Guy Garrick by Arthur B. Reeve - HTML preview

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12. The Detectaphone


I found it difficult to share Garrick's optimism, however. It seemed to me that again the best laid plans of one that I had come to consider among the cleverest of men had been defeated, and it is not pleasant to be defeated, even temporarily. But Garrick was certainly not discouraged.

As he had said at the start, it was no ordinary criminal with whom we had to deal. That was clear. There had been gunmen and gangmen in New York for years, we knew, but this fellow seemed to be the last word, with his liquid bullets, his anesthetic shells and his stupefying gun.

We had agreed that the garage keeper would, of course, shed little light on the mystery. He was a crook. But he would find no difficulty, doubtless, in showing that there was nothing on which to hold him.

Still, Garrick had evidently figured out a way to go ahead while we had all been floundering around, helpless. His silence had merely masked his consideration of a plan.

"You three stay here," he ordered. "If anyone should come in, hold him. Don't let anyone get away. But I don't think there will be anyone. I'll be back within an hour or so."

It was far past midnight already, as we sat uncomfortably in the reeking atmosphere of the garage. The hours seemed to drag interminably. Almost I wished that something would happen to break the monotony and the suspense. Our lonely vigil went unrewarded, however. No one came; there was not even a ring at the telephone.

 As nearly as I could figure it out, McBirney was the only one who seemed to have gained much so far. He had looked over the cars most carefully. There were half a dozen of them, in all.

"I don't doubt," he concluded, "that all of them have been stolen. But there are only two here that I can identify. They certainly are clever at fixing them up. Look at all the parts they keep ready for use. They could build a car, here."

"Yes," agreed Dillon, looking at the expensive "junk" that was lying about. "There is quite enough to warrant closing the place, only I suppose Garrick is right. That would defeat our own purpose."

At last Garrick returned from his hurried trip down to the office. I don't know what it was we expected him to bring, but I think we were more or less disappointed when it proved to be merely a simple oblong oak box with a handle.

He opened it and we could see that it contained in reality nothing but a couple of ordinary dry cells, and some other paraphernalia. There were two black discs, attached to a metal headpiece, discs about two and a half inches in diameter, with a circular hole in the centre of each, perhaps an inch across, showing inside what looked like a piece of iron or steel.

 Garrick carefully tested the batteries with a little ammeter which he carried in a case.

 "Sixteen amperes," he remarked to himself, "I don't attempt to use the batteries when they fall below five. These are all right."

From a case he took a little round black disc, about the same size as the other two. In its face it had a dozen or so small holes perforated and arranged in the shape of a six-pointed star.

"I wonder where I can stow this away so that it won't attract attention?" he asked. Garrick looked about for the least used part of the garage and decided that it was the back. Near the barred window lay a pile of worn tires which looked as if it had been seldom disturbed except to be added to. When one got tires as cheaply as the users of this garage did, it was folly to bother much about the repair of old ones.

Back of this pile, then, he threw the little black disc carelessly, only making sure that it was concealed. That was not difficult, for it was not much larger than a watch in size.

To it, I noticed, he had attached two plugs that were "fool- proof"--that is, one small and the other large, so that they could not be inserted into the wrong holes. A long flexible green silk covered wire, or rather two wires together, led from the disc. By carefully moving the tires so as to preserve the rough appearance they had of being thrown down hastily into the discard, he was able to conceal this wire, also, in such a way as to bring it secretly to the barred window and through it.

Next he turned his attention to the telephone itself. Another instrument which he had brought with him was inserted in place of the ordinary transmitter. It looked like it and had evidently been prepared with that in view. I assumed that it must act like the ordinary transmitter also, although it must have other uses as well. It was more of a job to trace out the course of the telephone wires and run in a sort of tap line at a point where it would not be likely to be noted. This was done by Garrick, still working in silence, and the wires from it led behind various things until they, too, reached another window and so went to the outside.

As Garrick finished his mysterious tinkering and rose from his dusty job to brush off his clothes, he remarked, "There, now you may have your heart's desire, Dillon, if all you want to do is to watch these fellows."

 "What is it?" I hastened to ask, looking curiously at the oak box which contained still everything except the tiny black disc and the wires leading out of the window from it and from the new telephone transmitter.

"This little instrument," he answered slowly, "is much more sensitive, I think, than any mechanical or electrical eavesdropper that has ever been employed before. It is the detectaphone--a new unseen listener."

 "The detectaphone?" repeated Dillon. "How does it work?"

"Well, for instance," explained Garrick, "that attachment which I placed on the telephone is much more than a sensitive transmitter such as you are accustomed to use. It is a form of that black disc which you saw me hide behind the pile of tires. There are, in both, innumerable of the minutest globules of carbon which are floating around, as it were, making it alive at all times to every sound vibration and extremely sensitive even to the slightest sound waves. In the case of the detectaphone transmitter, it only replaces the regular telephone transmitter and its presence will never be suspected. It operates just as well when the receiver is hung up as when it is off the hook, as far as the purpose I have in mind is concerned, as you shall see soon. I have put both forms in so that even if they find the one back of the tires, even the most suspicious person would not think that anything was contained in the telephone itself. We are dealing with clever people and two anchors to windward are better than one."

 Dillon nodded approval, but by the look on his face it was evident that he did not understand the whole thing yet.

"That other disc, back of the tires," went on Garrick, "is the ordinary detective form. All that we need now is to find a place to install this receiving box--all this stuff that is left over-- the two batteries, the earpieces. You see the whole thing is very compact. I can get it down to six inches square and four inches thick, or I can have it arranged with earpieces so that at least six people can 'listen in' at once--forms that can be used in detective work to meet all sorts of conditions. Then there is another form of the thing, in a box about four inches square and, perhaps, nine or ten inches long which I may bring up later for another purpose when we find out what we are going to do with the ends of those wires that are now dangling on the outside of the window. We must pick up the connection in some safe and inconspicuous place outside the garage."

The window through which the wires passed seemed to open, as I had already noticed, on a little yard not much larger than a court. Garrick opened the window and stuck his head out as far as the iron bars would permit. He sniffed. The odor was anything but pleasant. It was a combination of "gas" from the garage and stale beer from the saloon.

"No doubt about it, that is a saloon," remarked Garrick, "and they must pile empty kegs out there in the yard. Let's take a walk around the corner and see what the front of the place looks like."

It was a two and a half story building, with a sloping tin roof, of an archaic architecture, in a state of terrible decay and dilapidation, and quite in keeping with the neighbourhood. Nevertheless a bright gilt sign over a side door read, "Hotel Entrance."

"I think we can get in there to-morrow on some pretext," decided Garrick after our inspection of the "Old Tavern," as the crazy letters, all askew, on one of the windows denoted the place. "The Old Tavern looks as if it might let lodgings to respectable gentlemen--if they were roughly enough dressed. We can get ourselves up as a couple of teamsters and when we get in that will give us a chance to pick up the ends of those wires to-morrow. That will be time enough, I'm sure, and it is the best we can do, anyhow."

We returned from our walk around the block to the garage where Dillon and McBirney were waiting for us.

 "I leave you free to do what you please, Dillon," answered Garrick to the commissioner's inquiry, "as long as you don't pinch this place which promises to be a veritable gold-mine. McBirney, I know, will reduce the number of cars here tomorrow by at least two. But don't, for heaven's sake, let out any suspicion about those things I have just hidden here. And now, as for me, I'm going uptown and get a few hours' sleep."

 Dillon and McBirney followed, leaving us, shortly, to get a couple of men from the nearest police station to see that none of the cars were taken out before morning.

We rode up to our apartment, where a message was awaiting us, telling that Warrington had passed a very good day and was making much more rapid progress than even Dr. Mead had dared hope. I could not help wondering how much was due to the mere tonic presence daily of Violet Winslow.

I had a sound sleep, although it was a short one. Garrick had me up early, and, by digging back in his closet, unearthed the oldest clothes he had. We improved them by sundry smears of dirt in such a way that when we did start forth, no one would have accused us of being other than we were prepared to represent ourselves-- workmen who had been laid off from a job on account of bad business conditions. We decided to say that we were seeking another position.

 "How do I look?" I asked seriously, for this was serious business to me.

 "I don't know whether to give you a meal ticket, or to call a cop when I look at you, Marshall," laughed Garrick.

"Well, I feel a good deal safer in this rig than I did last night, in this part of the city," I replied as we hopped off a surface car not far from our destination. "I almost begin to feel my part. Did you see the old gink with the gold watch on the car? If he was here I believe I'd hold him up, just to see what it is like. I suppose we are going to apply for lodgings at the famous hostelry, the Old Tavern?" "I had that intention," replied Garrick who could see no humour in the situation, now that we were on the scene of action. "The place looks even more sordid in daylight than at night. Besides, it smells worse."

We entered the tavern, and were greeted with a general air of rough curiosity, which was quickly dispelled by our spending ten cents, and getting change for a bill. At least we were good for anything reasonable, and doubts on that score settled by the man behind the bar, he consented to enter into conversation, which ultimately resulted in our hiring a large back room upstairs in the secluded caravansary which supplied "Furnished Rooms for Gentlemen Only."

Garrick said that we would bring our things later, and we went upstairs. We were no sooner settled than he was at work. He had brought a rope ladder, and, after fastening it securely to the window ledge, he let himself down carefully into the narrow court below.

That was the only part of the operation that seemed to be attended with any risk of discovery and it was accomplished safely. For one thing the dirt on the windows both of the garage and the tavern was so thick that I doubt whether so much caution was really necessary. Nevertheless, it was a relief when he secured the ends of the wires from the detectaphone and brought them up, pulling in the rope ladder after him.

It was now the work of but a minute to attach one of the wires that led from the watchcase disc back of the pile of tires to the oak box with its two storage batteries. Garrick held the ear- pieces, one to each ear, then shoved them over his head, in place.

 "It works--it works," he cried, with as much delight as if he had not been positive all along that it would.

"Here, try it yourself," he added, taking the headgear off and handing the receivers to me.

 I put the black discs at my ears, with the little round holes over the ear openings. It was marvellous. I could hear the men washing down one of the cars, the swash of water, and, best of all, the low-toned, gruff gossip.

"Just a couple of the men there, now," explained Garrick. "I gather that they are talking about what happened last night. I heard one of them say that someone they call 'the Chief' was there last night and that another man, 'the Boss,' gave him orders to tell no one outside about it. I suppose the Chief is our friend with the stupefying gun. The Boss must be the fellow who runs the garage. What are they saying now? They were grumbling about their work when I handed the thing over to you."

 I listened, fascinated by the marvel of the thing. I could hear perfectly, although the men must have been in the front of the garage.

"Well, there's two of them yer won't haveter wash no more," one man was saying. "A feller from the perlice come an' copped off two--that sixty tin can and the ninety Despard."

 "Huh--so the bulls are after him?"

 "Yeh. One was here all night after the fight."

 "Did they follow the Chief?"

 "Follow the Chief? Say, when anyone follows the Chief he's gotter be better than any bull that ever pounded a beat."

 "What did the Boss say when he heard it?"

 "Mad as---. We gotter lay low now."

 "The Chief's gone up-state, I guess."

 "We can guess all we want. The Boss knows. I don't." "Why didn't they make a pinch? Ain't there nobody watchin' now?"

"Naw. They ain't got nothin' on us. Say, the Chief can put them fellers just where he wants 'em. See the paper this morning? That was some raid up at the joint-eh?"

 "You bet. That Garrick's a pretty smooth chap. But the Chief can put it all over him."

 "Yep," agreed the other speaker.

 I handed the receivers back to Garrick with a smile.

"You are not without some admirers," I remarked, repeating the conversation substantially to him. "They'd shoot up the neighbourhood, I imagine, if they knew the truth."

Hour after hour we took turns listening at the detectaphone. We gathered a choice collection of slang and epithets, but very little real news. However, it was evident that they had a wholesome respect for both the Chief and the Boss. It seemed that the real head of the gang, if it was a gang, had disappeared, as one of the men had already hinted "up-state."

 Garrick had meanwhile brought out the other detectaphone box, which was longer and larger than the oak box.

 "This isn't a regular detactaphone," he explained, "but it may vary the monotony of listening in and sometime I may find occasion to use it in another way, too."

In one of the long faces were two square holes, from the edges of which the inside walls focussed back on two smaller, circular diaphragms. That made the two openings act somewhat like megaphone horns to still further magnify the sound which was emitted directly from this receiver without using any earpieces, and could be listened to anywhere in the room, if we chose. This was attached to the secret arrangement that had been connected with the telephone by replacing the regular by the prepared transmitter.

One of us was in the room listening all the time. I remember once, while Guy had gone uptown for a short time, that I heard the telephone bell ring in the device at my ear. Out of the larger box issued a voice talking to one of the men.

It was the man whom they referred to as the Chief. He had nothing to say when he learned that the Boss had not showed up since early morning after he had been quizzed by the police. But he left word that he would call up again.

 "At least I know that our gunman friend, the Chief, is going to call up to-night," I reported to Garrick on his return.

"I think he'll be here, all right," commented Garrick. "I called up Dillon while I was out and he was convinced that the best way was, as I said, to seem to let up on them. They didn't get a word out of the fellow they call the Boss. He lives down here a couple of streets, I believe, in a pretty tough place, even worse than the Old Tavern. I let Dillon get a man in there, but I haven't much hope. He's only a tool of the other whom they call Chief. By the way, Forbes has disappeared. I can't find a trace of him since the raid on the gambling joint."

 "Any word from Warrington?" I asked.

"Yes, he's getting along finely," answered Guy mechanically, as if his thoughts were far away from Warrington. "Queer about Forbes," he murmured, then cut himself short. "And, oh," he added, "I forgot to tell you that speaking about Forbes reminds me that Herman has been running out a clew on the Rena Taylor case. He has been all over the country up there, he reports to Dillon, and he says he thinks the car was seen making for Pennsylvania.

"They have a peculiar license law there, you know--at least he says so--that enables one to conceal a car pretty well. Much good that does us." "Yes," I agreed, "you can always depend on a man like Herman to come along with something like that---"

Just then the "master station" detectaphone connected with the telephone in the garage began to talk and I cut myself short. We seemed now at last about to learn something really important. It was a new voice that said, "Hello!"

"Evidently the Boss has come in without making any noise," remarked Guy. "I certainly heard no one through the other instrument. I fancy he was waiting for it to get dark before coming around. Listen."

 It was a long distance call from the man they called Chief. Where he was we had no means of finding out, but we soon found out where he was going.

 "Hello, Boss," we heard come out of the detectaphone box.

 "Hello, Chief. You surely got us nearly pinched last night. What was the trouble?"

"Oh, nothing much. Somehow or other they must have got on to us. I guess it was when I called up the joint on Forty-eighth Street. Three men surprised me, but fortunately I was ready. If they hadn't stopped at the door before they opened it, they might have got me. I put 'em all out with that gun, though. Say, I want you to help me on a little job that I am planning.

 "Yes? Is it a safe one? Don't you think we'd better keep quiet for a little while?"

"But this won't keep quiet. Listen. You know I told you about writing that letter regarding Warrington to Miss Winslow, when I was so sore over the report that he was going to close up the Forty-eighth Street joint, right on top of finding that Rena Taylor had the 'goods' on the Forty-seventh Street place? Well, I was a fool. You said so, and I was,"

"You were--that's right." "I know it, but I was mad. I hadn't got all I wanted out of those places. Well, anyhow, I want that letter back--that's all. It's bad to have evidence like that lying around. Why, if they ever get a real handwriting expert they might get wise to something from that handwriting, I'm afraid. I must have been crazy to do it that way."

 "What became of the letter?"

"She took it to that fellow Garrick and I happen to know that Warrington that night, after leaving Garrick, went to his apartment and put something into the safe he has there. Oh, Warrington has it, all right. What I want to do is to get that letter back while he is laid up near Tuxedo. It isn't much of a safe, I understand. I think a can opener would do the job. We can make the thing look like a regular robbery by a couple of yeggs. Are you on?"

 "No, I don't get you, Chief."


 "It's too risky."

 "Too risky?"

 "Yes. That fellow Garrick is just as likely as not to be nosing around up there. I'd go but for that."

"I know. But suppose we find that he isn't there, that he isn't in the house--has been there and left it. That would be safe enough. You're right. Nothing doing if he's there. We must can him in some way. But, say,--I know how to get in all right without being seen. I'll tell you later. Come on, be a sport. We won't try it if anybody's there. Besides, if we succeed it will help to throw a scare into Warrington."

The man on our end of the telephone appeared to hesitate. "I'll tell you what I'll do, Chief," he said at length. "I'll meet you at the same place as we met the other day--you know where I mean--some time after twelve. We'll talk it over. You're sure about the letter?"

 "As sure as if I'd seen it."

"All right. Now, be there. I won't promise about this Warrington business. We'll talk that over. But I have other things I want to tell you--about this situation here at the garage. I want to know how to act."

 "All right. I'll be there. Good-bye."

 "So long, Chief."

 The conversation stopped. I looked anxiously at Garrick to see how he had taken it.

"And so," he remarked simply, as after a moment's waiting we made sure that the machine had stopped talking, "it appears that our friends, the enemy, are watching us as closely as we are watching them--with the advantage that they know us and we don't know them, except this garage fellow."

 Garrick lapsed into silence. I was rapidly turning over in my mind what we had just overheard and trying to plan some way of checkmating their next move.

 "Here's a plot hatching to rob Warrington's safe," I exclaimed helplessly.

"Yes," repeated Garrick slowly, "and if we are going to do anything about it, it must be done immediately, before we arouse suspicion and scare them off. Did you hear those footsteps over the detectaphone? That was the Boss going out of the garage. So, they expect me around there, nosing about Warrington's apartment. Well, if I do go there, and then ostentatiously go away again, that will lure them on."

 He reached his decision quickly. Grabbing his hat, he led the way out of the Old Tavern and up the street until we came to a drug store with a telephone.

I heard him first talking with Warrington, getting from him the combination of the safe, over long distance. Then he called up his office and asked the boy to meet him at the Grand Central subway station with a package, the location of which he described minutely.

 "We'll beat them to it," he remarked joyously, as we started leisurely uptown to meet the boy.