I said to Dan the Devil: “What am I going to tell Francesca?”
He said: “Say, you never have to tell Francesca anything. She knows enough to mind her own business. That’s the way she was brought up. Anyway, she isn’t at Shadow Island just now. She is still in Macon. She has been in training there to be a nurse ever since I went away.”
He meant since he had been in prison.
When a fellow is in prison, you always say he is away. When he gets out, you say he is back. Then nobody’s feelings are hurt. A lot of people hate the word “prison.”
So we headed the Bumble Bee south, a million-dollar cargo stowed away in the hold where we used to hide the Scotch, and the same mob that we used to have when we were running stuff up out of the Bahamas years ago, all except Dan and One-eyed Conroy.
Dan the Devil cooled off Conroy in 1927 for turning stool pigeon. So Conroy was not with us, but we had Black Angelo, Innocence and Fatso Kling and me. Dan the Devil stayed behind in New York to look after the business arrangements.
Black Angelo was navigator of the Bumble Bee. He was a sawed-off, hammered-down Wop out of Brooklyn, who had been a pretty fair welterweight in his time. Innocence was a moonfaced, sad-looking fellow who always seemed just about to break out crying, while Fatso Kling was a big Heeb from up in the Bronx.
I went down to take a look at our million-dollar cargo when we were a day out. His name was John Withington White III. He was six feet two, and weighed 190 pounds. It was nearly all muscle. He got it rowing at Yale. He lacked three months of being twenty-three years old. He was a nice-looking young fellow. I think he should have been a heavyweight fighter. I still had a big lump on my jaw where he nailed me.
He was stretched out on a bunk Innocence had fixed up for him, and the adhesive tape we had put over his eyes was still there. He couldn’t take it off himself because he was handcuffed and leg-ironed, and chained to the bunk. He had on evening clothes, now all crumpled up. I pulled the tape off his eyes. It must have hurt, but he made no complaint.
I said: “How do you feel?”
“Rotten,” he said. “Where am I, and why?”
“You are at sea,” I said. “You have been kidnaped. We’re going to hold you for a million dollars ransom. You are not going to be hurt if you are a nice boy, and you’ll be returned home as soon as your folks pay you out. But you must be a very, very nice boy.”
“Kidnaped?” he said. “Why, that’s exciting! I remember now. A gang jumped on me in front of our house. I got in a couple of pokes at them, and then one of them held my arms, and another stuck something under my nose, and I must have faded out.”
I said: “Yes, we had to give you the pencil. That’s a gag that looks like a pencil, but it’s really a syringe, and squirts plenty of sleepiness. You were hard to handle. Look at my jaw.”
“Oh,” he said, “I’m sorry! Kidnaped, eh? Say, I’ve read of such things happening to other people, but I never dreamed it could happen to me. It doesn’t seem real. It’s like a movie.”
I said it could happen to anybody in this year of 1933.
“Why all these chains?” he said. “Why not let me loose so I can look at the scenery? And I want to get a message to my mother that I’m all right, so she will not worry.”
I said she probably knew by this time. I said our New York agent had probably contacted the family, and that they understood the situation. I said I was sorry I couldn’t turn him loose, but we did not dare take chances on a prize like him making a getaway. Furthermore, I said we did not care to have him get a line on where we were going.
I said: “You may not know it, but you’re the biggest sneeze in history. You ought to be proud. Nobody was ever held for a million bobs before.”
“Well,” he said, “suppose my people can’t raise all that money, what happens then?”
“Why,” I said, “then we just drop you in some nice hole in the ocean with plenty of weight around your neck.” I wanted him to understand thoroughly that he was in a tough spot.
“I feel sick,” he said, turning over in the bunk.
That night I went down to take a look at him again, and he seemed sick, sure enough. I thought at first it was only from seasickness, or maybe from the stuff that Black Angelo made him inhale out of the pencil when we were taking him.
Then I felt his forehead, and found he was burning up. He seemed to be having trouble breathing, too. I listened to his chest, and it sounded like a sawmill inside. He talked wild. I said to myself, This fellow is getting up some kind of fever.
We had not bothered to put any medicine on board the Bumble Bee, but Black Angelo had some aspirin he used for headaches, and I got some mustard out of the galley and made up a poultice for young White’s chest. I had the chains taken off him, and then I undressed him and made him as comfortable as I could, but I could see he was pretty sick, and thinking of what Dan the Devil would say about this made me very nervous.
I was mighty glad when we sighted Shadow Island.
It is a chunk of land of a hundred acres or so, heavily wooded, off the coast of Georgia, a couple of hours’ run by motor boat from the mainland. Some rich old Southerner had it for a summer home many years ago, and Dan the Devil bought it for a hideaway for himself when he was in the money.
A narrow, shallow creek took you in for about a quarter of a mile to a dock in front of the house, an old frame bungalow with trees all around it.
Francesca was down at the dock when we pulled in.
She was wearing a man’s polo shirt and khaki pants, with sneakers on her feet, and no stockings. She was as brown as an old saddle. Her black hair was hanging loose. She was tall and thin, and very pretty. I had not seen her for several years, but she did not seem at all surprised at the sight of me.
She said: “Hello, Pally. Where’s Dan?”
I said he was back in New York cleaning up some business.
She said: “How does he look?”
I said he looked all right, except his hair was getting gray and he was thinner.
“Poor old dear,” she said.
Then she saw Black Angelo and Innocence and Fatso on the boat.
She said: “There’s something wrong with this picture.”
“Hi, Francesc’!” Black Angelo said. “We come to catcha da feesh.”
“Yes?” she said. “Now, isn’t that nice!”
She knew Black Angelo and Innocence and Fatso as well as she did me, and she had known me all her life. She knew all about them. She knew all about Dan the Devil, too. He never made any secret of his operations to her, and anyway, she could read, and anybody who could read knew about Dan the Devil. He got as much publicity in the past ten years as any man alive.
I said: “Dan didn’t know you were here yet.”
“No,” she said. “I was not supposed to come here for a month, at least. He wrote me just before he left that place and said he thought he might come down to Shadow Island right away for a rest. I wanted to surprise him, so I got a leave of absence from the hospital in Macon where I am training and came here ahead of time. I’m anxious to see Dan and to be with him awhile. I’m going away this fall for good. I’m going abroad.”
It had been her plan since she was old enough to realize who her father was, and what he was. She had often talked it over with me in the old days. Not many people knew that Dan the Devil had a daughter. She never used his name; she called herself Francesca McGarry. But she had a great affection for Dan, just the same. I think she felt that circumstances over which he had no control made him what he was, and she was sorry for him. She was the only person I ever knew who was not afraid of him.
Old Mike McGarry and Bridget, his wife, came out of the house to say hello. They were Dan the Devil’s uncle and aunt. They were nice old people who belonged in New York, but when Dan got in his big trouble, they moved to Shadow Island, mostly on Francesca’s account. She had always escaped the newspapers, and Dan didn’t want her around where they might dig her up and make it unpleasant for her.
Mike told me that they had been on Shadow Island only a few weeks after Dan went away when Francesca got the idea of going to Macon to learn to be a trained nurse. It was all right with Dan. Anything Francesca did was always all right with Dan.
I had not let on to Black Angelo and the others, but I was mighty worried. Finally, I got Francesca off to one side. I had a lot of confidence in her good sense, even when she was just a little girl. She was always calm and cool.
I said: “Listen. We’ve got a sick kid on the Bumble Bee. I’ve been doing the best I could for him, but he seems to be getting worse. It would be a tough thing for Dan and all the rest of us if this kid should happen to put his checks back in the rack.”
She said: “I thought it a bit peculiar that you gentlemen should come here in that boat. Where did you get this kid you are talking about?”
“Well,” I said, “it’s a sneeze. That’s the story. The biggest in history. He is worth a million bobs to us.”
She said: “Ah, kidnaping. Somehow, I never thought Dan would come to that. It’s not very high-class. I don’t think I care for it.”
I said: “A million makes it very classy. You aren’t thinking of hollering copper, are you, Francesca?”
She slapped my face with her open hand. This was for suggesting that she might be thinking of calling the police.
She went aboard the Bumble Bee and took a look at John Withington White III. I think she expected to see a child. She became very indignant because we had left him in the hold. He seemed in a daze and paid no attention to Francesca as she examined him.
She said: “Move him to the house. He may have pneumonia.”
“He may have double pneumonia,” I said, “but he doesn’t go into the house.”
I felt a little sick myself that night when I thought back over the years that had passed since Francesca’s old man and I had first known each other.
Dan Dubois and I went to public school together in West Forty-seventh Street when we were kids. Later on, we started out hacking at about the same time around the old Garden Café at Fiftieth Street and Seventh Avenue.
This was along in 1913—twenty years ago. Dan was a fine-looking young fellow in those days, with no more harm in him than a baby. But he was too smart to be driving a taxi. His mother was a West Side Irish girl named Flaherty, who married a Canuck. They were both dead.
One of the dancers in the Garden liked Dan. She called herself Francesca D’Orsay. He used to take her driving in the park between her shows and after hours. She was a cute little black-eyed, black-haired girl with lots of zip. I think she was French.
Anyway, early one morning Dan got hold of me and made me drive the two of them down to the City Hall, where he got a marriage license and married Francesca, right there. I was a witness.
Dan took Francesca to live with the McGarrys over in West Forty-ninth Street, right back of where Madison Square Garden is now. The McGarrys had raised him. Aunt Bridget was Dan’s mother’s sister. She cooked ham and cabbage better than anyone I ever knew.
Francesca kept on working until a baby started coming along, and then she had to quit. She didn’t like the McGarrys, and it made her tired waiting around their house for the baby. Finally the baby turned out to be a girl, and they named it Francesca, and as soon as she was able to be up and around, Dan’s wife skipped out on him, leaving the baby. They say she went back to France.
I think this changed Dan Dubois a lot. He had always been good-natured, but now he suddenly turned sour and mean. He was sour and mean to everybody except little Francesca. I can remember him hacking all night, and then putting in the morning up to noon riding Aunt Bridget and the baby around in the air. He liked to play with the baby, and was always buying her little toys. Dan was about twenty-one then.
He picked up a drunk one night with over three thousand dollars on him, and Dan clipped the drunk for the whole roll. After that he quit hacking. He was around gambling awhile, and then I heard he had joined up with a mob of heavy men, or safe blowers. They made a specialty of robbing country post offices and small banks up the state. Dan was getting a reputation as a tough fellow when the war came on.
He enlisted in the infantry and went to France, and was decorated for something he did in the Argonne. No one ever doubted Dan’s game-ness. I was in the war a little bit myself, but I was back hacking when Dan came home from France and got a job as a sort of doorman and bouncer at the old Golden Slipper night club. He used to hire me once in a while to take Francesca and him out riding.
She was about six years old at this time, and the image of her mother, except that you could see she was going to be much taller. She talked as serious as a grown-up. Dan always called everybody Pally, and Francesca got to calling me that. He treated her like she was sixteen instead of six, and like he was her best beau instead of her father.
One night Dan killed a fellow called Charley the Clutch, outside the Golden Slipper. He shot Charley right through the heart with an army automatic. Everybody said Charley had started to pull a gun on Dan first, so Dan was acquitted right away. Charley was a tough fellow, and nobody was sorry to see him out of the way.
I’ve always thought that next to his wife skipping out on him, the killing of Charley the Clutch had the most influence on Dan’s life. A few months later, he shot and killed Shanty Ahearn in a gambling row. Shanty had a knife in his hand when they found him, and Dan was acquitted again on the grounds of self-defense, though afterwards some reliable parties told me Dan deliberately picked a row with Shanty. You see, the first time Dan killed a man, it was more or less by accident. The second time it was on purpose.
He had now established a reputation as a killer, and he seemed to be trying to live up to the reputation. One day he slugged a harmless smalltime gambler by the name of Max Goldfarb, and Goldfarb afterwards died of his injuries. Dan had a lot of trouble getting out of that, and it started people calling him Dan the Devil. I think he liked the title at first.
He got hold of some money in 1920, and at a government auction he bought a fast little boat that had been a patrol boat during the war. It could be handled by a couple of men if necessary, and it could fairly sizzle through the water. He changed the name of the boat to the Bumble Bee, and painted it up nice, and then he started on the run up from the Bahamas, which was where nearly everybody went after liquor in those days. I went with him, because hacking was not so good about then, and everyone else was making money hand over fist in booze, so I thought I might as well give it a try.
I was with Dan Dubois on half a dozen trips, including the one when we ran into a big storm and got kicked all over the ocean, finally winding up on what turned out to be Shadow Island. It was a nice spot, and after we had been there several days fixing up the boat, Dan fell in love with the place.
He said: “Someday when I get plenty of potatoes, I’m going to have a spot like this for a home for Francesca and me and the old folks.”
He meant the McGarrys.
Dan said: “You know, it is coming on time for me to commence thinking of putting Francesca in school some place where nobody will know who she is.”
It was not long after this that he told me he had put her in a school in Montreal, and sent the McGarrys there to live.
I quit Dan about the time he commenced moving into the important money. I went back to hacking. I could see that he was going far, and he liked me as much as he liked any man, and I could have had a nice piece of his play, but I didn’t have nerve enough.
Black Angelo and Innocence and Fatso, who first started with him on the Bumble Bee, stuck with him, and afterwards were his right-hand men for certain jobs. In three years, Dan the Devil was the top man in booze in the United States, with a whole fleet of ships on the water, and a tremendous organization.
He had plenty of trouble on his way up. There were fifty different combinations in the field, large and small, when he started, but Dan ripped right through all of them. He mowed down his opposition like a farmer mowing hay.
The Devil was a good name for him now. Human life meant less than nothing to Dan, and he was very careless with his own. He was in alcohol and beer, as well as in booze, and he controlled a raft of other rackets, like gambling and phony labor unions. He had plenty to say in politics. He went eight or nine years full tilt, and then Uncle Sam stepped in on him one day and wanted to know about his income taxes.
Dan the Devil didn’t know anything about his income taxes. He had never paid any. He thought the government was kidding. He laughed when he was indicted by a Federal grand jury. Nobody thought the government would get anywhere with him because he had so much money and so much power.
The government proved that he had had an income of ten million dollars in three years, without saying anything whatever about any other years. It came out at his trial that he had bought Shadow Island for twenty thousand cash, and had spent quite a bit more fixing up an old house there, which was something I didn’t know before, although I knew Dan had a hide-away somewhere where he used to go now and then when he wanted to get away from everybody. It brought back to me what he said the time we were piled up on the island.
The government afterwards seized everything it could belonging to Dan, but it couldn’t seize Shadow Island, because it seemed that Dan had transferred ownership of it to the McGarrys.
Dan hired half a dozen of the best lawyers in town, but it didn’t do him any good. He must have spent close to a million on the trial. Any man on the jury could have got rich just by forcing a disagreement, but they must all have been honest men, because they found Dan guilty in an hour.
Then the judge sentenced him to three years in Leavenworth prison, and fined him two hundred thousand dollars. Dan spent a world of money trying to get a new trial, but in the end he had to go. Then he laughed right out loud.
He said: “I’ve robbed and killed and brought in booze and bribed and corrupted, and done about everything else you can think of, and I could have been convicted on any one of a dozen tough raps, but the G-guys finally lag me for not paying the government its share of wrong money.”
He was a model prisoner, and got out in a little over two years. A lot of reporters met him at the station when he came home, and he gave them a long interview that got big headlines in all the papers next day.
Dan said: “I’m through with my old life. I’m going into some legitimate business and live down the past. I’m thinking of taking a long rest with some relatives of mine who have a place off the coast of Georgia where I can lay around and fish and get my health back. There is nothing in fighting the law. Crime does not pay. There are no handholds to a wrong dollar.”
Two weeks later, Dan the Devil sent for me.
I was glad of it. I wanted to tell him something I thought he ought to know. He was staying in a little apartment in Fifty-sixth Street, just off Ninth Avenue.
I thought he looked old, though I knew he was only about forty. His shoulders were humped over, and his face had big, heavy lines. A couple of years in the can takes a lot of gimp out of anybody.
Dan the Devil never really looked his part, even in the days when he was running around with a gun in each hand. Most killers are a little crazy, and generally show it in their eyes, but Dan had quiet, slow eyes. If you did not know him, you would never have picked him out for a tough fellow.
He was sitting in a chair by the window looking out into Fifty-sixth Street when I came in. He said hello. Then we talked about different things. He went back to the days when we were hacking together, and once or twice something he brought up made him laugh.
I said: “What’s become of Francesca and Uncle Mike and Bridget, if that’s a fair question, Dan?”
Then he told me about them moving to Shadow Island when he went away, and about Francesca training to be a nurse. I said Francesca must be quite grown-up by now. He looked at me, as if thinking my question over.
He said: “Francesca is all right, Pally.”
It was the first time in years I’d heard him say anything sort of tender about anybody.
I was a little surprised when Black Angelo, Innocence and Fatso Kling came in. I hadn’t seen any of them for a long time, though I had heard about them, and what I’d heard wasn’t anything complimentary. Night-hacking keeps you in touch with what is going on.
It was like a reunion of old soldiers, but I knew that our being there at the same time was not altogether an accident, and I wondered what Dan the Devil had on his mind.
Dan said: “You guys may not know it, but I’m broke.” He stopped and looked at us, one after the other.
“Well, Dan,” I said, when his eyes came to me, “hacking is not the best business in the world, but I’ve got a few yards saved up, and you’re welcome to all or any part of my taw.”
“Oh, I don’t mean broke that bad,” Dan said. “I’ve got a little left, though it’s mostly snowed in. I mean broke as far as real dough is concerned. I was a millionaire several times over once. I knew the racket couldn’t last, so I got smart. I went in for the legit. I went into Wall Street. I built the Regality Hotel. I backed a few musical shows. I was in worse shape than anybody knew when my trial came up, and the mouthpieces finished me. I’m clean.”
Innocence said: “I’m clean, too. I always am.” Black Angelo and Fatso nodded, as much as to say they put in with Innocence.
“Everybody I know seems to be broke,” Dan said. “I’ve been looking around a bit since I’ve been back. Conditions are very bad. I wonder where all the dough went? The guys who would help me if they could are out of action. Some guys who could help me if they would are giving me the back of their necks. Well, I’m not beefing. I’ll just remember them.
“Booze is a dead issue,” Dan said. “I’ve got a piece of three ships that are rotting in Halifax, and three or four speeders that cost a hundred G’s laying at City Island that anybody can have for the asking. I understand I’ve been declared out of the Red Legs Brewery over in Jersey since beer was made legit, and they got a government permit. I’ll take that up later. What I’m getting at is that I’ve got to get hold of some ready. I’ve got to make a good big score somehow, so I can go into real action again.”
He stopped and looked at us again, one after the other. I started to tell him something I thought he ought to know, then I decided to wait.
Dan got up and started to walk up and down the room. He dropped his voice.
He said: “Fatso, I know what you and Innocence and Angelo have been doing since I went away. That’s one reason I sent for you. You’ve got experience. Another reason is, I know you’re okay. Pally, I put you in because I want somebody that can do a little thinking at the right time.” He said: “Listen. We’re going into the only thing there’s any quick scratch in now. We’re going in on the sneeze.”
“It don’t cost much,” Innocence said. “All you need is a basement.”
“I know some parties that done right good,” Fatso said. “I know of one score of twenty G’s.”
Dan the Devil said: “A lot of petty-larceny guys have been monkeying with it all over the country the past couple of years. They think if they get twenty or thirty or even fifty G’s they’re doing great. You know I wouldn’t waste time on anything small. We’re going into this on a big scale.”
“I gotta da pens’,” Black Angelo said.
He showed us. I had seen one of these squirt-gun things before, but Dan examined it with some curiosity. They call it a pencil, though it looks more like a fat fountain pen. I think it originated in Brooklyn. Some doctor over there figured out a mixture that flattens in one whiff if you spray it into anybody’s nose, and a mob got hold of it and passed it around.
Black Angelo explained that it beat a blackjack or choking, or putting a bag over a person’s head when you were taking them, as it knocked them out so quick they couldn’t put up a fight or yell. Black Angelo seemed to know a lot about the business.
Dan said: “The trouble with most of these cheap guys who have been around on the sneeze is they have had no real organization, and no business system. They’ve been grabbing anybody they thought had dough, without first finding out if they really had it, and how much, and how soon they could get it on the line. In nearly every case you’ve read about, they’ve had to come down from their original price. That’s not good business. The first thing you’ve got to get in every case is a first-class finger man to pick out the right party for you.”
I could see Dan the Devil had something definite in mind already.
I said: “Well, Dan, no dolls and no children.”
“Have I ever been a sap?” Dan said. “They’re both poison. Do you know Skunky McLarnin?”
I knew him well. He was a wizened-up, ratty-looking fellow who had been running night clubs and speak-easies around Broadway for years, and was now running the Boulogne Club in West Fifty-second Street. He had been a customer of Dan’s in the old days.
I always had an idea that Skunky might be a stool pigeon at heart, but it was just an idea. I never really knew of him being out of line anywhere. Few people liked him, but that made it dead even as far as Skunky was concerned, because he liked few people himself.
I said: “A wrong gee.”
“Maybe,” Dan the Devil said. “The world is full of wrong gees right now, as I’ve been finding out since I came back. But Skunky is not going to be wrong with me, because he knows I’d guzzle him like a turkey. Anyway, Skunky has dug up a finger for the biggest touch in the world. Listen to the story.”
It seemed from what Dan the Devil said that this finger had called on Skunky and told him that under the terms of a father’s will, there must be paid to a young fellow named John Withington White III on his twenty-third birthday, the sum of one million dollars in cash.
It was some peculiar idea of the father’s to test the boy. He wanted him to have that much cash in hand, to do what he pleased with, when he got out of college.
The father’s name was John Withington White II, and he was a big man in his day. He had been dead six or seven years, and his widow had remarried a Wall Street broker by the name of Adrian Aiken. I knew who Adrian Aiken was. I had often seen him along Broadway, and I’d had him for a fare lots of times. He was a tall, thin, well-dressed, gray-looking fellow, with cold eyes, and he was a big spender.
I sometimes saw him with a woman I judged was his wife. She was not a young woman, but was nice-looking and very quiet. According to Skunky’s finger man, the way Dan told it, she had charge of the young fellow’s estate, and he would be twenty-three in three months, and she had already put a million dollars away to pay him on his birthday. There was a lot more to go to him from the estate later on.
John Withington White III had just graduated from Yale and was now playing around New York, Dan the Devil said, and Skunky’s finger had put the proposition to Skunky of digging up a mob to grab the young fellow and hold him for about two hundred and fifty thousand dollars ransom, because the finger told Skunky the boy’s mother would pay that kind of money like breaking sticks, especially if she thought he was in danger of being hurt.
Dan the Devil said: “It only shows you what small ideas guys have, when they talk about two hundred and fifty G’s for a sneeze worth a million. That’s what we want—the million.”
I said: “Who is the finger, and is he reliable, and how did Skunky come to think of you? You know he’s got reason not to love you if his memory is good.”
“Well,” Dan said, “I guess I was responsible for Skunky thinking of me. I was in his place the other night and I happened to mention that conditions were bad, and he said he didn’t suppose I’d be interested but he knew of a proposition worth a million. I told him for that kind of dough I’d start an earthquake, and then he laid it out to me.
“Then,” Dan said, “I got to thinking that with this for a starter, and with the right organization, I could make a big business out of the situation. I’ll shake this country before I get through. As for the finger, I don’t know who he is, and I don’t care. Skunky says he is a hundred percent, and I hold Skunky responsible. He knows what that means.
“Skunky and you guys and his finger will cut the two hundred and fifty G’s—that was their idea of a price. I’ll take the rest for mine,” Dan the Devil said. “That’s my own idea, but of course you’ll also get a bonus from me, and a better cut the next time.”
Then for a while Black Angelo and Innocence and Fatso and I talked over where we would hide the young fellow after we had grabbed him.
Black Angelo and Innocence held out for a basement. Fatso said an apartment house up in the Bronx was always a perfect hide-away.
I said some quiet farm in the Catskills would be better. We had quite an argument, with Dan the Devil sitting there thinking. He finally settled it. He said we would take John Withington White III to Shadow Island. It sounded like a good idea, the way Dan explained it.
He said: “If there’s any beef in the papers about this, which I’m going to try to prevent, nobody is apt to connect me with the case in the first place, and in the second place, if they do, Shadow Island is the very last spot in the world they’d look for him, because I’ve said I’m going there for a rest, and no one would figure me chump enough to try to hide a sneeze where I was going to be myself.”
He said: “Pally, you hop over to Chester, Pennsylvania, tomorrow and hunt up old Pop Waddings and see what kind of shape the Bumble Bee is in. You remember I gave her to him for helping me out in that jam when the G-men chased us up the Delaware. Tell him I want to borrow her back for a while.”
So I went over to Chester, on the Delaware, and found Pop, and sure enough the old Bumble Bee was in pretty fair shape. She was painted a different color than when we used to ride her back and forth to the Bahamas, and needed cleaning and a lot of new supplies.
When I got back to New York, and saw Dan the Devil alone, I told him the something I thought he ought to know.
I said: “Dan, there’s been a big change around here since you’ve been away. A new combination is in charge in this town. When you went away, everybody split out and got to fighting among themselves.”
“Well?” Dan said.
“Well,” I said, “overnight a fellow came up out of Brooklyn with a new mob of red-hots, all young kids. They call him the Peacemaker, because his idea of stopping the heat was to cool off the old mob leaders, and then take over their business. Very few people know him, and nobody seems to know any of his rods. They move fast and mysterious, and they’ve filled a couple of cemeteries already. He’s got a sort of Ku Klux Klan of the underworld.”
“Well?” Dan said.
“Well,” I said, “there have already been rumors around since you’ve been back that you are planning on going into action, and I know this fellow won’t stand for you in his territory. I’m only telling you, Dan. This is a strange mob. I hear they’ve got a council that meets every so often and votes on who is to be cooled off next. Dan, what I’m getting at is that I hear they’ve voted on you.”
Dan the Devil looked at me for at least two minutes without opening his mouth. Then he said: “Why?”
He meant why had they voted on him.
“Dan,” I said, “the Peacemaker’s name is Goldfarb. Abie Goldfarb. He had a brother.”
“Goldfarb?” Dan said. “Goldfarb? I remember. So they voted on me, did they? Well, Pally, you now hear me voting on Goldfarb, brother of Goldfarb. I hereby cast my vote in favor of cutting Goldfarb’s heart out and throwing it in his face. But first I must get this other matter out of the way. Goldfarb, eh? The Peacemaker, eh?” And Dan the Devil laughed.
I said: “Well, Dan, I’ve told you.”
He laughed again, but twice in the next three days, right on Broadway, shots were fired at him from passing automobiles, and Dan realized I had told him the truth and took to laying low.
About a week later, we grabbed John Withington White III in front of his house in East Sixty-seventh Street, taking a longer chance than we wanted to, but getting away with it very nicely. We were lucky. You have to have a little luck in these things.
Skunky McLarnin pointed him out to Fatso in the Boulogne Club one night, and for a week hand-running we had Fatso casing him, day and night, so we would get a line on his habits. We generally knew where he was going to be every night, because Skunky seemed to be getting information from his finger man and passing it on to Dan.
We made half a dozen different plans to take him in half a dozen different places, but we had to give them up one after the other, because they didn’t seem practicable. Fatso really decided it. Fatso said that John Withington White III never used a private car, but always a taxi in going around at night.
Fatso said no matter where he went, John Withington White III generally got home around two o’clock in the morning, and after paying the driver off, he would let himself into the house, which was an old-fashioned five-story residence, by way of a door on the ground floor, and that between the time young White paid the driver and got to the door, the taxi would be pretty far up the street.
Now this was important, and it showed the value of an experienced hand like Fatso. He said he timed the performance by his watch several times, and it took about six minutes from the moment John Withington White III paid and dismissed the taxi driver for young White to get into the house.
Fatso said it was very rarely anybody was in the street at that hour, but Dan the Devil was afraid of that little off chance that somebody might accidentally bob up. We wanted young White to disappear without a trace. Then one night Fatso reported that he had tailed John Withington White III to the Casino in Central Park, and that night it came on a steady rain, so Dan the Devil said this was the night.
Fatso said young White had taken a girl from a swell apartment house on Fifth Avenue to the Casino. They had gone in a taxicab. So Fatso watched the apartment house, figuring that young White would take the girl home.
We had hired a limousine as big as a hearse, and we had a phony license plate for it. Innocence did the driving. Along toward two o’clock we drove over into East Sixty-seventh Street, and parked the car up the street from the White house, which was one of a row of houses that looked pretty much alike.
If anybody came along they could see Innocence dozing in the seat, as if waiting for his boss in one of the houses. Black Angelo and Dan the Devil and I got out of the car before it parked, and Dan went one way and Angelo and I the other way, but never getting far away.
Pretty soon a taxicab stopped in Sixty-seventh Street about half a block off and near a street light and we saw Fatso get out, so we knew John Withington White III had left the girl’s apartment house. Now of course he might not have come direct home. He might have gone any one of a thousand places, but we were playing the only line on him we had. That was Fatso’s observations.
The rain had stopped, but the street was deserted. By and by we saw another taxi coming, and it pulled up in front of the White house, and a young fellow in evening clothes got out. We had all been moving toward the house as we saw the taxi’s lights, and Fatso gave us the office that this was our man.
Black Angelo and I were walking toward the young fellow, arguing about the fight between Max Baer and Max Schmeling. Fatso was coming along behind us like a fellow hurrying home, and Innocence and Dan the Devil were coming slowly the other way, also talking. We walked just fast enough to be pretty close to John Withington White III as he finished paying the taxi driver.
It was just as well for the taxi driver that he kept on going about his business after he got his money, because Fatso was ready to jump on the running board and take good care of him. There was nothing unnatural about the general setup, especially to a fellow who was not suspecting anything.
John Withington White III was walking toward the door of his house, taking his keys from his pocket, when I stopped and asked him if he had a match. He started to fumble in his pocket, and I must have made some little wrong move.
He said: “What is this?”
Then he tagged me on the chin with a nice right-hand drive. He was a game kid. He never thought of yelling. He saw Black Angelo in front of him and he took a punch at Angelo, but the next instant Fatso had his arms pulled back behind him, and Black Angelo had the pencil in his face, and John Withington White III went out like a light, and was in our car quicker than you can say scat, with never a soul outside of us to see him go.
We drove over into Jersey by way of the tunnel, and across Jersey to Philadelphia, and through Philadelphia out the Chester Pike to a spot below Chester where a little stream called Darby Creek empties into the Delaware. It is a tough spot to get to unless you know all the roads. We used to run the Bumble Bee in there years ago when things got hot. That’s how we first met Pop Wadding.
Dan the Devil had telephoned Pop to have the Bumble Bee there, and there she was, all ready to go when we got there about seven o’clock. Pop was no hand to ask questions, and he said nothing when he saw us lug John Withington White III on board and put him in the hold. He only shook hands with Dan the Devil, and the two of them stood on the shore watching us as we dropped out into the stream. Dan had a very short talk with us before he left.
He said: “I’m allowing about three weeks to this situation. Pally, at the end of that time, if you haven’t heard from me, get in touch with me by phone from Brunswick. If this fellow’s people haven’t paid every dollar by then, you’re to get rid of him. That’s positive.”
He said: “I want no chicken-heartedness about this, now. If we don’t get paid, and nothing happens to him, we may as well quit. But if something does happen to him for failure to pay, then we’ll always collect promptly in the future. Keep him in the hold and chained up. If there is a beef in the papers, get rid of him. If you don’t hear from me in three weeks, get rid of him. That’s all.”
Dan the Devil drove back to New York, and by noon he had sent a letter by messenger to the home of John Withington White III.
Dan said in this letter that young White had been kidnaped, and that it would cost the family one million dollars to get him back safe and sound, and if they did not pay up, they would never see him again. He said he knew they had that kind of money in cash, and he wanted it.
Dan said if they notified the police or the newspapers it would be the same thing. They would never see John Withington White III again. This is what Dan the Devil meant when he told us he was going to try and prevent any publicity. He said in his letter that the wisest thing for the family to say was that John Withington White III had been called out of town on business.
He told them to wait quietly a week, and that they would then hear his exact terms from him, and that, in the meantime, John Withington White III would not be harmed. Skunky McLarnin was working with Dan on the negotiations, and he wanted Dan to demand the ransom at once, but Dan said no. Dan said it was best to be patient, and if they waited a week and no heat started up, it would be a sign that the family was willing to negotiate quietly.
Dan said the trouble with most of these deals was that the sneezers got too impatient. Then, too, he wanted to give the Bumble Bee time to reach Shadow Island.
He said in the letter that an ad in the morning papers saying “Okay John” would be notice to him that the family understood, and every morning paper in town had this ad the next morning. Of course Dan the Devil did not sign any name to the letter.
Then a week later, Dan sent another letter to the house saying he wanted two hundred and fifty thousand in currency in denominations of anywhere from ten to one hundred dollars put in a suitcase, and left in a certain spot in Central Park as evidence of good faith. He said he would arrange with them later for the payment of the balance in batches of two hundred and fifty thousand each, to be delivered in the same way in spots he would designate over a period of a week or so, and young White would then be sent home.
Skunky asked Dan if he wasn’t afraid they would mark the bills.
Dan said: “Let them mark. There’s a lot of marked money that was paid in cases of this kind floating around the country, and no harm done. If you wait long enough before you start circulating it, no one will remember to look for marks. Besides, one reason I sent young White so far away is to give us time to change the money into new money before we deliver him.”
Dan said he was distributing the payments over a period of time because a million dollars in one gob would be too bulky.
Dan sent the young fellow’s cuff links and his monogrammed handkerchief and a monogrammed wallet to the White home to prove that he had John Withington White III, and he also said in a letter that went with this package that if the family kept him waiting for any length of time he might send them one of John Withington White III’s ears.
Now I learned all this afterwards, of course. I am patching this story together from what I saw, what I heard and what I believe, for I was on Shadow Island, having troubles of my own.
John Withington White III did not have pneumonia, single or double, but he was pretty sick for a few days. He was so sick one day that Francesca talked of sending to Brunswick for a doctor. Of course I wouldn’t stand for that.
She said: “But suppose he should die?”
“Then he dies,” I said. “We’ll give him a nice burial. It may save us a lot of bother, at that, in case his people don’t settled for him.”
She said no more about a doctor, but started working on the young fellow herself. She kept trying to persuade me to move him to the house, but I said no I didn’t want him getting a line on his surroundings. I made Francesca promise not to talk to him any more than was absolutely necessary. I didn’t think Francesca would be indiscreet, but when a young girl and a young fellow get to chatting, you never can tell what they’ll say. And I didn’t like the fact that Francesca had quit wearing her khaki pants and put on skirts.
In a few days John Withington White III was sitting up taking plenty of nourishment, and I put the irons back on him again. Francesca made quite a row about this to me in private but I held out against her.
I had Black Angelo sleeping in the hold with John Withington White III every night, and Fatso on guard in the daytime. Black Angelo was very fond of Francesca. I have often wondered since just how much talking Francesca did to young White when only Black Angelo was there, and what about.
I took many a trip around the island in a motor boat, more to be doing something than anything else. Shadow Island stands off by itself, and out of the track of shipping, and it isn’t once a month that you ever see a boat passing that way.
So a little over a week after we got there, I was surprised to see a launch cruising around not far off the island, with four young fellows on board. One of them hailed me and asked the way to Brunswick. They said they had been fishing and had drifted off their course.
I pointed out their direction. Then I said it was a hot day.
One of them said: “Yeh, it’s berling.”
I waited around until they were out of sight, then hurried back to Shadow Island. “Berling” for “boiling,” “erl” for “oil,” or “oil” for “earl,” that’s Brooklyn and nowhere else in the world. I called Black Angelo and Fatso and Innocence together and told them.
I said: “They must be some of Goldfarb’s red-hots. They must think Dan is here.”
“Well,” Fatso said, “then they won’t monkey around here much when they find it ain’t so. Goldy don’t want nobody else in this bunch, does he? We ain’t important enough.”
This seemed reasonable. After all, Goldfarb wasn’t going out of his way for small fry like us.
Two mornings later, we found Innocence dead as a mackerel in the woods not far from the house and close to the shore. He had been on outside guard that night. He had been stuck in the back with a sort of dagger made out of an ice pick, and pinned to him by this dagger was a note addressed to Fatso. The note said:
Hello, Fats. I want that White kid. I’ve got ten guys down here with me. We will call for him tomorrow morning. No use trying to duck out in your boat because we fixed the channel. Sorry about Innocence but he got tough.
I did not know then, of course, that Dan the Devil had been visited in New York by a fellow named Shoes McGlochlin, who used to work with Dan in the old days.
Shoes said: “Dan, I don’t want you to hold it against me, but I’m carrying a message from Abie Goldfarb. Dan, your number is up. You’re a sure thing to go unless you round yourself up with Goldy. He knows you’ve got a big score in sight. He knows you’ve made a fat sneeze, and he’s willing to call everything even if you cut him in. He wants fifty percent.”
Dan was somewhat startled, but not by the demand. He was startled that anyone knew of the taking of John Withington White III. Not a line had appeared in the papers about it. Not a whisper, as far as he knew, had been breathed about it by White’s family.
He said: “Shoes, I’m not going to spit in your face like I would if I thought you were anything but a messenger boy. Go back and tell that mockie that nobody cuts in with Dan Dubois on anything. Tell him I wish he had come to me himself, that’s all.”
Shoes, who told me this afterwards, smiled at the answer. He said: “Dan, I wish I was ten years younger, and didn’t have a wife to look after, if you know what I mean. But protect yourself in the clinches, Dan.”
It was that night that Goldfarb the Peacemaker went South by train with a picked crew of his red-hots.
About this time, Dan the Devil seemed to weaken a little bit. He seemed to feel that he needed help at his end of the line. Skunky McLarnin wasn’t much use to him, because Skunky was too well known to too many people to take any chances. Maybe Dan didn’t rate Skunky’s moxie very high if it came to a tight fit.
It is my own opinion that Dan commenced to see that he was a little rusty himself in spots, now that he was trying to take everything on his own shoulders. He wouldn’t have admitted it to anybody, but I think he saw how times had changed around him, and realized that he was getting old.
I’ll tell you something about propositions like the one we were working on. It takes youth, like any other business. Youth has recklessness and nerve, and will run all kinds of chances. Youth doesn’t stop to think of obstacles or consequences, or to study things out. When a fellow gets along toward middle age, no matter how desperate he may have been when he was young, he thinks more, and slower.
Dan the Devil knew this better than anybody else. When he was going big, Dan always had a lot of young fellows around him. He got to the top by taking advantage of the slowness of old guys who stopped to think. Maybe he suddenly realized that he was working with a lot of old men, for Black Angelo and Innocence and Fatso and I were all about the same age as Dan the Devil, and Skunky was ten years older.
The reason I think Dan must have got to thinking this way is because he sent to Boston for a young fellow by the name of Speedy Cesare, and brought him into the thing. Speedy Cesare was a little, brown-looking fellow with plenty of sense, and all the nerve any one man is entitled to have. He had been with Dan the Devil a short time before Dan went away, but long enough for Dan to get a good line on him.
After Dan went away, Speedy got mobbed up with a Boston outfit, and was doing just so-so up there. He was a restless, lone-wolf chap, always looking for adventure, and when Dan got a message to him he hustled to New York at once without knowing just what Dan wanted. He wasn’t quite so enthusiastic when Dan laid out the proposition.
He said: “Say, there’s an awful beef everywhere about the sneeze just now. I see they’re going to top a guy out West for it.”
He meant they were going to hang a man for kidnaping.
Dan the Devil said: “What do you want them to do? Give him a medal? I’d top him, too, if I was on the other side and wanted to teach a lesson. But if I was on that side, I’d have guys like you and me swinging from every tree and telegraph pole like scarecrows, to remind everybody that if you live by the rope you croak by the rope.”
Dan told Speedy Cesare he was going to get twenty-five G’s if everything went all right. It was a good thing for this story that Speedy was in, at that, because he helped me a lot when I got down to piecing things out.
He told me how Dan the Devil got the suitcase in Central Park.
In a letter he sent to the White home, Dan fixed nine o’clock sharp in the evening as the hour the suitcase was to be left for him. Dan always liked to work when there were apt to be plenty of people in the streets. He claimed they made good cover for a getaway.
In Central Park, in a direct line across Fifty-ninth Street from the Athletic Club, which is at the corner of Fifty-ninth and Seventh Avenue, there is a little short bridge over a tunnel that runs under one of the most generally used roadways in the park. A path to the carrousel where the kids ride the phony ponies runs through the tunnel. This path comes winding down the hump of high ground on the Fifty-ninth Street end of the park to the tunnel, making a little ravine just where it disappears into the hole under the road.
Between the bridge and the stone wall that runs along the Fifty-ninth Street end of the park is a short distance of ground covered by grass and bushes. Dan the Devil had a car with the engine running parked at the curb in Fifty-ninth Street and was leaning up against the stone wall just before nine o’clock on the evening he had designated. There is nothing unusual in fellows leaning up against this wall at any time.
Speedy Cesare waited inside the park under the bridge in the little ravine I have mentioned. There were people scattered around inside and outside the park, because it was a hot night.
Speedy stretched out on the grass until a couple of minutes before the car was due. At nine o’clock on the dot, a big open roadster came roaring down the road, hugging the right-hand side. From his spot beneath the bridge, Speedy couldn’t see who was in the roadster, and of course Dan couldn’t either. But whoever it was, he remembered Dan’s instructions to a T. As the roadster hit the bridge it slowed down a trifle but never stopped, and the driver chucked a suitcase over the right-hand railing.
In two snaps of your fingers, the suitcase was on the end of a long rope that Speedy hooked to it, and was hopping through the bushes like something alive as Dan hauled in the rope. Two minutes more, and Dan’s car was tearing away.
Speedy laid down on the grass again. If it was a trap and the cops came, all right. He was broke and hungry, and sleepy, and had gone into the park to grab a few winks. He wouldn’t know anything about a suitcase. He hadn’t been around New York for a long time. He wasn’t very well known there anyway, and had no police record there. Who would believe the cops that a man had thrown a suitcase containing two hundred and fifty thousand dollars over the bridge, and it had suddenly evaporated?
Speedy told me this was the way Dan the Devil reasoned. If it wasn’t a trap, and anybody saw the performance, they might puzzle over it awhile, but would let it go at that. New Yorkers are great people for minding their own business because they’re always afraid of getting in a jam, Dan told Speedy.
Dan said: “That’s one reason why you can get away with more in broad daylight in New York than you can in darkest night anywhere else.”
But no one seemed to notice the affair. Speedy waited around awhile, then walked out of the park. He dodged around in subways and taxicabs for the next hour, and about eleven o’clock he went over to Dan’s apartment in West Fifty-sixth Street. Dan let him in and pointed to a suitcase open on the table.
The suitcase seemed to be filled with old newspapers and magazines. A paper sack of walnuts was on top. That was all. There wasn’t as much as a two-dollar note in real money in sight.
Dan the Devil looked at Speedy. Then he looked at the suitcase. Then he looked at Speedy again. Speedy said he felt the hair on the back of his neck crawling. Speedy said he probably never will be as close to the meat house again and still be alive. That’s the morgue. For one solid half-hour Dan the Devil stood looking at the suitcase, as if he couldn’t believe what he saw.
Finally Dan the Devil spoke one word. He said: “Bilked!”
By and by he talked more. He never outright said he had any thought that Speedy might have had anything to do with the bilking, but Speedy always believed that for a few minutes his price was about a hundred to nothing.
Dan the Devil recalled Shoes McGlochlin’s visit to him. He said maybe young White’s people had taken the matter of the kidnaping to Goldfarb and asked him to help them. It had often happened that parents and others interested in someone that has been grabbed by one underworld outfit got another underworld bunch to try and make contacts for them, which was the worst thing they could do.
Dan said if John Withington White III’s people had gone to Goldfarb for help, apparently the first thing Goldy did was to try to double-cross them by attempting to shove in on Dan. Dan said if they hadn’t gone to Goldfarb, how did Goldy know about the taking of young White?
He said: “Maybe Goldy told them to play this trick on me. But why? Even Goldy must know that it’s just the same as signing young White’s death warrant, so how does Goldy profit? White has got to go now or everybody in the country will be laughing at Dan the Devil. I’ll take care of Mr. Goldfarb later.”
It was just at this time that I got Dan on the telephone from Brunswick. He didn’t wait for me to do any talking.
He said: “Come back, all of you, as quick as you can, but first carry out the original orders I gave you.”
I said: “I wish I could, Dan, but Goldfarb and company are here and Francesca has sneezed our friend.”
After I had explained as best I could over the phone, Dan said he would hop a plane and get down South as quick as possible. But he didn’t start at once.
He went looking for Skunky McLarnin to see if Skunky or his finger man had any theory about the suitcase and its strange contents. Dan made Speedy go along with him. Speedy could see that he hadn’t received a hundred-percent acquittal in Dan’s mind yet.
Dan hadn’t been taking direct routes to anywhere or going through lighted streets for some days, to keep Goldfarb’s red-hots from getting a good crack at him, but Speedy said he seemed to have forgotten caution, except to the extent of taking one peek out into the street in front of his apartment before stepping out the door. There was nobody in sight but a kid across the street whistling “Stormy Weather.”
Dan the Devil took Speedy to Skunky’s Club Boulogne, but they said Skunky hadn’t been around as yet. Dan and Speedy were going out when the doorman stopped them. He was a gray-haired fellow in a night-club uniform.
He said: “You remember me, Meest’ Dubois?”
Dan looked at him and said no.
“I Tony,” the doorman said. “Black Angelo’s brud’. I weeth you on da ol’ ferraboat.”
Dan the Devil had a ship in the old days called the Mary Ann that everybody knew as the ferryboat because she used to make runs from St. Pierre right up to a dock in the East River, loaded with booze, as regular as a ferry.
“You remember?” Tony said. “You ver’ nice to Tony, Meest’ Dubois. Also my brud’, Black Angelo. You ask for Meest’ McLarn’. He go away early tonight weeth Meest’ Aiken. You know Meest’ Aiken? A fina da man. Spenda da mon’. Geeva da teep.”
Some drunks coming in to the Boulogne interrupted. Tony and Dan waited until the doorman had bowed them inside. By and by Tony came back. He dropped his voice to a whisper.
He said: “Meest’ Dubois, thees I theenk is for you to know. It is import’. I, Tony, Black Angelo’s brud’, and weeth you on da ol’ ferraboat, will speak.”
He looked up and down the street. A few taxicabs were standing in front of the Boulogne, the drivers half asleep. Somewhere up the street someone was whistling “Stormy Weather.”
Tony said: “Meest’ Dubois, when Meest’ McLarn’ weesh not to be found, always he go to apartamenta he keep in Sevent’ Avenue. I know thees, because many times I take theengs to heem there. Always he have tell me sh-h-h about thees places, because he say it is there he meet his womans. Meest’ Dubois, lasta week I tak’ to thees place, sanawitch and bottla Scotch, and there is weeth Meest’ McLarn’ the man by name Peace-a-mak’.”
Speedy said he couldn’t bear to look at Dan the Devil’s face.
Tony said: “Meest’ Dubois, thees man, the Peace-a-mak’, and Meest’ McLarn’ mak’ mooch talk. They do not know Tony hears, but they speak-a you name, Meest’ Dubois. Danna da Dev’. They mak’ beeg laugh, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho! I say to myself, ‘Tony, thees laugh is not good for Meest’ Dubois. I will tell Meest’ Dubois of thees.’ But I do not see you until now, Meest’ Dubois.”
Dan said: “What’s the number of that joint, Tony? Laughed, did they?”
Tony mentioned a Seventh Avenue address. “Numb’ Nine-B,” he said. “Eight’ floor back-a, on Sevent’ Avenue side. Oh, yes, Meest’ Dubois. Beeg laugh. Ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho! Tell-a Black Angelo when you see heem, his brud’ Tony say ’allo. Beeg laugh, Meest’ Dubois. Beeg!”
It was one o’clock in the morning, and Dan the Devil called a cab and had the driver take him and Speedy Cesare to the house in East Sixty-seventh Street from in front of which we had taken young White. Despite the hour, lights were burning all over the house.
Dan rang the bell, and a butler appeared after a considerable wait, and Dan asked if Mr. Adrian Aiken was at home. The butler said no, and then Dan asked for Mrs. Aiken. The butler hesitated, and while he was hesitating, a woman appeared behind him. She was pale and haggard, and looked as if she had been ill. She said she was Mrs. Aiken.
Speedy said he believed Dan went to the house on some impulse of revenge against the family, but the sight of the woman changed his mind.
Dan said: “Lady, if I can have a word with you in private, I think I have some information that may interest you.”
She did not answer, but motioned the butler away and led Dan and Speedy into a living room. Dan handed her the wrist watch that he had taken off of John Withington White III, along with his other knick-knacks. She stood trembling, the watch in her hand, looking at Dan the Devil, but not saying a word.
Dan said: “Lady, that’s to show you I’m not here as a phony. What I want to know is, have you paid any money to anybody for your son’s release, and if so, who did you pay it to?”
“Who are you?” she said. “How do you know anything about my son?”
“Never mind,” Dan said. “Did you give anybody any money?”
“Only my husband, Mr. Aiken,” she said. “He has been taking care of the dreadful affair for me. Do you know where my son is? Is he safe?”
“How much?” Dan said. “Two hundred and fifty thousand?”
“More,” she said! “A million. That is what they asked. Oh, sir, if you know where my son is, please speak. Is there anything wrong? When is he to come home?”
Dan the Devil stood looking at her awhile. At last he said: “Lady, I think you’re on the level in this. Don’t worry about your son, and don’t tell anybody about this visit. Not even your husband. Promise me that.”
“I promise,” she said.
Then Dan hurried Speedy Cesare from the house.
They went by car back to Dan the Devil’s own apartment, where he sat, scarcely saying a word, until a little after three o’clock in the morning. Then they walked over to Seventh Avenue to the address given Dan by Tony.
It was a big apartment house on a corner of one of the Fifties, one side on Seventh Avenue, the front on the cross street. It was one of the swellest apartment houses in town when it was first built, but that was years ago.
It was so old-fashioned it had fire escapes leading from the roof almost to the ground on the Seventh Avenue side. They don’t put these fire escapes on modern buildings in New York, but all the old-timers have them.
From across the street on the Seventh Avenue side, Dan the Devil and Speedy Cesare could see that the back apartment on the eighth floor was lighted up. The windows were down from the top and up from the bottom for air, because it was a warm night, but the shades were down. Occasionally, however, they could see the shadow of a man pass the windows inside the apartment.
Dan the Devil and Speedy took up a position opposite the entrance hall of the apartment house in the side street from where they could watch a colored boy in uniform. He was evidently the elevator boy, but as is usually the custom in these old-time houses, he also seemed to be looking after a telephone switchboard that was in the hall, so it was a sure thing he was the only boy on duty.
He sat dozing in a chair at the switchboard, and Dan and Speedy watched him for half an hour. He got a couple of telephone calls in that time, but none from the elevator, and Dan was suggesting that Speedy go up the street to an all-night delicatessen store, look up the number of the apartment-house telephone in the directory and give the elevator boy a phony call, when the boy plugged in on his board, talked awhile, and then got up and went outside, and started up the street toward the delicatessen. He had evidently been sent on an errand by some hungry tenant.
Almost as soon as his back was turned, Dan the Devil and Speedy ran across the street and into the apartment house. Dan led the way up one flight of stairs after another, on the jump, until they reached the seventh floor.
Then Dan, followed by Speedy, went to the end of the hall on this floor to the Seventh Avenue side, climbed out the hall window onto the fire escape, and climbed up the fire escape to the eighth floor. Between the fire-escape landing to the first window of the lighted apartment across the face of the building, there was a gap of perhaps six feet.
Dan the Devil never hesitated. He yanked off his low-cut shoes on the fire-escape landing, and as Speedy did the same thing without knowing why, Dan suddenly swung himself from the landing across the wall to the window ledge.
As he landed on the window ledge, he grabbed the top of the open window to steady himself an instant, then flipped up the lower part of the window and went into the room. He had his gun out of the shoulder holster under his left arm the same instant he went through the window, because when Speedy came flying through himself, to fall in a heap on the floor, there was Dan covering Skunky McLarnin with his gun. Skunky had his hands up. He was in his shirt sleeves. There was blood all over his shirt and trousers.
Dan said: “Hello, Skunky. We didn’t bother to knock because we wanted to surprise you.”
It was the bedroom of the apartment, and Skunky was standing beside the bed. On the bed were two big suitcases of yellow leather, both open, and both apparently filled to the brim with packages of money. A couple of other suitcases stood on the floor full of clothes. Skunky evidently had been packing.
His face was as white as a fresh collar. His eyes were popping half out of his head. Finally he tried to smile.
He said: “Hello, Dan. Say, I was just going to get in touch with you. Well, I’ve got the dough. The entire million. We can cut it up right away. I’m glad to see you, Dan. I thought something had happened to you.”
Skunky sat down as if too weak to stand any more. He sat down on the bed between the suitcases full of money. Dan stood looking at Skunky. Skunky didn’t seem to see Speedy Cesare, who also had him covered with a pistol. Skunky looked all shriveled up. Suddenly he jumped up from the bed.
He said: “All right, all right, all right! To hell with you, Dubois! No wonder they call you the Devil. You aren’t supposed to be alive, and here you are. Yes, it’s the two-X. It’s a cross. You know it, and I can see you know it. What’s the difference? I’m a goner, anyway. Go ahead, Dubois, and give it to me. What are you waiting for?”
“Take it easy, Skunky,” Dan said. “Take it easy. Let’s talk this over. Maybe I might get big-hearted. I want to hear all about you and Aiken and Goldfarb. I love to listen to stories. Sit down, Skunky, and tell me all.”
“I knew you knew,” Skunky said. “I don’t know how you found out. I guess you just ain’t human. Well, all right; I’ll tell you.”
He sat down on the bed again and started to talk. Probably he thought that by talking he gained time. Speedy had a good memory. He remembered almost word for word what Skunky McLarnin said, and repeated it to me afterwards. It was a long story.
Skunky said: “Adrian Aiken was stuck on Beth Robare, a chorus doll at the Boulogne. She’s been around, and is smartened up to everything. She’d been a sort of sweetheart of mine, off and on, for years. Aiken was always a sucker for that kind ever since I’ve known him, and I’ve known him a long time. He was broke. Any time he wanted dough, he had to get it off his wife, and she was commencing to shorten up on him. Maybe she’d heard he was spending his potatoes on Robare.
“Aiken knew about the million dollars that was to go to his wife’s son, and he got the idea of clipping her by having some mob kidnap the boy and hold him for ransom. He figured two hundred and fifty thousand was about the right figure. He knew his wife would turn the matter of negotiation over to him, and that he could keep it so quiet there wouldn’t be any police investigation.
“He was going to get the dough off her and hold it out on the mob, but give them a bilking in a way that would make them sore enough to put the boy out of the way for good and all. For the terms of old man White’s will provided that if anything happened to John Withington White III before he was twenty-three years old, the estate would go to the mother. And Aiken figured that if something also happened to White’s mother later on, Aiken himself would come in for plenty of her estate.”
Skunky said: “You can bet all the corn in Kansas something would have happened to Mrs. Aiken if he got rid of the boy. He tipped his duke to Robare, and she told me. Aiken was going to marry her in the wind-up. He was a low-down guy.
“When you asked for the million, it was water on Aiken’s wheel. It made the touch all the bigger for him. I was to get a hundred G’s of the original amount for digging up the mob. I was surprised when you fell for it, Dan. I didn’t think it was in your line.
“Well, Aiken got the money off his wife, all right. He kept her from going to the cops. Then we framed up that phony suitcase he delivered to you in the park. I thought that would set you on fire. I figured you’d have the kid guzzled in about two minutes after you opened that suitcase and found the nuts. Or have you?”
Skunky said: “Now a hundred G’s was all okay with me on the original plan, but when Aiken got a million and still wanted to hold me to a hundred, I felt I was taking the worst of it. Besides, I just couldn’t see a rat like that get away with all that sugar. He brought the dough here to hide it, and when he paid me off, I told him I’d have to have about half.
“Well, he balked and put up a beef, so I let him have it with a knife. That’s why I’m all mussed up. He’s in the next room if you like unpleasant sights, but I guess they’re no novelty to you.”
Dan said: “I see. So you’ve pushed your finger man. And who told Goldfarb this touch was coming off? And what’s his mob doing down around Shadow Island?”
“Well, Dan,” Skunky said, “I knew you were going to be greatly annoyed when you got to figuring things out quietly. I knew you’d be looking for your old friend Skunky. So I told Goldfarb what was doing, and I was going to cut my end with him in return for him taking you out of the play at the right time.
“But Goldfarb got hoggish. He first tried to declare in with you; then he said that if young White’s mother would pay one million, she’d probably pay two. So he hustled South with his guys, figuring to snatch the kid off you and hold him for a new ransom if the first was paid, besides collecting off of me if he shoved you.”
Skunky said: “I guess I’ve been X-ed by Goldy. When I made the deal with him he told me he’d have Stormy Weather, the greatest cooler in this town, on you, and that you’d positively be gone by six o’clock on the morning of the fifth. That’s this morning, and you’re still alive.”
Dan said: “It’s only a little after four now, Skunky. Give the guy a chance. Well, I think that’s all.”
Skunky begged just a little. “Take the whole million, Dan,” he said, “and let’s call it all even.”
“Oh,” Dan said, “I’ve got the million. I’ll be saying goodby. Skunky.”
“To hell with you, again,” Skunky said.
Dan the Devil gave Speedy the twenty-five G’s he promised him, taking the money out of one of the suitcases; then they left by the door, stopping to get their shoes off the fire-escape landing. Each carried a suitcase.
They walked down to the third floor and rang the elevator bell. When they heard the elevator coming, they ran down the stairs, and out into the street without seeing a soul, except a young fellow going down Seventh Avenue whistling “Stormy Weather.”
After they had walked about a block Dan the Devil said he would relieve Speedy of the suitcase he was carrying. Then he shook hands with Speedy and said he might as well return to Boston.
The papers made a big sensation of the killing of Mr. Adrian Aiken, the broker, and Mr. Montgomery McLarnin, the famous night-club operator, by thugs bent on robbery, who forced their way into Mr. McLarnin’s apartment where he and Mr. Aiken were discussing a business deal. Nobody knew Skunky’s first name before.
Some people who read that besides the slugs found in his body, Mr. McLarnin had a notch in his upper lip, laughed about the robbery story. That’s the Sicilian brand for a squealer. Speedy Cesare was a Sicilian.
It was true that Francesca had kidnaped John Withington White III, as I had told Dan the Devil on the phone.
We tried to keep the killing of Innocence and the presence of the Goldfarb mob from her and the McGarrys at first. Then old Mike McGarry tried to go outside in the motor boat along toward noon, intending to make a trip to Brunswick, and found the mouth of the creek blocked. An old boat loaded with rocks had been sunk in the clear water of the creek, which wasn’t very deep at any time.
Now even the motor boat, which drew very little water, couldn’t get through, and besides, Mike said a launch with several fellows in it was cruising off the mouth of the creek, and one of the fellows whistled a slug past Mike from a rifle. Old Mike was very much upset, and he told Francesca about it, and Francesca came to me.
She said: “What is it all about, Pally?”
I explained to her that Goldfarb seemed to have decided to take John Withington White III away from us and collect the ransom that we were entitled to get. I told her who Goldfarb was, and all about the situation. I said I couldn’t understand how he knew we had young White.
Francesca said: “You mean he wants to re-kidnap this boy you kidnaped?”
I said that was about the size of it.
“Well,” she said, “would the boy be better off with Goldfarb than with you?”
I said I didn’t know how he would be with Goldfarb, but that it was a cinch he couldn’t be any worse off than he was going to be with us, the way things were looking.
She said: “What do you mean, Pally?”
I said the next thing we knew all this hullabaloo would be attracting attention from the law on the mainland, and that we were not going to be found with John Withington White III in our possession if there was any spot on the island where I could dig a six-foot hole.
She said: “But what if these other fellows make an attack on you?”
I said I thought that was the very last thing Goldfarb would undertake, because he was like us, he didn’t want to run the risk of attracting any outside attention. I said he probably figured we would give up young White without a struggle, and he was giving us plenty of time to think things over.
“Anyway,” I said, “even if they come on the island they won’t bother you or the McGarrys. Maybe the best thing we could do is give the guy up, but if we did that, what would Dan say?”
I talked it over with Fatso and Black Angelo. Neither of them thought we ought to give the young fellow up alive after we had gone to so much trouble. They didn’t think Goldy would risk a battle.
We couldn’t arrive at any decision, and we heard no more from Goldfarb’s crowd outside, though by sneaking down through the woods to the shore, we could see the launch cruising around. They must have known that we had only the one motor boat on the island, though there was a tiny little lifeboat on the Bumble Bee. I spoke of this to Fatso, and suggested that it could get past the obstruction in the creek because it didn’t draw any more water than a cake of floating soap.
Fatso said: “Well, if it could, what then? There ain’t any of us could row it anywhere, and besides, we ain’t got anywhere to row it to. Was you thinking of going to Brunswick and asking the gendarmes to help us keep our guy?”
Francesca was listening to us at the time. She didn’t seem to be disturbed by the situation. And later, I saw her taking some food to the Bumble Bee for John Withington White III.
It was when I was having a very sweet dream about being back safe on Broadway that Fatso came in and shook me. He was much excited. He said: “I see Francesca and that young guy going down the creek in the little boat off the Bee. What am I supposed to do?”
I was off the bed in an instant and started out of the house on the run, with Fatso waddling after me. I thought he must be out of his mind, but when I hopped aboard the Bumble Bee and went down into the hold, I understood what had happened, and what I didn’t understand then, I learned afterwards, because Francesca loved to tell the story.
Black Angelo was stretched out on the bunk where John Withington White III had been chained. He was unconscious. Francesca had given him his own pencil, taken the keys to the handcuffs and the leg irons out of his pocket and turned young White loose. She had even handcuffed and chained Black Angelo to the bunk.
Then Francesca and young White had dropped the little boat overboard. It was always lashed on top of the cabin, and it was so small a baby could lift it.
It was a still, hot night, and I could hear the oarlocks from far away. I ran down along the bank of the creek a short distance before I realized they were out in the open water. As I thought, the little boat had no trouble sliding past the channel obstruction.
There was nothing I could do until late that morning when Fatso and I got a line under the sunken boat in the creek and pulled it to one side, so the Bumble Bee could get through, and we tore for Brunswick, where I called up Dan the Devil.
When I got back to the dock where I had left the Bumble Bee, it had disappeared. Black Angelo and Fatso must have suddenly dogged it and decided they had enough of the situation.
I always tried to excuse them in my own mind by figuring they may have seen the bunch of Goldfarb’s red-hots who loaded into a big motor boat while the Bumble Bee was at the dock, and went out to Shadow Island to reinforce Goldy, and later to scare the McGarrys half to death. I always said to myself that maybe Black Angelo and Fatso intended returning to the island ahead of the motor boat.
But this excuse never seemed to fit, because the Bumble Bee was afterwards found floating upside down a hundred miles off that coast. It had run into a hurricane away out, and if Black Angelo or Fatso escaped they never came back to say so. I guess the eels got them.
Now it seems that in the launch that was cruising off Shadow Island was Abie Goldfarb, the Peacemaker himself, and four of his crack red-hots. A red-hot is a fellow who is especially handy on the trigger.
Abie was a small, blond fellow, with a big hooked nose. He came up out of the Red Hook district in Brooklyn, and had lived there most of his life. He was a smart fellow, and he wasn’t trusting any million-dollar scores to anyone else.
John Withington White III was at the oars as the little boat came slipping out of the creek. It was a dark night, and you couldn’t see far across the water, and young White rowed as quietly as he could, but Abie’s bunch heard him just the same and started their launch toward the noise of the oarlocks.
But Abie had been laying well out for fear we might chuck a few slugs at them, so the little boat got a jump on them at the start. Francesca knew the general direction of the mainland and young White rowed that way, though they had no real idea where they were going. They could hear Abie’s boat coming on steadily, though of course at first Abie didn’t know who he was following. All he knew was that somebody was trying to get away from Shadow Island. He had some local fellow out of Brunswick running his boat, and the fellow knew the waters in that neighborhood.
John Withington White III was pretty stiff from being chained up in the hold so long, but after rowing awhile, his muscles loosened up, and he made the little boat skip along like a water beetle. He kept changing his course to fool the mob in the launch behind him.
From Shadow Island to the mainland in the direction Francesca and John Withington White III went, it was around six or seven miles. They got a good break, because the water was fairly smooth, and there was no moon. But they could hear Goldy’s launch putt-putting behind them, and by and by it commenced to get light because dawn comes early down there in the summer.
Then the fellows in Goldy’s boat could see what they were after, and while I don’t know that any of them had ever seen John Withington White III before, and I know they had never seen Francesca, they couldn’t have helped suspecting that these were people worth interviewing. A couple of shots were fired at the little boat. Francesca said she didn’t think they were intended to hit anything because they went wide, and Goldfarb’s red-hots seldom missed.
The shore was still about two miles away, and Francesca and John Withington White III had about a quarter of a mile lead on the launch when it got light enough to see real good, and John Withington White III had been rowing around quite a while. I’ve heard fellows who claim they know say that a man can’t out-row a motor launch, but that’s what John Withington White III did. He must have been a natural-born rower.
It was broad daylight when the little boat bumped against the shore of the mainland. The last few hundred yards, John Withington White III had a cinch in his race against the launch, because the water shallowed off, and the launch had to take it easy to keep from going aground, while the small boat could ride a goldfish bowl.
Where Francesca and John Withington White III landed, the pines run almost down to the water, and as soon as they piled out of the boat they started running for the trees. The launch stopped about a hundred yards offshore, and Goldy’s bunch hopped out into the water and started wading ashore. In a few minutes, Francesca and John Withington White III were well back in the pines, but also in one of the toughest stretches of swamp in the world, with plenty of water underfoot, and the cypress trees standing thick and close.
They ran and ran, and kept running, floundering and falling, but still struggling on. They were going hand in hand like a couple of children. They could hear Goldy’s bunch right behind them. I wish I could have seen those city fellows running through the swamp, especially Goldy. Occasionally they fired a shot, just at random. I guess they were convinced now that the fellow ahead of them was young White.
Finally, deep down in the woods, John Withington White III and Francesca came to firmer ground, and made better time. Then Francesca played out. She couldn’t run any more. She stopped and began to cry. Of course John Withington White III stopped, too.
Francesca said: “Go on. They’ll not bother me. They won’t know who I am, but they’re bound to recognize you.”
John Withington White III picked her up in his arms and kept on running. He must have been a powerful fellow.
At last he came out of the swamp to a small clearing out in the sun and was about to run across this clearing, because there was thick undergrowth on both sides, when there came a peculiar noise. John Withington White III stopped dead in his tracks, then turned and lunged into the undergrowth, and struggled through it for another quarter of a mile.
Francesca told me that at this moment the pursuit was so close behind that it seemed a sure thing they would be overtaken. They could hear Goldy’s crowd floundering and swearing just a few yards away. Then suddenly Francesca and John Withington White III heard a strange scream. It was a man’s scream, and Francesca said it was the most terrible sound she ever heard.
Then there were other screams, and then yells from different voices, and the pursuit seemed to be turning behind them and going back the other way.
But John Withington White III, carrying Francesca in his arms, kept plugging through the woods, until at last he came to a clearing, and saw in the distance the buildings of a plantation.
He stopped and listened, but there wasn’t a sound in the woods behind them. Then young White sat down on a log, still holding Francesca in his arms as if she was a baby, and began kissing her.
But nothing ever surprised Francesca. She said: “Why?”
“Because I love you,” he said.
“You won’t when you find out I’m the daughter of Dan the Devil, the man who kidnaped you, and one of the most disgraceful characters in American history.”
“I know it already,” he said. “Black Angelo used to keep me awake at night entertaining me with stories of your illustrious parent.”
“And you don’t mind?” she said.
“I once looked up the inside history of the Whites,” John Withington White III said. “Especially our line. One of my ancestors was hanged in chains for piracy. One of my great-great-grandfathers was run out of San Francisco by the Vigilantes for swindling the forty-niners. Another great-great-grandfather wrecked two banks. My grandfather on my mother’s side stole five railroads from the stockholders. I suspect that my father was a profiteer during the late war.” He added: “If you can stand for my family, I can stand for yours.”
Francesca said: “I’ll try.”
It was an hour or so afterwards that Francesca wondered what had happened to their pursuers. They were still sitting on the log. At least, John Withington White III was doing the sitting.
He said: “Maybe they ran into something I was lucky enough to avoid.”
He never explained to Francesca, but that night several of Goldy’s red-hots wandered into a small settlement on the edge of the pine woods babbling like a lot of crazy men, and when a searching party went out into the woods they found what was left of Goldy some distance from the little clearing in the sun, where he had stumbled right into a whole family of rattlesnakes that John Withington White III had seen in time to avoid.
There wasn’t too much left of Goldy, at that. The buzzards had been busy. Everybody said that was a queer way and a queer place for Goldy to wind up.
A milkman by the name of Marcus Stromberg, delivering his milk at dawn, saw a man who was afterwards identified as Dan the Devil, get out of a taxi near the corner of East Sixty-seventh Street and Fifth Avenue, dismiss the driver, and then start walking through East Sixty-seventh. The man was carrying a big suitcase in each hand.
This Stromberg also saw a young fellow walking along the street with his hands in his pockets and a cap on the back of his head, not far behind the man with the suitcases. Stromberg said the only reason he noticed him at all was because the Strombergs were musical and it annoyed him to hear the young fellow whistling “Stormy Weather” off key.
Then Stromberg heard something go pit-pit-pit, and looked around and saw the man stretched out on the sidewalk between his suitcases. The young fellow was walking away rapidly. He was still whistling “Stormy Weather.” The cops were greatly astonished to find nine-hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars in cash money in the suitcases.
I’ve always had a sort of an idea that maybe Dan the Devil got to thinking about Francesca kidnaping John Withington White III, and putting two and two together, and figuring why, and that he was taking the money back to young White’s mother. But I’ve never mentioned that idea to anybody that knew Dan the Devil. They’d never believe he would have softened up that much.
I saw an item in a newspaper the other day that said that Mr. and Mrs. John Withington White III were spending their honeymoon at Shadow Island, the private estate of the bride’s uncle, Mr. M. Patrick McGarry.
Francesca put in a good word for me. She said I’d always been a little off. So I’m back hacking.