His Last Shot can be found in

Pioneer Tales, February 1928

His Last Shot

By Major R.T.M. Scott

IN ORDINARY detective agency circles Miss Bernice Asterley would have been known as a female operative. She would have followed wives, when she was not luring husbands, and would have earned an easy fifteen dollars a day for her agency; yes, she would have been superb in divorce cases. But Aurelius Smith had never handled a divorce case. Of such cases he had once said that he would prefer to shoot a sitting partridge. Consequently Bernice had walked in cleaner paths of crime. She had snared a number of clever thieves and had been the undoing of one murderer while in the service of her employer. More often she was his stenographer and sometimes made his tea when Langa Doonh, the tall "boy" from India, was not managing the coffee percolator.

Snow and sleet were beating upon the windows of Smith's place on Fenton Street and Langa Doonh had just turned on the light in the great living room when Bernice entered hurriedly from the street and dropped her umbrella in the hall before rushing into the room. For a moment she did not see Smith who was standing by the window curtains gazing out into the little thoroughfare which ran into Fifth Avenue close to Washington Square.

"It's tonight!" she gasped as he moved away from the curtains.

"I thought so by the way you came up the street," he said. "Your train leaves the Grand Central Station in one hour and your tickets, together with a letter of credit, are on your desk."

"Where—where am I going?" asked the girl in amazement.

"Los Angeles."


"Because they know I am working on this case"—Smith was talking very quietly —"and, tomorrow, you would almost surely be dead—if I fail tonight."

"But—but you, yourself!" ejaculated the girl in a startled voice.

"I may not fail," returned Smith in the same voice. "When in Chicago call at the Blackstone Hotel for a telegram."

Langa Doonh, barefooted and in native costume, hovered around his master with almost maternal care after the departure of Bernice. There had been a moment when the girl had shown a hint of rebellion which Smith had quelled by ignoring it. The native servant felt added responsibility after the departure of Bernice. His respect and admiration for the "sahib" was unbounded, had been unbounded since the old days in India, but that did not prevent him from caring for his master, sometimes, as he would have tended a small child. Food was always well to the front in his mind, and he immediately started the percolator and produced toasted cheese on crackers.

"Coffee, Langa Doonh, but nothing to eat," said Smith. "I shall eat no dinner tonight."

"Sahib!" pleaded the servant.

"You will take your great knife and remain awake all night," said Smith. "Until I return you will not go to sleep. During the night you will not answer the door bell. If anybody breaks in you will kill him first and telephone the police afterwards."

"Han, sahib!" answered the native with more interest than surprise in his eyes.

As he spoke the door bell sounded and Smith, waving his servant aside, went himself to answer it. He returned at once with two men, important and influential men—even in New York. One of them carried the air of big business about him, or it might have been of philanthropic affairs upon a huge scale. The other man was unmistakably of the police and high up in that mighty New York organization. Smith, himself, contrasted strangely in the presence of his two visitors. Almost lazy in movement and with a face that was utterly impassive he seemed to equal the evident power of his visitors by means of the potential reserve of a deep student.

"Mr. Smith," began the man of business or philanthropy, "you predict that another crisis will occur tonight. I wish you to act in conjunction with the police so that we will be more certain of success."

"When you engaged me six months ago," remarked Smith a trifle indifferently, "you promised that I should have a free hand. Do you intend to break that promise?"

"I have changed my mind," was the terse reply.

"As you like, Mr. Hilsden," returned Smith quietly. "I shall continue the case without pay in the interest of the people of New York."

"Do you object to the police?" questioned the other visitor abruptly.

"Only because this case requires the greatest secrecy, Captain Johnson," answered Smith, "and, in your large body of men, it is difficult to stop all ...

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