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Senga of the Club Hibou


"I AM neither a professional murderer nor a legal executioner," remarked Aurelius X Smith quietly, as he lighted his black brier and looked at his client through the first puffs of smoke.

"Bummer Gortz killed my cashier and escaped in broad daylight before a hundred witnesses," returned old Ben Bradflint coldly. "The police have combed New York for him and failed. I want him killed."

"Killing is bungling and ignorant," retorted Smith dryly, scrutinizing his pipe and nursing some dark shreds into the bowl.

"Do you, a detective, disbelieve in the death penalty for murder?" demanded old Bradflint in amazement.

"Only a stupid man believes in anything that nobody understands," remarked the detective without emphasis.

"What d'you mean?" asked Bradflint angrily.

"Death," said Smith. "Do you understand it?"

Bradflint shrugged his shoulders disdainfully and reached for his hat.

"The electric chair," continued Smith, "is stupid, but not nearly so stupid as the practice of allowing habitual criminals to have their liberty on bail, on parole, and on legal technicalities. Gortz is a menace to society and I shall try to send him to the chair for you. If I blunder, and am forced to kill him myself, I shall charge you nothing."

"Thank God!" exclaimed Bradflint. "I was beginning to think you were a sentimentalist."

"Sometimes I am," drawled Smith. "Sentiment is a powerful stimulant."

For a few minutes Bradflint described the murder of his cashier and the escape of the murderer before a crowd of terrorized spectators. So completely had Gortz hidden himself that there seemed to be no clue to his hiding place.

"Of course," said Smith, when Bradflint paused, "Bummer Gortz has quite a record. He was arrested three times for burglary and twice for carrying concealed weapons. He has spent about seven years in jail, with intervals of a few months out on parole. His last arrest was in the Club Hibou, just before the Baumes Law came in, when he was caught with a gun on his hip. He is still out on bail for that offense."

"I didn't tell you any of this," interrupted Bradflint. "You seem to know a lot about him."

"My profession," explained Smith, "requires me to know criminals in the same way that a bookmaker knows horses."

"But a man like that should never have been allowed out on bail!" exclaimed Bradflint indignantly. "This pampering of criminals is soft- hearted foolishness."

"Soft-headed foolishness," corrected Smith dryly. He paused and reached for the telephone. "I am going to have a word with the celebrated night- club hostess of the Club Hibou. Heard of that place?"

"Been there once," grunted Bradflint. "Damn' bad place, but very fashionable."

"Know a girl called Senga at the Club Hibou?" asked Smith, turning away from the telephone.

"No," answered Bradflint. "Just went there once, sight-seeing."

"'Sight-seeing' supports considerable evil in this city," remarked Smith, as he dialed the Club Hibou and asked to speak with Madame Lola.

There was quite a long wait.

"This particular hostess of night revels," said Smith, covering the transmitter with his hand, "is very entertaining and quite easy to look at with drunken eyes. Soberly examined, however, she is an even more damnable type than your man, Gortz. Ah!"

He jerked the telephone quickly to his mouth and spoke with slow, emphatic distinctness.

"Tell your mistress," he said, "that I would speak with her of a ship, a ship that carries different kinds of things—different, mark you— from the West Indies."

It seemed that Madame Lola had not, herself, come to the telephone and again there was a wait, but this time the wait was not so long.

"This is Aurelius Smith, of 126 Fenton Street, speaking," cam...

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