The Silent Bullet HTML version

10. The Black Hand
Kennedy and I had been dining rather late one evening at Luigi's, a little Italian restaurant
on the lower West Side. We had known the place well in our student days, and had made
a point of visiting it once a month since, in order to keep in practice in the fine art of
gracefully handling long shreds of spaghetti. Therefore we did not think it strange when
the proprietor himself stopped a moment at our table to greet us. Glancing furtively
around at the other diners, mostly Italians, he suddenly leaned over and whispered to
"I have heard of your wonderful detective work, Professor. Could you give a little advice
in the case of a friend of mine?"
"Surely, Luigi. What is the case?" asked Craig, leaning back in his chair.
Luigi glanced around again apprehensively and lowered his voice. "Not so loud, sir.
When you pay your check, go out, walk around Washington Square, and come in at the
private entrance. I'll be waiting in the hall. My friend is dining privately upstairs."
We lingered a while over our Chianti, then quietly paid the check and departed.
True to his word, Luigi was waiting for us in the dark hall. With a motion that indicated
silence, he led us up the stairs to the second floor, and quickly opened a door into what
seemed to be a fair-sized private dining-room. A man was pacing the floor nervously. On
a table was some food, untouched. As the door opened I thought he started as if in fear,
and I am sure his dark face blanched, if only for an instant. Imagine our surprise at seeing
Gennaro, the great tenor, with whom merely to have a speaking acquaintance was to
argue oneself famous.
"Oh, it is you, Luigi," he exclaimed in perfect English, rich and mellow. "And who are
these gentlemen?"
Luigi merely replied, "Friends," in English also, and then dropped off into a voluble, low-
toned explanation in Italian.
I could see, as we waited, that the same idea had flashed over Kennedy's mind as over my
own. It was now three or four days since the papers had reported the strange kidnapping
of Gennaro's five-year-old daughter Adelina, his only child, and the sending of a demand
for ten thousand dollars ransom, signed, as usual, with the mystic Black Hand--a name to
conjure with in blackmail and extortion.
As Signor Gennaro advanced toward us, after his short talk with Luigi, almost before the
introductions were over, Kennedy anticipated him by saying: "I understand, Signor,
before you ask me. I have read all about it in the papers. You want someone to help you
catch the criminals who are holding your little girl."