Rolling Stones HTML version

The Marionettes
[Originally published in The Black Cat for April, 1902, The Short Story Publishing Co.]
The policeman was standing at the corner of Twenty-fourth Street and a prodigiously
dark alley near where the elevated railroad crosses the street. The time was two o'clock in
the morning; the outlook a stretch of cold, drizzling, unsociable blackness until the dawn.
A man, wearing a long overcoat, with his hat tilted down in front, and carrying something
in one hand, walked softly but rapidly out of the black alley. The policeman accosted him
civilly, but with the assured air that is linked with conscious authority. The hour, the
alley's musty reputation, the pedestrian's haste, the burden he carried—these easily
combined into the "suspicious circumstances" that required illumination at the officer's
The "suspect" halted readily and tilted back his hat, exposing, in the flicker of the electric
lights, an emotionless, smooth countenance with a rather long nose and steady dark eyes.
Thrusting his gloved hand into a side pocket of his overcoat, he drew out a card and
handed it to the policeman. Holding it to catch the uncertain light, the officer read the
name "Charles Spencer James, M. D." The street and number of the address were of a
neighborhood so solid and respectable as to subdue even curiosity. The policeman's
downward glance at the article carried in the doctor's hand—a handsome medicine case
of black leather, with small silver mountings—further endorsed the guarantee of the card.
"All right, doctor," said the officer, stepping aside, with an air of bulky affability. "Orders
are to be extra careful. Good many burglars and hold-ups lately. Bad night to be out. Not
so cold, but—clammy."
With a formal inclination of his head, and a word or two corroborative of the officer's
estimate of the weather, Doctor James continued his somewhat rapid progress. Three
times that night had a patrolman accepted his professional card and the sight of his
paragon of a medicine case as vouchers for his honesty of person and purpose. Had any
one of those officers seen fit, on the morrow, to test the evidence of that card he would
have found it borne out by the doctor's name on a handsome doorplate, his presence, calm
and well dressed, in his well-equipped office—provided it were not too early, Doctor
James being a late riser—and the testimony of the neighborhood to his good citizenship,
his devotion to his family, and his success as a practitioner the two years he had lived
among them.
Therefore, it would have much surprised any one of those zealous guardians of the peace
could they have taken a peep into that immaculate medicine case. Upon opening it, the
first article to be seen would have been an elegant set of the latest conceived tools used
by the "box man," as the ingenious safe burglar now denominates himself. Specially
designed and constructed were the implements—the short but powerful "jimmy," the