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A Matter of Mind Reading


By Edwin Balmer and William MacHarg

Illustrations by William Oberhardt

Originally published Hampton's Magazine, October 1910. Also appeared in Amazing Detective Tales, June 1930.

THE tension in the big, well-lighted, estimating room of the Tyson-Leach Construction Company should have relaxed now that the estimators had laid their final, closely figured pages on the desk of their chief. But no man among them left his high stool or lifted his eyes from his scarred and ink-stained desk. For the wholly unexpected appearance at the Tyson-Leach offices that morning of old Jim Tyson had told them that suspicion had centered at last upon one man as the means through which the great contracting firm had been, for several months, consistently and inexplicably underbid and deprived of work. And they were loyally unwilling to appear to spy upon that man—the company's new president.

Nelson, the gray and nervous chief estimator, who seemed to have aged five years in the last few months, took from his desk these last pages he had been carefully checking, passed through the open door into the president's inner office, and laid his sheets before that officer, Fred Leach.

Leach, a vigorous and determined youngish man, arranged these sheets and rapidly but carefully went over them again, changing figures here and there, and added the footings of these pages to a column of independent totals he had noted upon another page. He totaled these sums; then on a separate and fresh sheet he added further independent items and retotaled it all.

Satisfied, Leach took from a pigeonhole the printed form of proposal, which already bore Tyson's signature, and filled in the blank left for the sum of the bid and blotted it. The young president assured himself that the certified check, already prepared as guaranty with the bid, exceeded the five per cent of its total required by law. He then added his signature to his partner's upon the proposal; folded check and proposal, put them in an envelope and sealed it. He gathered up the sheets of the estimate, put them in a drawer of his desk and locked it with a private key. Taking up the sheet upon which he had added his totals, he put it carefully into his pocket. There remained on the desk now only the sealed envelope and the blotter he had used. This blotter he turned quickly over, and saw that it retained dimly the impression of the bid he had just written—$253,800; so he tore from its surface the thin strip that bore these figures and chewed it to a wad.

No member of the office force had approached the president's desk during these operations; no one had passed behind him. It was plain both to Leach himself and to the old former president that even if a careful record had been kept of the subtotals of the sheets brought from the estimating room, it would be impossible for anyone— except by chance—to tell within several thousand dollars the revised and altered figure President Leach had just written, or to learn it accurately except from the company's president himself or from the sealed envelope before him. So, as the retired partner watched him solicitously, Fred Leach sank back in his swivel chair, his square, combative features already deeply lined by his three months' succession of constant, baffling defeats.

His pale, gray eyes traveled intently and with odd jerkiness to the picture of the huge concrete dam of the Barbaluca Water Power Company, one of the biggest jobs ever carried out by Tyson-Leach; shifted to the comer of the ceiling over his partner's desk; fell to the top of the door frame into the estimating room; and rested for a final, contemplative moment on the electric light globe in the center of the wall opposite. Then he glanced at the clock, which now marked the half hour after eleven, and hastily put the sealed envelope into his pocket.

As though the act had been a signal, a wave of relief spread over the estimating room. Even Nelson, who had been staring intently through the open door at his superior, slipped on his overcoat to go out. But in the inner office the tension was greater than before. Old Tyson, his face drawn with the pain of his rheumatism, put his hand upon his young partner's arm.

"You are going to take that to the City Hall yourself, Fred?" he asked.

"Yes; they open the bids at noon. "

"That's hardly a half hour now. And you won't see her," the older man asked, half solicitously, half warningly, "till afterwards?"

The younger man, seeing the expression of concern upon his partner's face, pressed his lips tightly.

"Not this time, since you ask it, Jim," he replied, shortly; and as Tyson sank back into his chair, Leach buttoned his proposal under his coat, caught up his hat, and went swiftly out with his head erect.

Forty minutes later he reëntered the office with head still erect, but his face pale and his eyes haggard—baffled, outdone again, beaten in the same inscrutable, inexplicable way.

"So Rintzelman's done it again!" Tyson challenged bitterly. "By less than five hundred dollars as usual, Nelson tells me?"

"Yes," the other replied, unflinching. "Of ten bidders we were lower than anyone else; the three low ones were Acme Construction Company, bid $268,400; we bid $253,800, but Rintzelman bid $253,320.

The older man stared into his eyes silently for a moment, his features moved by a strange, half formed, almost superstitious fear.

"You understand, I assured myself that no one but you knew that figure, Fred. But Rintzelman must have got it. His bid shows that! And he could only have got it through you—and her! For, in spite of what I asked you, Nelson tells me you saw Mrs. Leyman on your way to the City Hall!"

"Yes; she was waiting for the elevator in the hall below when I went down. I stopped to say good moming; nothing more!" He leaped to his feet. "You didn't want me to cut her, did you? We didn't even mention this viaduct contract!"

"Then it's plain, isn't it, that she didn't even have to mention it to get our figure out of you?" The old man's awe had strengthened with his growing agitation. "Fred, can this go on?"

"You mean——? All right!" Leach, in answer, bent to his desk telephone. "Call Luther Trant for me!" he commanded the telephone girl sharply. Then: "Is this Mr. Trant, the psychologist? ... This is Leach—Fred Leach, of Tyson-Leach Construction Company. Mr. Tyson and I wish to consult you. Will you take lunch with us in fifteen minutes from now? ... All right; meet me at twelve thirty at Rector's entrance."

Ten minutes later the two had joined, among the palms of the restaurant entrance, the psychologist whose new but widespread reputation for solving mysteries through his knowledge of the ways of mind had led them to consult him. And they glanced at each other almost in surprise to find him, at their first scrutiny, only an energetic, red-haired man, younger and not more impressive than Leach himself.

"Mrs. Leyman is lunching with Rintzelman at that table over there as I thought she might be, Jim," Leach explained to his partner abruptly. "Hadn't we better sit here where Mr. Trant can see them? You see them, Mr. Trant?"

"The self-satisfied German with the engrossing woman?" The psychologist followed Leach's gesture to the alcove, flushed by the light of a red-shaded lamp, where a large, red-faced, big-necked German was contentedly—almost triumphantly—lunching with a very attractive woman who instantly impressed one by her strength of character and poise.

"Yes; those two, Mr. Trant," Tyson answered as the three seated themselves and Leach gave the order. The old man stared across the table at his young adviser intently. "Do you believe there can be such a thing as direct mind reading?" he asked, abruptly.

The psychologist noted with surprise the sudden air of suspense with which his other client now watched him.

"Do you think a very clever woman—a woman such as that one—could read your mind?" Tyson continued.

"All this is connected, I presume, with the business upon which you wished my advice?" Trant retorted.

"That is for you to judge, Mr. Trant!" the younger partner answered quickly. "I will give you the facts. First: I suppose you have heard something of our company, the Tyson-Leach Construction Company, formerly Tyson Brothers? We've been a medium big construction company for some time. We'll build you anything from a flat building to a twenty-story business block, or a harbor. All our business is strictly competitive; we never get a job without bidding on it; and to get it, our bid has to be the low figure. You understand?"

"Perfectly," said the psychologist.

"Rintzelman, whom you see over there, is the Rintzelman of Harder & Rintzelman, a contracting concern along the same lines, bidding on the same jobs; and since Rintzelman left Tyson Brothers to go with Harder three years ago, he has been our closest and bitterest competitor."

"Rintzelman was formerly with Tyson Brothers, then?"

"Rintzelman and I went to work for Tyson Brothers in the same month of the same year, eleven years ago—Rintzelman as a superintendent of construction under David Tyson, and I in the estimating room under Nelson, who was then, as now, our chief estimator. We were eight years working our way up together—or rather, against each other—in Tyson Brothers; and when David Tyson died three years ago, we both knew that, except for Nelson, there was no one in the running for the vacant place in the firm but Rintzelman and I. To make it short, I got into the firm; Rintzelman got out and went at once with Harder. After trying to break up our force by taking some of our best men with him, he settled down to fight us for every job which he found we were after particularly."

"But only, at first, the same way that every other concern in the contracting business fought us, Mr. Trant!" old Tyson broke in impatiently. "That ran back and forth fairly even between us and there was nothing in it to send for you about, till three months ago when Leach here met Mrs. Leyman, and this sort of business"—he pulled a red notebook from his pocket and tapped it—"began:

"Listen, Mr. Trant!" he continued. "I just told you that up to about the first of the year—Fred didn't meet Mrs. Leyman until Christmas night—our bids on the jobs we were after ran fairly even between us. I do not mean by that, of course, that Rintzelman's figures, or the figures of any other contractor, would often—or ever—run very close on any large job. Independent bids don't run close together. On the Fulton Block bids opened on December 5th, for instance, Rintzelman, who got the job with a bid of $306,400, was over ten thousand dollars below us; and on the C. & O. freighthouse bids, the week before Christmas, his bid was just six thousand dollars higher than our bid of an even $100,000, which landed the job.

"But now after Christmas night, Mr. Trant!" Tyson turned the next page in his notebook vengefully, "follow this! On January 3d we, Tyson-Leach, bid $137,250 on the new West End Hospital, and beat everyone else but Rintzelman, who bid just $137,000 even, and took the job. The next big contract up was the Havelkamp Warehouse, for which bids were opened January 8th; to get it, we bill $154,250; Rintzelman bid $153,990, again less than three hundred dollars under us; but the job went to Stinton & Edwards at $150,000. On January 14th, then, the awarding of the contracts for the new South Park Pavilions came along. I sent word to Fred to figure to get that job. And he did it; he put in a bid for $468,625, and beat everyone else by eight thousand—but Rintzelman, who hid just the $625 below us, and took the job!

"Now, compare those last figures, Mr. Trant!" the old man held the little book before the psychologist, "with the figures before the holidays. It's just as though Rintzelman had thrown off the hundreds from our figures to make those last three bids of his, isn't it? And when you see that the next week—January 20th—Fred bid $405,000 on the Great Northern Elevators, and again Rintzelman cut in barely five hundred dollars below us, can there be any doubt that Rintzelman had our figures? As long as the leak might have been through other men, Fred was the freest to charge the others. It's only since he, and he only, has had our figure and the leak could only be from him, that he's tried to deny the leak!"

"Just a moment, Mr. Tyson! You are quite certain," the psychologist asked, "that no one could gather information in your estimating room to arrive independently at the same final total?"

"I made doubly sure of that this morning." Tyson gave rapidly an account of the bid lost an hour before. "It is certain that no one in the estimating room has been keeping any record of the subtotals on the separate items of our bids; for though several of our estimators have the habit, which is very common among men engaged in that sort of work, of scratching down on any piece of paper that is at hand the figures they are considering in order to get the amount more plainly before them, these papers are at once destroyed; and even if kept, they would not enable anyone to approximate the bids so nearly as to underbid us by only a few hundred dollars. But for two months and a half now, except for three jobs in the first two weeks of February and a few others on which Rintzelman did not bid, Rintzelman has never failed to cut his figures just a few hundreds under ours."

He pushed the red notebook across the table to Trant.

"He certainly seems to have been having your figures, Mr. Tyson!" The psychologist had hesitated over and examined, apparently with the greatest astonishment and interest. the figures on the jobs in February upon which Rintzelman either had not bid or had failed to outbid Tyson-Leach.

"Of Course he's been getting our figures, and he's getting them yet!" Tyson exclaimed. "In another month he'll ruin Tyson-Leach, unless you can make Fred see it, Mr. Trant, and break the spell of that widow friend of Rintzelman's over him!"

"Mrs. Leyman, you mean, through whom Rintzelman, you think—if I understood rightly the questions you asked me at first regarding mind reading—must get the information from Mr. Leach?"

"Fred met her, I told you, Christmas night," Tyson answered, "through a friend of Rintzelman's—as Fred told me himself. He's admitted to me, also, that practically her first words to him showed an interest in our business. Since meeting her, there has been hardly a day he hasn't had some sort of an engagement with her. On the evening after he had figured our bids on five of those last ten big jobs, I personally recall she got him to go to dinner, to the theater, or somewhere with her. After he had made up our figure on the last two jobs I have listed there, she both times 'happened' to meet him, just as she 'happened' again this moming to meet him after he had made up our bid on the job we lost to-day. But the strongest proof, Mr. Trant, is that during the first two weeks of February, which was the only time in these three months that Rintzelman plainly had no idea at all of our figures, as you can see from these jobs," he leaned forward and underlined three items in the red notebook, "Mrs. Leyman, as Nelson-not Fred—first told me, was out of the city!"

"This is extremely interesting!" Trant considered again, intently, the following bids which Tyson had underlined:

  Our Bid Rintz.
Feb. 2-Cong. Church.... $248,300 $283,800
Feb. 7-Merchant's Bldg... 144,200 187,700
Feb. 15-Woodlawn Apts... 340,000 379,500

"Remarkably interesting!" Trant repeated. "You do not mind writing down one of these figures for me—say, the first, Mr. Leach? Thank you. And now," the psychologist put in his pocket the card on which Leach, with a look of astonishment, had written in small but clear figures the amount of the first bid, "against these charges of Mr. Tyson what have you to say, Mr. Leach?"

"All that I have to say, Mr. Trant, is that I will never believe that Mrs. Leyman would—if she could—get information from me for Rintzelman; and that in spite of what you have heard I still consider this idea of mind reading—particularly of anyone reading my mind—absolutely absurd! Whether Mrs. Leyman prefers Rintzelman to me, I don't know; but I do know that she had been, is, and will continue to be, perfectly square with me—" He broke off suddenly and Trant saw that the rival contractor and the woman they had been discussing had risen from their seats.

Leach watched in silence as Rintzelman assisted Mrs. Leyman with her coat and then pointed her to the way out from the restaurant which would lead her directly past the table where Trant sat with his clients. As he passed, the triumphing contractor nodded to his competitors with insolent derision; but Mrs. Leyman dropped back an instant.

"Fred," she said coldly to Leach as he rose with alacrity, "Emil—Mr. Rintzelman—has been telling me that you and Mr. Tyson charge him with competing with you unfairly; and he has told me of the—part Mr. Tyson gives me in it. So, as Mr. Rintzelman is going to bid on the harbor improvements to-morrow, and as the harbor bids are not to he opened until two o'clock, do you want to be let off from your luncheon engagement with me to-morrow noon?"

"No," Leach answered, promptly.

She smiled and went quickly on to join Rintzelman.

"The harbor improvements—Rintzelman to bid on the harbor improvements!" Old Tyson had sunk back in his seat almost breathlessly. "And do you mean, Fred, that to-morrow, just after you have finished making up our figure on this harbor work, and while there is still time for Rintzelman to fix his bid, you are going to lunch again with that woman?"

"Yes, Jim!" Leach answered, obstinately. "In the position we are now in, it would be totally unfair to me and a direct accusation of her to break my engagement with her to-morrow."

"But have you thought what that means, Fred? I'll tell you, Mr. Trant," the old man tumed from his defiant partner, "it means Rintzelman's biggest, perhaps his final, step to ruin Tyson-Leach, if he keeps us from getting that job!"

"I think Mr. Leach is quite right," the psychologist broke in, "in refusing to accuse Mrs. Leyman on the evidence you have given me."

"When the only three bids on which Rintzelman hasn't gone under us since Fred met the woman were—were when she was out of town?" Tyson stuttered in bewilderment.

"I think you can scarcely have studied those interesting three figures very closely, Mr. Tyson," Trant replied, confidently, "or you would surely have seen that they indicate as clearly as the other figures that Rintzelman was 'reading' Mr. Leach's mind-and while Mrs. Leyman, you say, was out of town! Exactly how and by whom I can determine only after watching the preparation of some bid in your office."

"There's an alteration job I expect to figure up at four this afternoon," Leach replied, his flash of triumph at his partner giving way to incredulous chagrin. "But it amounts only to about fifteen thousand dollars of undmirable work, and I'm sure Rintzelman won't figure on it."

"However, I am likely to find it worth watching," Trant replied. "So I shall come to your office at four." And he left the two gazing after him in almost equally dubious perplexity.

On entering Tyson-Leach's office at the hour appointed, Trant found the partners even more agitated than he had left them three hours before. While Tyson was telling him that they had ascertained that Rintzelman was borrowing the money necessary to cover the certified check for $100,000 which must accompany his bid for the harbor improvements as a guaranty, Leach directed the psychologist's attention to the offices in search of any way by which figures added up on the president's desk in the inner room could be spied upon.

There was none. The room was square and without closet or recess. On two sides the walls were straight and unbroken; on the third, the two windows opened twelve stories sheer above the street, and as the building opposite was fully fifty feet away, nothing could possibly have been seen through them. The glass door into the estimating room opened on the fourth side. President Leach's desk was set back at least ten feet from the door, and was directly facing it, so that from that direction the papers on his desk could not be seen at all; nor was there any mirror or polished surface in the room which could make them visible by reflection.

"If you are ready, now, Mr. Leach," Trant said, "let me suggest that you make up your proposal in the regular manner you have adopted for your important work."

"Very well; we will be ready in a moment," Leach assented. One of the estimators laid the last sheet of the estimate that was in preparation on the chief estimator's, Nelson's, desk. This Nelson put with several others and, precisely as in the morning, brought them in and laid them in a pile before the president. Leach picked them up quickly and examined carefully the totals. In a number of instances—as in the morning—he altered the tentative prices that had been put on by his estimators. He then added independent items. Tyson pointed out to Trant how utterly impossible it would be for anyone there to tell the final sum of even this small bid within several hundred dollars. As Leach now began footing up his totals, the psychologist purposely withdrew to a position about ten feet off and in front of Leach, so that he could by no possibility see the sum of the bid.

Leach finished his addition, checked it, made out his proposal, and, precisely as in the morning, gazed fixedly about the room, sealed the bid without even showing it to his partner, put away the other papers, and placed the envelope carefully in his pocket.

"That is all, sir." He turned to Trant at last, as if he were suddenly again conscious of the psychologist's presence. "You have got what you want now, I suppose?" he queried, skeptically.

"I have been handicapped, of course, by the fact that Rintzelman, as you said, plainly does not intend to bid on this job," Trant replied. "But, Mr. Leach, since you are-so to say—-the subject on which this case turns, you will not mind leaving Mr. Tyson and I alone in the office for a few moments and allowing him to retain your bid?"

"Now what is it, Trant?" Tyson questioned wonderingly, after Leach had left.

"As I just admitted to Mr. Leach," the psychologist answered, "I have been unable to detect the agent who is undoubtedly reading your partner's mind for the benefit of Rintzelman. The method employed is plain enough. The bid in the sealed envelope you hold—I suppose you noticed that I purposely avoided overlooking Mr. Leach's figures—contains, I can say with fair assurance, five numerals of which the first and third are the same—figure 1; the second figure is, I think, either 8 or 4; and the fourth figure is either 4 or 8. They are not the same; that is, if the second figure is 8 the fourth is 4, and vice versa. I cannot be so certain of the fifth figure; but I think it is either 5, 6, or 7. In other words, the amount of the bid is either 18,145 or 6 or 7 dollars; or it is 14,185 or 6 or 7 dollars."

Tyson's trembling fingers tore open the sealed envelope his partner had handed him.

"The figure is $18,145, Mr. Trant!"

"I could not have fixed upon that positively without more observation and knowledge than I have had of Mr. Leach."

"But this is astonishing-it is astounding, Mr. Trant!" old Tyson exclaimed. "I seem to have followed with a vengeance the old adage of 'set a thief to catch a thief' by setting a mind reader to catch a mind reader."

"You are a little premature," the psychologist answered, "for you forget that I have not yet caught the mind reader and cannot hope to do so until to-morrow when Rintzelman's agent will reveal himself if he attempts to get your figure on the harbor bids."

"Do you mean that you may not be able to prevent Rintzelman from getting our figure to-morrow?"

"Of course I cannot be sure of preventing him, if the figure is known to Mr. Leach."

"But we cannot take any chances on that work, Mr. Trant!" the old man cried.

Trant paused, and then continued, slightly smiling: "Tyson-Leach have spent three worrying months over this, Mr. Tyson; how will it be if we make Rintzelman sweat a little to-morrow and at the same time make certain that he will not have the Tyson-Leach bid, and convict him of complicity in trying to obtain it? If he is depending upon his agent to supply him with your figures he could not tell of himself whether your figure ought to be, say, two million dollars, or over two million, or under?"

"In this harbor job, Mr. Trant," Tyson replied, "where there is so much dredging, piling, concrete, and caisson work, it is not too much to say that he could not tell within three or four hundred thousand dollars the cost of doing the work."

"Then it ought not to be difficult to convict Rintzelman."

And five minutes later, when Trant finally threw open the door to admit the younger partner, Leach noted with curious surprise that the eyes of old Tyson were sparkling with vindictive merriment.

The next morning at eleven o'clock Trant entered the construction company's offices. The last sheets from the estimating room had been laid before the president at least an hour before; but as he went over them in his private room by himself, the estimators outside sat still and motionless in their seats. And for a full half hour more after the senior partner and his adviser entered the inner room, there seemed no sound or move in all the great office but the rustle of the sheets under Leach's nervous fingers and the soft scratch of his pen. But at last Leach rose confidently to his feet.

"Our figure, Jim," he said to his partner, calling Tyson over, "is a little lower than I expected; but if you are sure of the sheets you yourself O.-K'd, there's a safe profit."

"I'll stand for my sheets, Fred," Tyson answered. "And I'll see it to the City Hall myself," he offered, "if you're going to your luncheon engagement."

Tyson, with Trant, went out through the room where the estimators were slipping on their coats to go out to lunch and, within a quarter of an hour, they were lunching at the restaurant where at a neighboring table were Mrs. Leyman and Leach. But the psychologist seemed still on the lookout for some one else; and presently he was rewarded by the appearance of Rintzelman, who, after glancing about the room, came over to Leach's table.

Trant, apologizing to Tyson, crosed over to the other table.

"Mrs. Leyman, I am Luther Trant—perhaps you have heard of me," he introduced himself without waiting for Leach. "At any rate, you may remember I was at the table at Rector's with Mr. Leach and Mr. Tyson yesterday when you spoke of some charges against Mr. Rintzelman—and against yourself. I am to investigate them at Mr. Leach's office at half past one. I think that, in deference to you, Mr. Rintzelman should be present, and I am sure you will desire to be there also."

He gave neither the woman, Rintzelman, nor the even more astonished Leach time to question, but left the restaurant and went back to the Tyson-Leach offices, stopping at his own on the way for the instrument for his test.

This instrument by which Trant expected to convict both Rintzelman and his agent of fraudulently obtaining the Tyson-Leach bids was the automatograph designed by Professor Jastrow of the University of Wisconsin.

It consisted of two plates of polished glass, one superimposed upon the other. The larger and lower one stood on short brass legs adjustable in height, so that the plate could be made perfectly level. The smaller, opaque plate rested on the surface of this on three loose, polished, glass balls, so that at the slightest touch it moved without friction in any direction. A system of levers attached to this upper plate carried a pencil point which recorded on the surface of a smoked paper every slight and otherwise imperceptible motion of the plate. The subject on whom this instrument was used merely rested the finger tips of one hand on the upper plate and the record on the smoked paper made visible and preserved the imperceptible motions of the hand.

The psychologist had just finished setting up and adjusting the automatograph on a table beside Leach's desk, and had covered the smoked paper on which the record would be made with a newspaper cone which concealed without hampering the pencil's movements, when Tyson entered; and, almost immediately after Leach came in with Mrs. Leyman, Rintzelman strutting in after her. The contractors nodded to each other coldly. Trant glanced swiftly at the clock. It was twenty minutes to two.

"Now, Mr. Luther Trant," Rintzelman turned to the psychologist challengingly, "I'd be glad to have you explain!"

"The time is now so short, Mr. Rintzelman," the psychologist replied, "that I think we had better talk business first and explanations afterwards."


"Exactly. At my request, Mr. Tyson has just called up the City Hall and learned that you have a man there with your proposal for the harbor improvement work. If your bid is below $1,800,000, I warn you to telephone him at once to withdraw it before it is too late.

"If you have made such a bid, I am here to tell you that your information was in this case false; that I—acting for Mr. Tyson—yesterday discovered your way of getting the Tyson-Leach figures from this office, and that I so arranged it this morning that Mr. Leach would deceive your agent and cause that agent to report to you as Tyson-Leach's bid, a figure at least two hundred thousand dollars too low!"

Mrs. Leyman's glance shot from one man to another, uncertain and confused. Leach stifled an exclamation. Rintzelman arose, flushed and angry; his gray-green eyes squinted half shut as he threateningly took Trant's measure.

"So that's what you had to say! And you called me over here to listen to that, you poor, crazy fool!" he sneered.

"You understand I do not wish to oppose any hindrance to your withdrawing your bid before two o'clock," Trant continued, imperturbably. On the contrary, I invite you to use the telephone here at once. But if you prefer not to telephone your withdrawal openly before us now, you cannot withdraw that bid!"

The big contractor scowlingly and blusteringly drew back before the quiet psychologist. Old Tyson, with surprising agility, leaped across the room and, with a gleeful chuckle, locked the door.

"So you have not decided whether I am now trying to put up a game on you, or whether you prefer to lose the $100,000 forfeit put up with your bid to owning yourself before us a cheat and a trickster, Mr. Rintzelman?" Trant paused. "Well, your time is getting very short now, and we will convince you as rapidly as possible. Mrs. Leyman, this, I believe, will interest you as much as it will Mr. Rintzelman and the partners in Tyson-Leach.

"Eleven years ago, Mrs. Leyman," Trant turned to the woman coolly, "Mr. Rintzelman and Mr. Leach went to work for Tyson Brothers. They had no great love for each other from the first; and when, eight years later, one—Leach—was taken into the firm, the other—jealous at having Leach raised over him—left the firm and went with a rival. He tried, at first, to disaffect some subordinates in the old firm's organization; but failing to do that, he settled down to fight them as a competitor—and fairly, so far as I know, till he found himself not only a business rival of Mr. Leach, but about the first of this year a rival, Mrs. Leyman, for another reason! So he then conceived the idea of foully obtaining that rival's figures on important contracts and cutting just below them.

"For a few weeks he did this easily and quite unoriginally through the medium of a spy in the estimating room, evidently. But soon the rival became suspicious and no longer let his estimators see his final figures; and then his agent—for I am afraid I cannot credit this clever scheme to the contractor himself—hit upon a decidedly more unusual and, if more daring, at the same time more baffling and puzzling way of obtaining the secret figures.

"This agent had had unusual opportunities for observing Mr. Leach and had long known of a quite unconscious, odd, individual peculiarity of his, by means of which the agent believed the secret figures in Mr. Leach's mind could be read. Tyson-Leach had begun to keep their figures secret from the employees in their office at the end of January. In the first two weeks of February the agent tried three times to use this peculiarity of Mr. Leach to read his mind, and three times found the task too difficult. But by the middle of February the difficulties had been conquered, and the agent was again able to report to the cheating contractor the amount of every Tyson-Leach bid, even though the figures of that bid had been known only to Mr. Leach himself.

"I was called into this case yesterday, Mrs. Leyman, on the eve of the bidding on the harbor improvement contract.

"Last night, at my suggestion, Mr. Tyson worked alone here in his office until two in the morning preparing a figure which he was confident would permit a good margin of profit and yet, if there was no foul play, obtain the harbor improvements for Tyson-Leach. After arriving at this figure he so carefully and skillfully reduced and omitted items in certain of the most complicated estimate sheets which he himself would finally approve, that he was confident the figure which Mr. Leach would make out would be fully $200,000 lower than was safe.

"The Tyson-Leach bid now waiting to be opened at the City Hall is the figure prepared by Mr. Tyson last night, not the deceitfully low bid innocently prepared by Mr. Leach here to-day."

Trant paused again, waiting. Rintzelman watched him a moment uncertainly. Then his eyes shifted to Leach and Mrs. Leyman, and at last turned to the estimating room outside. Through the glass in the door, Trant could see Nelson at his desk just opposite the door, staring in surprise at the sight of Rintzelman with Leach in the inner office.

"You are hard to convince, Mr. Rintzelman," said Trant, as the contractor's face regained its dogged defiance. "Mr. Tyson, will you ask Nelson to step in here?" Tyson, now plainly as surprised as the rest, opened the door and called in the chief estimator. The man entered quietly, not even glancing at Rintzelman.

"Mr. Nelson," the psychologist pointed to the automatograph, "Mr. Tyson wants you to stand for a few moments here at the table with your finger tips lightly resting on this glass plate."

Trant picked up a long contractor's rule from Leach's desk. He crossed the office and touched with the end of the rule the hinge of the door into the estimating room. Next, he shifted the rule to the wall close by Tyson's desk. Then, in succession and pausing between each movement, he touched the baseboard near the middle of the wall; the ceiling in the corner; and, returning swiftly, threw down the rule, lifted slightly the paper that concealed the record of the automatograph, and peered under it.

"Mr. Leach," he said sharply, "it is two o'clock; the harbor bids have been opened by now, and, whatever may be your opinion of the account I have just given you, you have no objections to telling us the amount of the bid you prepared this morning?"

"I? No; certainly I have no objection now," returned the dazed Leach. "My bid was $1,796,350."

"Mr. Rintzelman," Trant continued sternly, "you will have to admit your complicity with your agent Nelson if, when I have called up the City Hall, your harbor bid proves to be just under that unsafely low amount Mr. Leach has just stated to us; for you can have obtained it only by the means I have just spoken of and through the man who has betrayed his guilty knowledge of that sum by unconsciously writing it here!"

He removed the paper which had covered the record of the automatograph, and they stared over the smoked surface at what the instrument had written.

Nelson, ashen-faced, shuddering and palsied, sank gasping into a chair. Trant himself called up the City Hall; when he had asked his question, he handed the receiver to Rintzelman.

"What's that?" Rintzelman cried. "Who is this? What's that?" he shouted again. Then Tyson took the telephone from him and repeated the results aloud.

"There are four bidders who complied with requirements," he said. "Corey & Quinlan, with a bid of $2,334,425; Acme Construction Company, with a bid of $2,125,000; Tyson-Leach, $1,999,400, and Harder & Rintzelman, low, with $1,795,920.

"Just four hundred and thirty dollars below Mr. Leach's figure!" The psychologist pointed to the automatograph. "And, as even yet you do not seem to understand the method that your agent, Nelson, has employed," for Rintzelman still stared from Trant to the estimator dazedly, "I think I can demonstrate it to you."

He snatched up a big blue pencil from Leach's desk and rapidly writing the separate numerals from 1 to 9 on separate sheets of paper, he stuck the numbers against the opposite wall—the "1" on the hinge of the door into the estimating room; the "3" at the top of the door frame above; the "4" in the center of the wall; the "8" at the electric light globe just below it; the "5" close to the ceiling over Tyson's desk; the "6" on the top of the desk itself; the "7" on the wall beside the desk, and the "9" on the baseboard near the middle of the wall.

"And the '2'?" he questioned, facing Nelson. "That goes about here, I think."

"Lower and to the left!" muttered the cringing man, huddled in the chair.

"You fool!" Rintzelman shrieked to Nelson. "So that was the way you were getting the figures; and you let me put up my money for that harbor bid on a figure you were going to get—like that! Well, thank God, there's some of your own goes with mine on the forfeit." And without another word or a glance at the others, he burst from the office, followed by Nelson.

"But I do not understand, Mr. Trant," Leach cried, bewilderedly. "So it was by reading my mind that Rintzelman was getting our figures—and it was Nelson here that was doing it?"

"Mr. Tyson and Rintzelman—both of whom long worked in the same office with you—have understood," the psychologist answered; "and Nelson, it is quite plain, needs no explanation."

"I perhaps laid too much stress on its individual character when half an hour ago I spoke of, this trait of yours, which enabled Nelson to read the numbers in your mind, as a personal peculiarity," Trant continued, smiling. "As a matter of fact, nearly every person has, in lesser or greater degree, some such characteristic. So many individuals have been found possessing similar characteristics, that they have been classed by the psychologists in two great groups as 'color-thinkers' and 'space-thinkers.'

"To the color-thinkers certain ideas present themselves always in connection with an accompanying idea of color. To the spatial thinker these same ideas—the Arabic numerals, for instance—instead of possessing color, have always some definite position in space around them, according to an individual, definite, and unchanging order. This arrangement of figures is known to the psychologists as a 'number form.'

"Now, when you and Mr. Tyson, Mr. Leach, came to me yesterday," Trant went on, "I was obliged to look for the means-your mind was undoubtedly being 'read'—among some of the until recently absolutely unknown ways of reading mind from minor physical manifestations.

"I felt sure that you must be betraying these secret figures by some minor physical reflexes of which you were entirely unconscious, but which were still manifest enough for some one who had observed them and hit upon their meaning to use for following your thoughts. And the possibility of a 'number form' at once occurred to me.

"You will understand that while a 'number form' seemed a possibility, I had no direct evidence of it until you Mr. Tyson drew my attention to the very remarkable series of bids which Rintzelman had made during the first two weeks of February."

Taking up Tyson's notebook, he spread it open before them.

  Our Bid Rintz.
Feb. 2-Cong. Church.... $248,300 $283,800
Feb. 7-Merchant's Bldg... 144,200 187,700
Feb. 15-Woodlawn Apts... 340,000 379,500

"Now do you not see," Trant continued, "when you examine these figures closely, that Rintzelman undoubtedly had some report of your bids but that the person reporting them had when '4' and '8' occurred, been unable to distinguish between them and, to be on the safe side, had used the higher one of the two? You have merely to reverse the position of '4' and '8' in your first figure to see that Rintzelman's bid was intended to be just below yours. Put '88' instead of '44' in your next figure, and '8' instead of '4' in the third, and in both instances you will see that Rintzelman believed he had bid just below you again."

"That is true, Mr. Trant!" cried the old man.

"It is to the fortunate fact that '4' or '8' occurred in each of these three figures that I owe my rapid solution of this case. For I could imagine no other means through which two figures so completely dissimilar could be so easily confused as in a 'numberform.' They could not be mistaken one for the other in Mr. Leach's writing—for, if you remember, I asked him to write them down and so determined that.

"Only some one long acquainted with Mr. Leach could possibly be so familiar with this peculiarity of his as to turn at once, on the 2d day of February, to attempt to get the figures from him by that method when it was only in the last days of the month previous that Mr. Leach had begun keeping his bids secret from the employees in his office. Nelson had worked with Mr. Leach in the estimating room for eight years; he had certainly had hopes of getting into the firm, which Mr. Leach's promotion had disappointed; he had first suggested to Mr. Tyson that Mrs. Leyman might be Rintzelman's agent."

"But, Mr. Trant," Leach broke in, suddenly, "Nelson had certainly no knowledge of any such psychological intricacies as 'number forms,' and it is very certain I do not look at the door hinge every time I think of '1'!"

"Not from where you sit now, Mr. Leach," the psychologist answered. "But if seated at your desk and thinking of '1' intently, you would look normally not at the door hinge, indeed, but in the direction of the door hinge."

"You are right, Mr. Trant," the young partner confessed. "I realize fully now that I have been doing it. It has always been my habit to break up large figures into separate digits and to satisfy myself, as one might say, visually, that each is the right one in its column. I haven't thought of it for years, but I remember now both my sister and myself in school long ago used to be reproved by the teacher for always staring about the room when doing our sums."

"You were undoubtedly doing the same thing then," Trant replied. "All such devices which the mind employs to give a concrete basis to abstract relations seem to have been acquired in early childhood.

"And now, I think that all I have done in this case must be plain to you. When I came to your office the first time, the method by which your mind was being read was evident to me at once, as soon as I saw you staring so intently now at one point and now at another, as you reconsidered each figure in your estimate.

"Now, you had told me at the restaurant enough for me to be reasonably sure that the figure in the ten-thousand place was '1'; therefore, the one in the hundreds place was the same. The second and fourth figures were probably the same that confused your regular observer—or '8' and '4.' The fifth figure I could only guess; but if your frame were a fairly simple one containing only digits—as it proved—this figure would probably, from its position, be '5,' '6,' or '7'; and I gave Mr. Tyson the alteration bid as he will tell you, as probably $18,145.

"When I came again to watch the making up of the harbor bid, it was to detect Rintzelman's agent, and I saw enough to make me confident that this agent was indeed Nelson. Mr. Tyson had already mentioned to me the common habit among your estimators—which is only a conscious substitute for your own habit, Mr. Leach—of scratching down any figure that they may be thinking of in order to visualize it more plainly before them; and I felt sure that if I subjected Nelson to a test with the automatograph, and at the same time presented to him the suggestion of your bid, whose amount I had read from you in the same way he did, he would convict himself and Rintzelman by unconsciously writing the figure."

"The rest is all clear now, Mr. Trant." Tyson struggled painfully to his feet. "I have only admiration for the way you have handled the case."

"Yes," Leach agreed, embarrassedly, "not only have you saved us the harbor job —for Rintzelman will undoubtedly be forced to forfeit his guaranty and the work will then go to us—but you have punished him and Nelson, too."

"But that is not all you have accomplished and cleared, Mr. Trant," said Mrs. Leyman, resolutely. "For me, too, you have solved a problem—entirely personal, perhaps, but all important to me!"

"Della!" Leach cried.

Before she could reply, Tyson had shuffled across the room and as he half shoved, half dragged the smiling psychologist into the outer office, the old contractor chuckled, "You don't look like Cupid, Mr. Trant, but you seem to have proved one here—to our surprise!"