The Poisoned Pen and Other Stories
The Confidence King
"Shake hands with Mr. Burke of the secret service, Professor Kennedy."
It was our old friend First Deputy O'Connor who thus in his bluff way introduced a well-
groomed and prosperous-looking man whom he brought up to our apartment one
The formalities were quickly over. "Mr. Burke and I are old friends," explained
O'Connor. "We try to work together when we can, and very often the city department can
give the government service a lift, and then again it's the other way - as it was in the
trunk-murder mystery. Show Professor Kennedy the 'queer,' Tom."
Burke drew a wallet out of his pocket, and from it slowly and deliberately selected a
crisp, yellow-backed hundred-dollar bill. He laid it flat on the table before us. Diagonally
across its face from the upper left- to the lower right-hand corner extended two parallel
scorings in indelible ink.
Not being initiated into the secrets of the gentle art of "shoving the queer," otherwise
known as passing counterfeit money, I suppose my questioning look betrayed me.
"A counterfeit, Walter," explained Kennedy. "That's what they do with bills when they
wish to preserve them as records in the secret service and yet render them valueless."
Without a word Burke handed Kennedy a pocket magnifying-glass, and Kennedy
carefully studied the bill. He was about to say something when Burke opened his
capacious wallet again and laid down a Bank of England five-pound note which had been
Again Kennedy looked through the glass with growing amazement written on his face,
but before he could say anything, Burke laid down an express money-order on the
International Express Company.
"I say," exclaimed Kennedy, putting down the glass, "stop! How many more of these are
Burke smiled. "That's all," he replied, "but it's not the worst."
"Not the worst? Good heavens, man, next you'll tell me that the government is
counterfeiting its own notes! How much of this stuff do you suppose has been put into
Burke chewed a pencil thoughtfully, jotted down some figures on a piece of paper, and
thought some more. "Of course I can't say exactly, but from hints I have received here