The Problem of the Steel Door
by Arthur B. Reeve
It was what in college we used to call "good football
weather"--a crisp autumn afternoon that sent the blood tingling
through the brain and muscle. Kennedy and I were enjoying a
stroll on the drive, dividing our attention between the glowing
red sunset across the Hudson and the string of homeward-bound
automobiles on the broad parkway. Suddenly a huge black touring
car marked with big letters, "P. D. N. Y.," shot past.
"Joy riding again in one of the city's
cars," I remarked. "I thought the last police
department shake-up had put a stop to that."
"Perhaps it has," returned Kennedy.
"Did you see who was in the car?"
"No, but I see it has turned and is coming
"It was Inspector--I mean First Deputy
O'Connor. I thought he recognized us as he whizzed along, and I
guess he did, too. Ah, congratulations, O'Connor! I haven't had
a chance to tell you before now pleased I was to learn you had
been appointed first deputy. It ought to have been commissioner,
though," added Kennedy.
"Congratulations nothing," rejoined
O'Connor. "Just another new deal--election coming on, mayor
must make a show of getting some reform done, and all that sort of
thing. So he began with the police department, and here I am,
first deputy. But say, Kennedy," he added, dropping his
voice. "I've a little job on my mind that I'd like to pull
off in about as spectacular a fashion as I--as you know how. I
want to make good, conspicuously good, at the start--understand?
Maybe I'll be 'broke' for it and sent to pounding the pavement of
Dismissalville, but I don't care. I'll take a chance. On the
level, Kennedy, it's a big thing, and it ought to be done. Will
you help me put it across?"
"What is it?" asked Kennedy with a twinkle
in his eye at O'Connor's estimate of the security of his tenure of
O'Connor drew us away from the automobile toward the
stone parapet overlooking the railroad and river far below, and
out of earshot of the department chauffeur. "I want to pull
off a successful raid on the Vesper Club," he whispered
earnestly, scanning our faces.
"Good heavens, man," I ejaculated.
"Don't you know that Senator Danfield is interested
"Jameson," interrupted O'Connor
reproachfully, "I said 'on the level' a few minutes ago and
I meant it. Senator Danfield be--well, anyhow, if I don't do it
the district attorney will, with the aid of the Dowling law, and
I am going to beat him to it, that's all. There's too much money
being lost at the Vesper Club, anyhow. It won't hurt Danfield to
be taught a lesson not to run such a phony game. I may like to
put up a quiet bet myself on the ponies now and then--I won't say
I don't, but this thing of Danfield's has got beyond all reason.
It's the crookedest gambling joint in the city, at least judging
by the stories they tell of losses there. And so beastly
aristocratic, too. Read that."
O'Connor shoved a letter into Kennedy's hand, a
dainty perfumed and monogramed little missive, addressed in a
feminine hand. It was such a letter as comes by the thousand to
the police in the course of a year, though seldom from ladies of
the smart set:
Dear Sir: I notice in the newspapers this morning
that you have just been appointed first deputy commissioner of
police and that you have been ordered to suppress gambling in
New York. For the love that you must still bear toward your own
mother, listen to the story of a mother worn with anxiety for her
only son, and if there is any justice or righteousness in this
great city close a gambling hell that is sending to ruin scores of
our finest young men. No doubt you know or have heard of my
family--the DeLongs are not unknown in New York. Perhaps you have
also heard of the losses of my son Percival at the Vesper Club.
They are fast becoming the common talk of our set. I am not rich,
Mr. Commissioner, in spite of our social position, but I am human,
as human as a mother in any station of life, and oh, if there is
any way, close up that gilded society resort that is dissipating
our small fortune, ruining an only son, and slowly bringing to the
grave a gray-haired widow, as worthy of protection as any mother
of the poor whose plea has closed up a little poolroom or low
policy shop. Sincerely,
Mrs. Julia. M. DeLong
P.S.--Please keep this confidential--at least from my son
"Well," said Kennedy, as he handed back
the letter, "O'Connor, if you do it, I'll take back all the
hard things I've ever said about the police system. Young DeLong
was in one of my classes at the university, until he was expelled
for that last mad prank of his. There's more to that boy than
most people think, but he's the wildest scion of wealth I have
ever come in contact with. How are you going to pull off your
raid--is it to be down through the skylight or up from the
"Kennedy," replied O'Connor, in the same
reproachful tone with which he had addressed me, "talk sense.
I'm in earnest. You know the Vesper Club is barricaded like the
National City Bank. It isn't one of those common gambling joints
which depend for protection on what we call 'icebox doors.' It's
proof against all the old methods. Axes and sledge hammers would
make no impression there."
"Your predecessor had some success at opening
doors with a hydraulic jack, I believe, in some very difficult
raids," put in Kennedy.
"A hydraulic jack wouldn't do for the Vesper
Club, I'm afraid," remarked O'Connor wearily. "Why,
sir, that place has been proved bombproof--bombproof, sir. You
remember recently the so-called 'gamblers' war,' in which some
rivals exploded a bomb on the steps? It did more damage to the
house next door than to the club. However, I can get past the
outer door, I think, even if it is strong. But inside--you must
have heard of it--is the famous steel door, 3 inches thick, made of
armor plate. It's no use to try it at all unless we can pass that
door with reasonable quickness. All the evidence we shall get
will be of an innocent social clubroom downstairs.
"The gambling is all on the second floor,
beyond the door, in a room, without a window in it. Surely you've
heard of that famous gambling room, with its perfect system of
artificial ventilation and electric lighting that makes it rival
noonday at midnight. And don't tell me I've got to get on the
other side of the door by strategy, either. It is strategy-proof.
The system of lookouts is perfect. No force is necessary, but it
must not be destructive of life or property--or, by heaven, I'd
drive up there and riddle the place with a fourteen-inch
gun," exclaimed O'Connor.
"H'm!" mused Kennedy as he flicked the
ashes off his cigar and meditatively watched a passing freight
train on the railroad below us. "There goes a car loaded
with tons and tons of scrap iron. You want me to scrap that
three-inch steel door, do you?"
"Kennedy, I'll buy that particular scrap from
you at--almost its weight in gold. The fact is, I have a secret
fund at my disposal, such as former commissioners have asked for
in vain. I can afford to pay you well, as well as any private
client, and I hear you have had some good fees lately. Only
deliver the goods."
"No," answered Kennedy, rather piqued.
"It isn't money that I am after. I merely wanted to be sure
that you are in earnest. I can get you past that door as if it
were made of green baize."
It was O'Connor's turn to look incredulous, but as
Kennedy apparently meant exactly what he said, he simply asked,
"And will you?"
"I will do it tonight if you say so,"
replied Kennedy, quietly. "Are you ready?"
For answer, O'Connor grasped Craig's hand, as if to
seal the pact.
"All right, then," continued Kennedy.
"Send a furniture van, one of those closed vans that the
storage warehouses use, up to my laboratory any time before 7
o'clock. How many men will you need in the raid? Twelve? Will
a van hold that many comfortably? I'll want to put some apparatus
in it, but, that won't take much room."
"Why, yes, I think so," answered O'Connor.
"I'll get a well-padded van so that they won't be badly
jolted by the ride down town. By George! Kennedy, I see you know
more of that side of police strategy than I gave you credit
"Then have the men drop into my laboratory
singly about the same time. You can arrange that so that it will
not look suspicious, so far uptown. It will be dark, anyhow.
Perhaps, O'Connor, you can make up as the driver yourself--anyhow,
get one you can trust absolutely. Then have the van down near the
corner of Broadway below the club, driving slowly along about the
time the theater crowd is out. Leave the rest to me. I will give
you or the driver orders when the time comes."
As O'Connor thanked Craig, he remarked, without a
shade of insincerity, "Kennedy, talk about being
commissioner, you ought to be commissioner."
"Wait till I deliver the goods," answered
Craig, simply. "I may fall down and bring you nothing but a
lawsuit for damages for unlawful entry or unjust persecution, or
whatever they call it."
"I'll take a chance at that," called back
O'Connor as he jumped into his car and directed,
As the car disappeared, Kennedy filled his lungs
with air as if reluctant to leave the drive. "Our
constitutional," he remarked, "is abruptly at an end,
Then he laughed, as he looked about him.
"What a place in which to plot a raid on
Danfield's Vesper Club! Why the nursemaids have hardly got the
children all in for supper and bed. It's incongruous. Well, I
must go over to the laboratory and get some things ready to put in
that van with the men. Meet me about 7:30, Walter, up in the room
all togged up. We'll dine at the Café Riviera tonight in
style. And, by the way, you're quite a man about town--you must
know some one who can introduce us into the Vesper Club."
"But, Craig," I demurred, "if there
is any rough work as a result, it might queer me with them. They
might object to my being used--"
"Oh, that will be all right. I just want to
look the place over and lose a few chips in a good cause. No, it
won't queer any of your Globe connections. We'll be on the
outside when the time comes for anything to happen. In fact, I
shouldn't wonder if your story would make you all the more solid
with the sports. I take all the responsibility; you can have the
glory. You know they like to hear the inside gossip of such
things, after the event. Try it. Remember, at 7:30. We'll be a
little late at dinner, but never mind; it will be early enough for
Left to my own devices I determined to do a little
detective work on my own account, and not only did I succeed in
finding an acquaintance who agreed to introduce us at the Vesper
Club that night about 9 o'clock, but I also learned that Percival
DeLong was certain to be there that night, too. I was necessarily
vague about Kennedy, for fear my friend might have heard of some
of his exploits, but fortunately he did not prove inquisitive.
I hurried back to our apartment and was in the
process of transforming myself into a full-fledged boulevardier,
when Kennedy arrived in an extremely cheerful frame of mind. So
far, his preparations had progressed very favorably, I guessed,
and I was quite elated when he complimented me on what I had
accomplished in the meantime.
"Pretty tough for the fellows who are condemned
to ride around in that van for four mortal hours, though," he
said as he hurried into his evening clothes, "but they won't
be riding all the time. The driver will make frequent
I was so busy that I paid little attention to him
until he had nearly completed his toilet. I gave a gasp.
"Why, whatever are you doing?" I exclaimed
as I glanced into his room.
There stood Kennedy, arrayed in all the glory of a
sharp-pointed mustache and a goatee. He had put on evening
clothes of decidedly Parisian cut, clothes which he had used
abroad and had brought back with him, but which I had never know
him to wear since he came back. On a chair reposed a chimney-pot
hat that would have been pronounced faultless on the
"continent," but was unknown, except among impresarios,
Kennedy shrugged his shoulders--he even had the
"Figure to yourself, monsieur," he said.
"Ze great Kennedy, ze detectif Americain--to put it tersely
in our own vernacular, wouldn't it be a fool thing for me to
appear at the Vesper Club, where I should surely be recognized by
some one if I went in my ordinary clothes and features? Un faux
pas, at the start! Jamais!"
There was nothing to do but agree, and I was glad
that I had been discreetly reticent about my companion in talking
with the friend who was to gain us entrance to the Avernus beyond
the steel door.
We met my friend at the Riviera and dined
sumptuously. Fortunately, he seemed decidedly impressed with my
friend, Monsieur Kay--I could do no better on the spur of the
moment than take Kennedy's initial, which seemed to serve. We
progressed amicably from oysters and soup down to coffee, cigars
and liqueurs, and I succeeded in swallowing Kennedy's tales of
Monte Carlo and Ostend and Ascot without even a smile. He must
have heard them somewhere, and treasured them up for just such an
occasion, but he told them in a manner that was verisimilitude
itself, using perfect English with just the trace of an accent at
the right places.
At last it was time to saunter around to the Vesper
Club without seeming to be too indecently early. The theaters
were not yet out, but my friend said play was just beginning at
the club, and would soon be in full swing.
I had a keen sense of wickedness as we mounted the
steps in the yellow flare of the flaming arc-light on the Broadway
corner not far below us. A heavy, grated door swung open at the
practiced signal of my friend, and as an obsequious negro servant
stood bowing and pronouncing his name in the somber mahogany
portal beyond, with its green marble pillars and handsome
decorations. A short parley followed, after which we entered, my
friend having apparently satisfied some one that we were all
We did not stop to examine the first floor, which
doubtless was important enough, but turned quickly up a flight of
stairs. At the foot of the broad staircase Kennedy paused to
examine some rich carvings and I felt him nudge me. I turned. It
was an inclosed staircase with walls that looked to be of reinforced
concrete. Swung back on hinges like those of a modern
burglar-proof safe was the famous steel door.
We did not wish to appear to be too interested, yet
a certain amount of curiosity was quite proper.
My friend paused on the steps, turned, and came
"You're perfectly safe," he smiled,
tapping the door with his cane with a sort of affectionate
respect. "It would take the police ages to get past that
barrier, which would be swung shut and bolted the moment the
lookout gave the alarm. But there has never been any trouble. The
police know that it is so far, no farther. Besides," he added
with a wink to me, "you know Senator Danfield would not like
this pretty little door even scratched. Come up, I think I hear
DeLong's voice upstairs. You've heard of him, monsieur? It's said
his luck has changed. I'm anxious to find out."
Quickly he led the way up the handsome staircase and
into a large, lofty, richly furnished room. Everywhere there were
thick, heavy carpets on the floor, into which your feet sank with
an air of satisfying luxury.
The room into which we entered was indeed absolutely
windowless. It was a room built within the original room of the
old house. Thus the windows overlooking the street from the
second floor in reality bore no relation to it. For light it
depended on a complete oval of lights overhead, so arranged as to
be themselves invisible, but shining through richly stained glass
and conveying the illusion of a slightly clouded noon-day. The
absence of windows was made up for, as I learned later, by a
ventilating device so perfect that, although every one was smoking,
a most fastidious person could scarcely have been offended by the
odor of tobacco.
Of course, I did not notice all this at first. What
I did notice, however, was a faro layout and a hazard board, but
as no one was playing at either, my eye quickly traveled to a
roulette table which stretched along the middle of the room. Some
ten or a dozen men in evening clothes were gathered watching with
intent faces the spinning wheel. There was no money on the table,
nothing but piles of chips of various denominations. Another
thing that surprised me as I looked was that the tense look on the
faces of the players was anything but the feverish, haggard gaze
I had expected. In fact, they were sleek, well-fed, typical
prosperous New Yorkers, rather inclined to the noticeable in
dress, and carrying their avoirdupois as if life was an easy game
with them. Most of them evidently belonged to the financial and
society classes. There were no tragedies; the tragedies were
elsewhere--in their offices, homes, in the courts, anywhere, but
not here at the club. Here all was life, light, and laughter.
As we advanced, we heard only the rattle of the
ball, the click of the chips, and the monotonous tone of the
spinner. "Twenty-three, black. Eight, red. Seventeen,
black." It was almost like the boys in a broker's office
calling off the quotations of the ticker and marking them up on
Looking forward, almost oblivious to the rest, was
Percival DeLong, a tall, lithe, handsome young man, whose boyish
face ill comported with the marks of dissipation clearly outlined
on it. Such a boy, it flashed across my mind, ought to be
studying the possible plays of football of an evening in the field
house after his dinner at the training table, rather than the
possible gyrations of the little platinum ball on the wheel.
"Curse the luck!" he exclaimed, as
"17" appeared again.
A Hebrew banker staked a pile of chips on the
"17" to come up a third time. A murmur of applause at
his nerve ran through the circle. DeLong hesitated, as one who
thought, "Seventeen has come out twice-- the odds against its
coming again are too great, even though the winnings would be
fabulous for a good stake." He placed his next bet on
"He's playing Lord Rosslyn's system
tonight," whispered my friend.
The wheel spun, the ball rolled, and the croupier
called again, "Seventeen, black." A tremor of
excitement ran through the crowd. It was almost unprecedented.
DeLong, with a stifled oath, leaned back and scanned
the faces about the table.
"And '17' has precisely the same chance of
turning up in the next spin as if it had not already had a run of
three," said a voice at my elbow.
It was Kennedy. The roulette table needs no
introduction when curious sequences are afoot. All are friends.
"That's the theory of Sir Hiram Maxim,"
commented my friend, as he excused himself reluctantly for another
appointment. "But no true gambler will believe it, monsieur,
or at least act on it."
All eyes were turned on Kennedy, who made a gesture
of polite deprecation, as if the remark of my friend were true,
but--he nonchalantly placed his chips on the "17."
"The odds against '17' appearing four
consecutive times are some millions," he went on, "and
yet, having appeared three times, it is just as likely to appear
again as before. It is the usual practice to avoid a number that
has had a run, on the theory that some other number is more likely
to come up than it is. That would be the case if it were drawing
balls from a bag full of red and black balls--the more red ones
drawn the smaller the chances of drawing another red one. But if
the balls are put back in the bag after being drawn the chances of
drawing a red one after three have been drawn are exactly the same
"You talk like a professor I had at the
university," ejaculated DeLong contemptuously as Craig
finished his disquisition on the practical fallibility of
theoretically infallible systems. Again DeLong carefully avoided
the '17,' as well as the black.
The wheel spun again; the ball rolled. The knot of
spectators around the table watched with bated breath.
As Kennedy piled up his winnings superciliously,
without even the appearance of triumph, a man behind me whispered,
"A foreign nobleman with a system--watch him.
"Non, monsieur," said Kennedy quickly,
having overheard the remark, no system, sir. There is only one
system of which I know."
"What?" asked DeLong eagerly.
Kennedy staked a large sum on the red to win. The
black came up, and he lost. He doubled the stake and played
again, and again lost. With amazing calmness Craig kept right on
doubling. "The martingale," I heard the man whisper
behind me. "In other words, double or quit."
Kennedy was now in for some hundreds, a sum that was
sufficiently large for him, but he doubled again, still cheerfully
playing the red, and the red won. As he gathered up his chips he
"That's the only system," he said simply.
"But go on, go on," came the chorus from
about the table.
"No," said Kennedy quietly, "that is
part of the system, too--to quit when you have won back your
stakes and a little more."
"Huh!" exclaimed DeLong in disgust.
"Suppose you were in for some thousands--you wouldn't quit.
If you had real sporting blood you wouldn't quit anyhow."
Kennedy calmly passed over the open insult, letting
it be understood that he ignored this beardless youth.
"There is no way you can beat the game in the
long run if you keep at it," he answered simply. "It is
mathematically impossible. It is not a game of chance for the
bank--ah, it is exact, mathematical--c'est une question
d'arithmetique, seulement, n'est-ce pas, messieurs?"
"Perhaps," admitted DeLong, "but it
doesn't explain why I am losing tonight while every one else is
"We are not winning," persisted Craig.
"After I have had a bite to eat I will demonstrate how to
lose--by keeping on playing." He led the way to the
DeLong was too intent on the game to leave, even for
refreshments. Now and then I saw him beckon to an attendant, who
brought him a stiff drink of whisky. For a moment his play seemed
a little better, then he would drop back into his hopeless losing.
For some reason or other his "system" failed absolutely.
"You see, it's hopeless," mused Kennedy
over our light repast. "And yet of all the gambling games
roulette offers the players the best odds, far better than horse
racing, for instance. Our method has usually been to outlaw
roulette and permit horse racing: in other words suppress the more
favorable and permit the less favorable. However, we're doing
better now: we're suppressing both. Of course, what I say applies
only to roulette when it is honestly played--DeLong would lose
anyhow, I fear."
I started at Kennedy's tone and whispered, hastily:
"What do you mean? Do you think the wheel is crooked?"
"I haven't a doubt of it," he replied in
an undertone. "The run of '17' might happen--yes. But it
is improbable. They let me win because I was a new player--new
players always win at first. It is proverbial, but the man who is
running this game has made it look like a platitude. To satisfy
myself on that point I am going to play again--until I have lost
my winnings and am just square with the game. When I reach the
point that I am convinced that some crooked work is going on I am
going to try a little experiment. Walter, I want you to stand
close to me so that no one can see what I am doing. Do just as I
will indicate to you."
The gambling room was now fast filling up with the
first of the theater crowd. DeLong's table was the center of
attraction, owing to the high play. A group of young men of his
set were commiserating with him on his luck and discussing it with
the finished air of roués of double their age. He was
doggedly following his system.
Kennedy and I approached.
"Ah, here is the philosophical stranger
again," DeLong exclaimed, catching sight of Kennedy.
"Perhaps he can enlighten us on how to win at roulette by
playing his own system."
"Au contraire, monsieur, let me demonstrate how
to lose," answered Craig with a smile that showed a row of
faultless teeth beneath his black mustache, decidedly foreign.
Kennedy played and lost, and lost again; then he
won, but in the main he lost. After one particularly large loss
I felt his arm on mine, drawing me closely to him. DeLong had
taken a sort of grim pleasure in the fact that Kennedy, too, was
losing. I found that Craig had paused in his play at the moment
when DeLong had staked a large sum that a number below
"18" would turn up--for five plays the numbers had been
between "18" and "36." Curious to see what
Craig was doing, I looked cautiously down between us. All eyes
were fixed on the wheel. Kennedy was holding up an ordinary
compass in the crooked-up palm of his hand. The needle pointed at
me, as I happened to be standing north of it.
The wheel spun. Suddenly the needle swung around to
a point between the north and south poles, quivered a moment, and
came to rest in that position. Then it swung back north.
It was some seconds before I realized the
significance of it. It had pointed at the table--and DeLong had
lost again. There was some electric attachment at work.
Kennedy and I exchanged glances, and he shoved the
compass into my hand quickly. "You watch it, Walter, while
I play," he whispered.
Carefully concealing it, as he had done, yet holding
it as close to the table as I dared, I tried to follow two things
at once without betraying myself. As near as I could make out,
something happened at every play. I would not go so far as to
assert that whenever the larger stakes were on a certain number
the needle pointed to the opposite side of the wheel, for it was
impossible to be at all accurate about it. Once I noticed the
needle did not move at all, and he won. But on the next play he
staked what I knew must be the remainder of his winnings on what
seemed a very good chance. Even before the wheel was revolved and
the ball set rolling, the needle swung about, and when the
platinum came to rest Kennedy rose from the table, a loser.
"By George, though," exclaimed DeLong,
grasping his hand. "I take it all back. You are a good
loser, sir. I wish I could take it as well as you do. But then,
I'm in too deeply. There are too many 'markers' with the house up
Senator Danfield had just come in to see how things
were going on. He was a sleek, fat man, and it was amazing to see
with what deference his victims treated him. He affected not to
have heard what DeLong said, but I can imagine what he was
thinking, for I had heard that he had scant sympathy with any one
after he "went broke"--another evidence of the
camaraderie and good-fellowship that surrounded the game.
Kennedy's next remark surprised me. "Oh, your
luck will change, D. L."--everyone referred to him as
"D. L.," for gambling houses have an aversion for real
names and greatly prefer initials--"your luck will change
presently. Keep right on with your system. It's the best you can
do tonight, short of quitting."
"I'll never quit," replied the young man
under his breath.
Meanwhile, Kennedy and I paused on the way out to
compare notes. My report of the behavior of the compass only
confirmed him in his opinion.
As we turned to the stairs we took in a full view of
the room. A faro layout was purchasing Senator Danfield a new
touring car every hour at the expense of the players. Another
group was gathered around the hazard board, deriving evident
excitement, though I am sure none could have given an intelligent
account of the chances they were taking. Two roulette tables were
now going full blast, the large crowd still about DeLong's.
Snatches of conversation came in to us now and then, and I caught
one sentence: "DeLong's in for over a hundred thousand now on
the week's play, I understand. Poor boy--that about cleans him
"The tragedy of it, Craig," I whispered,
but he did not hear.
With his hat tilted at a rakish angle and his opera
coat over his arm, he sauntered over for a last look.
"Any luck yet?" he asked, carelessly.
"The devil--no," returned the boy.
"Do you know what my advice to you is--the
advice of a man who has seen high play everywhere from Monte Carlo
"Play until your luck changes, if it takes
A supercilious smile crossed Senator Danfield's fat
"I intend to," and the haggard young face
turned again to the table and forgot us.
"For heaven's sake, Kennedy," I gasped as
we went down the stairway, "what do you mean by giving him
"Not so loud, Walter. He'd have done it
anyway, I suppose, but I want him to keep at it. This night means
life or death to Percival DeLong and his mother, too. Come on,
let's get out of this."
We passed the formidable steel door and gained the
street, jostled by the late comers who had left the aftertheater
restaurants for a few moments of play at the famous club that so
long had defied the police.
Almost gayly Kennedy swung along toward Broadway.
At the corner he hesitated, glanced up and down, caught sight of
the furniture van in the middle of the next block. The driver was
tugging at the harnass of the horses, apparently fixing it. We
walked along and stopped beside it.
"Drive around in front of the Vesper Club
slowly," said Kennedy as the driver at last looked up.
The van lumbered ahead, and we followed it casually.
Around the corner it turned. We turned also. My heart was going
like a sledge hammer as the critical moment approached. My head
was in a whirl. What would that gay throng back of those darkened
windows down the street think if they knew what was being prepared
On, like the Trojan horse, the van lumbered. A man
went into the Vesper Club, and I saw the negro at the door eye the
oncoming van suspiciously. The door banged shut.
The next thing I knew, Kennedy had ripped off his
disguise, had flung himself up behind the van and had swung the
doors open. A dozen men with axes and sledge hammers swarmed out
and up the steps of the club.
"Call the reserves, O'Connor," cried
Kennedy. "Watch the roof and the back yard."
The driver of the van hastened to send in the call.
The sharp raps of the hammers and the axes sounded
on the thick brass-bound oak of the outer door in thick
succession. There was a scurry of feet inside, and we could hear
a grating noise and a terrific jar as the inner steel door shut.
"A raid! A raid on the Vesper Club!"
shouted a belated passerby. The crowd swarmed around from
Broadway, as if it were noon instead of midnight.
Banging and ripping and tearing, the outer door was
slowly forced. As it crashed in the quick gongs of several police
patrols sounded. The reserves had been called out at the proper
moment, too late for them to "tip off" the club that
there was going to be a raid, as frequently occurs.
Disregarding the noise behind me, I leaped through
the wreckage with the other raiders. The steel door barred all
further progress with its cold blue impassibility. How were we to
surmount this last and most formidable barrier?
I turned in time to see Kennedy and O'Connor
hurrying up the steps with a huge tank studded with bolts like a
boiler, while two other men carried a second tank.
Out of the tanks' stout tubes led, with stopcocks
and gages at the top. From a case under his arm Kennedy produced
a curious arrangement like a huge book, with a curved neck and a
sharp beak. Really it consisted of two metal tubes which ran into
a sort of cylinder, or mixing chamber, above the nozzle, while
parallel to them ran a third, separate tube with a second nozzle
of its own. Quickly he joined the ends of the tubes from the
tanks to the metal hook, the oxygen tank being joined to two of
the tubes of the hook, and the second being joined to the other.
With a match, he touched the nozzle gingerly. Instantly a blazing,
spitting noise followed, and an intense blinding needle of flame.
"Now for the oxy-acetylene blowpipe,"
cried Kennedy as he advanced toward the steel door. "We'll
make short work of this."
Almost as he said it, the steel beneath the blowpipe
Just to test it, he cut off the head of a
three-quarter-inch steel rivet--taking about a quarter of a minute
to do it. It was evident, though, that that would not weaken the
door appreciably, even if the rivets were all driven through.
Still they gave a starting point for the flame of the
high-pressure acetylene torch.
It was a brilliant sight. The terrific heat from
the first nozzle caused the metal to glow under the torch as if in
an open-hearth furnace. From the second nozzle issued a stream of
oxygen under which the hot metal of the door was completely
consumed. The force of the blast as the compressed oxygen and
acetylene were expelled carried a fine spray of the disintegrating
metal visibly before it. And yet it was not a big hole that it
made--scarcely an eighth of an inch wide, but clear and sharp as
if a buzz-saw were eating its way through a 3-inch plank of white
With tense muscles Kennedy held this terrific engine
of destruction and moved it as easily as if it had been a mere
pencil of light. He was easily the calmest of us all as we
crowded about him at a respectable distance.
"Acetylene, as you may know," he hastily
explained, never pausing for a moment in his work, "is
composed of carbon and hydrogen. As it burns at the end of the
nozzle it is broken into carbon and hydrogen--the carbon gives the
high temperature, and the hydrogen forms a cone that protects the
end of the blowpipe from being itself burnt up.
"But isn't it dangerous?" I asked, amazed
at the skill with which he handled the blowpipe.
"Not particularly--when you know how to do it.
In that tank is a porous asbestos packing saturated with acetone,
under pressure. Thus I can carry acetylene safely, for it is
dissolved, and the possibility of explosion is minimized. This
mixing chamber by which I am holding the torch, where the oxygen
and acetylene mix, is also designed in such a way as to prevent a
flash-back. The best thing about this style of blowpipe is the
ease with which it can be transported and the curious uses--like
the present--to which it can be put."
He paused a moment to test the door. All was
silence on the other side. The door itself was as firm as ever.
"Huh!" exclaimed one of the detectives
behind me, "these new-fangled things ain't all they're
cracked up to be. Now if I was runnin' this show I'd dynamite that
door to kingdom come."
"And wreck the building and kill a few
people," I returned, hotly resenting the criticism of
Kennedy. Kennedy affected not to hear.
"When I shut off the oxygen in this second
jet," he resumed as if nothing had been said, "you see
the torch merely heats the steel. I can get a heat of
approximately 6,300 degrees Fahrenheit, and the flame will still
exert a pressure of 50 pounds to the square inch."
"Wonderful!" exclaimed O'Connor, who had
not heard the remark of his subordinate and was watching with
undisguised admiration. "Kennedy, how did you ever think of
such a think?"
"Why it's used for welding, you know,"
answered Craig as he continued to work calmly in the growing
excitement. "I first saw it in actual use in mending a
cracked cylinder in an automobile. The cylinder was repaired
without being taken out at all. I've seen it weld new teeth and
build up old worn teeth on gearing as good as new."
He paused to let us see the terrifically heated
metal under the flame.
"You remember when we were talking on the drive
about the raid, O'Connor? A carload of scrap metal went by on the
train below us. They use this blowpipe to cut it up frequently.
That's what gave me the idea. See, I turn on the oxygen now in
this second nozzle. The blowpipe is no longer an instrument for
joining metals together, but for cutting them asunder. The steel
burns just as you, perhaps, have seen a watch-spring burn in a jar
of oxygen. Steel, hard or soft, tempered, annealed, chrome,
harveyized, it all burns just as fast and just as easily. And
it's cheap, too. This raid may cost a couple of dollars, as far as
the blowpipe is concerned-quite a difference from the thousands of
dollars' loss that would follow an attempt to blow the door
The last remark was directed quietly at the doubting
detective. He had nothing to say. We stood in awe-struck
amazement as the torch slowly, inexorably, traced a thin line
along the edge of the door.
Minute after minute sped by, as the line burned by
the blowpipe cut straight from top to bottom. It seemed hours to
me. Was Kennedy going to slit the whole door and let it fall in
with a crash?
No, I could see that even in his cursory examination
of the door he had gained a pretty good knowledge of the location
of the bolts imbedded in the steel. One after another, he was
cutting clear through and severing them, as with a superhuman
What was going on on the other side of the door, I
wondered. I could scarcely imagine the consternation of the
gamblers caught in their own trap.
With a quick motion Kennedy turned off the acetylene
and oxygen. The last bolt had been severed. A gentle push of the
hand, and he swung the once impregnable door on its delicately
poised hinges as easily as if he had merely said, "Open
sesame." The robbers' cave yawned before us.
We made a rush upstairs. Kennedy was first,
O'Connor next, and myself scarcely a step behind, with the rest of
O'Connor's men at our heels.
I think we were all prepared for some sort of gun
play, for the crooks were desperate characters, and I myself was
surprised to encounter nothing but physical force, which was
In the now disordered richness of the rooms, waving
his "John Doe" warrants in one hand and his pistol in
the other, O'Connor shouted: "You're all under arrest,
gentlemen. If you resist further it will go hard with you."
Crowded now in one end of the room in speechless
amazement was the late gay party of gamblers, including Senator
Danfield himself. They had reckoned on toying with any chances
but this. The pale white face of DeLong among them was like a
specter, as he stood staring blankly about, and still, insanely,
twisting the roulette wheel before him.
Kennedy advanced toward the table with an ax, which
he had seized from one of our men. A well-directed blow shattered
the mechanism of the delicate wheel.
"DeLong," he said, "I'm not going to
talk to you like your old professor at the university, nor like
your recent friend, the Frenchman with the system. This is what
you have been up against, my boy. Look!"
His forefinger indicated an ingenious, but now
tangled and twisted, series of minute wires and electro-magnets in
the broken wheel before us. Delicate brushes led the current into
the wheel. With another blow of his ax, Craig disclosed wires
running down through the leg of the table to the floor, and under
the carpet to buttons operated by the man who ran the game.
"Wh-what does it mean?" asked DeLong
"It means that you had little enough chance to
win at a straight game of roulette. But the wheel is very rarely
straight, even with all the odds in favor of the bank, as they
are. This game was electrically controlled. Others are
mechanically controlled by what is sometimes called 'the mule's
ear,' and other devices. You can't win. These wires and magnets
can be made to attract the little ball into any pocket the
operator desires. Each one of those pockets contains a little
electro-magnet. One set of magnets in the red pockets is connected
with one button under the carpet and a battery. The other set in
the black pockets is connected with another button and a battery.
This ball is not really of platinum. Platinum is non-magnetic.
It is simply a soft iron hollow ball, plated with platinum.
Whichever set of electro-magnets is energized attracts the ball
and by this simple method it is in the power of the operator to
let the ball go to red or black as he may wish. Other similar
arrangements control the odd and even, and other combinations from
other push buttons. A special arrangement took care of that '17'
freak. There isn't an honest gambling machine in the whole
place--I might almost say the whole city. The whole thing is
crooked from start to finish--the men, the machines, the--"
"That machine could be made to beat me by
turning up a run of '17' any number of times, or red or black, or
odd or even, over '18' or anything?"
"And I never had a chance," he repeated,
meditatively fingering the wires. "They broke me tonight.
Danfield"--DeLong turned, looking dazedly about in the crowd
for his former friend, then his hand shot into his pocket, and a
little ivory-handled pistol flashed out--"Danfield, your
blood is on your own head. You have ruined me."
Kennedy must have been expecting something of the
sort, for he seized the arm of the young man, weakened by
dissipation, and turned the pistol upward, as if it had been in
the grasp of a mere child.
A blinding flash followed in the farthest corner of
the room, and a huge puff of smoke. Before I could collect my own
wits another followed in the opposite corner. The room was filled
with dense smoke.
Two men were scuffling at my feet. One was Kennedy.
As I dropped down quickly to help him I saw that the other was
Danfield, his face purple with the violence of the struggle.
"Don't be alarmed, gentlemen," I heard
O'Connor shout, "the explosions were only flashlights of the
official police photographers. We now have the evidence complete.
Gentlemen, you will now go down quietly to the patrol wagons
below, two by two. If you have anything to say, say it to the
magistrate of the night court."
"Hold his arms, Walter," panted Kennedy.
I did. With a dexterity that would have done credit
to a pickpocket, Kennedy reached into Danfield's pocket and pulled
out some papers.
Before the smoke had cleared and order had been
restored, Craig exclaimed:
"Let him up, Walter. Here, DeLong: here are
the I. O. U.'s against you. Tear them up--they are not even a
debt of honor."