock train from Chicago?" the clerk asked in a guarded voice. "It came in at 10.30, as expected? Oh, at 10.10! Thank you." He hung up the receiver and opened the door to pass a word with Rowan as he came out of the president's office.

"They've wired that the Elizabethan Age couldn't get beyond Boston, Rowan," he cried curiously.

"The ——— ——— ——— hooker!" The dock superintendent

had gone strangely white; for the imperceptible fraction of an instant his eyes dimmed with fear, as he stared into the wondering face of the clerk, but he recovered himself quickly, spat offensively, and slammed the door as he went out. Rentland stood with clenching hands for a moment; then he glanced at the clock and hurried to the entrance of the outer office. The elevator was just bringing up from the street a red-haired, blue-gray-eyed young man of medium height, who, noting with a quick, intelligent glance the arrangement of the offices, advanced directly toward President Welter's door. The chief clerk stepped forward quickly.

"You are Mr. Trant?"

"Yes."

"I am Rentland. This way, please." He led the psychologist to the little room behind the files, where he had telephoned the moment before.

"Your wire to me in Chicago, which brought me here," said Trant, turning from the inscription "File Clerk" on the door to the dogged, decisive features and wiry form of his client, "gave me to understand that you wished to have me investigate the disappearance, or death, of two of your dock scale-checkers. I suppose you were acting for President Welter—of whom I have heard—in sending for me?"

"No," said Rentland, as he waved Trant to a seat. "President Welter is certainly not troubling himself to that extent over an investigation."

"Then the company, or some other officer?" Trant questioned, with increasing curiosity.

"No; nor the company, nor any other officer in it, Mr. Trant." Rentland smiled. "Nor even am I, as file clerk of the American Commodities Company, overtroubling myself about those checkers," he leaned nearer to Trant, confidentially, "but as a special agent for the United States Treasury Department I am extremely interested in the death of one of these men, and in the disappearance of the other. And for that I called you to help me."

"As a secret agent for the Government?" Trant repeated, with rapidly rising interest.

"Yes; a spy, if you wish to call me, but as truly in the ranks of the enemies to my country as any Nathan Hale, who has a statue in this city. To-day the enemies are the big, corrupting, thieving corporations like this company; and appreciating that, I am not ashamed to be a spy in their ranks, commissioned by the Government to catch and condemn President Welter, and any other officers involved with him, for systematically stealing from the Government for the past ten years, and for probable connivance in the murder of at least one of those two checkers so that the company might continue to steal."

"To steal? How?"

"Customs frauds, thefts, smuggling—anything you wish to call it. Exactly what or how, I can't tell; for that is part of what I sent for you to find out. For a number of years the Customs Department has suspected, upon circumstantial evidence, that the enormous profits of this company upon the thousand and one things which it is importing and distributing must come in part from goods they have got through without paying the proper duty. So at my own suggestion I entered the employ of the company a year ago to get track of the method. But after a year here I was almost ready to give up the investigation in despair, when Ed Landers, the company's checker on the docks in scale house No. 3, was killed—accidentally, the coroner's jury said. To me it looked suspiciously like murder. Within two weeks Morse, who was appointed as checker in his place, suddenly disappeared. The company's officials showed no concern as to the fate of these two men; and my suspicions that something crooked might be going on at scale house No. 3 were strengthened; and I sent for you to help me to get at the bottom of things."

"Is it not best then to begin by giving me as fully as possible the details of the employment of Morse and Landers, and also of their disappearance?" the young psychologist suggested.

"I have told you these things here, Trant, rather than take you to some safer place," the secret agent replied, "because I have been waiting for some one who can tell you what you need to know better than I can. Edith Rowan, the stepdaughter of the dock superintendent, knew Landers well, for he boarded at Rowan's house. She was—or is, if he still lives—engaged to Morse. It is an unusual thing for Rowan himself to come here to see President Welter, as he did just before you came; but every morning since Morse disappeared his daughter has come to see Welter personally. She is already waiting in the outer office." Opening the door, he indicated to Trant a light-haired, overdressed, nervous girl twisting about uneasily on the seat outside the president's private office.

"Welter thinks it policy, for some reason, to see her a moment every morning. But she always comes out almost at once—crying."

"This is interesting," Trant commented, as he watched the girl go into the president's office. After only a moment she came out, crying. Rentland had already left his room, so it seemed by chance that he and Trant met and supported her to the elevator, and over the slippery pavement to the neat electric coupe which was standing at the curb.

"It's hers," said Rentland, as Trant hesitated before helping the girl into it. "It's one of the things I wanted you to see. Broadway is very slippery, Miss Rowan. You will let me see you home again this mornin...

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