Perhaps it had better be called pro- logue, since it happened nearly a week before the arrival and display of the gold—to be exact, on the very day that the Bertha cleared from Skagway. At that time it attracted no greater atten- tion than any other of the many rou- tine transactions of the Totem Na- tional, being merely the leasing of a safe-deposit box, one of the largest, such as generally is used for the safe keeping of large books or other bulky records of value.
The lessor gave his name as Seth C. Seeley; address, temporary, Hotel Savoy, Seattle; permanent, Bankers’ Trust Company, New York; business, dealer in securities.. In less than an hour after receiving his card of identi- fication and key Seeley returned with a large parcel heavily wrapped and corded, apparently of considerable weight and of a size that just fitted
into and filled the box. Remarking pet- tishly that the Totem National should be prepared to supply its customers with more adequate accommodations, Seeley grumblingly hired the two ad- joining boxes of the same size as the first and in turn filled them with sim- ilar parcels. These, like the first, he carried and put in place with his own hands, despite their evident weight, roughly declining all assistance prof- fered by the banks employees.
Thursday morning of that wreek Daniels, first assistant cashier of the Totem National, unlocked the vault to withdraw the cash necessary for the day’s business and to superintend the removal of the $200,000 gold to its place in the limelight. He took one step within the battleship-armored doorway, gasped, and took two steps backward, yelling for help.
There were two entirely sufficient causes for the first assistant cashier’s excitement. The most apparent was the body of a man lying sprawled on the vault floor, very evidently and most completely dead. The second, to Dan- iels’ trained eyes, the almost equally obvious fact that the vault had been looted—of the $200,000 in gold and he did not know how much more.
For reasons that all bankers will un- derstand and sympathize with, but toward which newspaper men hold very different attitudes, the officials of the Totem National made every effort and used every means at their command to keep all news of the robbery from the public, to such good effect that no sus- picion of any of the happenings here related reached the newspapers until the whole incident was history. The body of the dead man added annoying complications to this hushing-up proc- ess, but the power of money is great even when it lies fallow in banks, so no insinuation of bribe tendering or ac- ceptance is intended here.
Far be it from me to even remotely suggest that a banker would give or a policeman take money for the suppres- sion of the truth. The police were only too willing to keep the whole thing quiet until they ^hould have arrested the thief and murderer, which consum- mation, they assured the bank, would be a matter of only hours or days, as is the optimistic, not to say egotistic way of policemen the world over.
Whatever the views on publicity held by the board of directors of the Totem National, 'they were not disposed to take their loss philosophically or inac- tively. While they assured Chief Stein, of the Seattle police, that they had every confidence in his zeal and ability to both capture the thief or thieves and recover the stolen valuables, they also availed themselves of the additional services of the Pinkertons and the Gov- ernment secret service men, the latter being interested by reason of the fact that part of the loot taken was some thousands of dollars’ worth of revenue and excise stamps temporarily in the care of the bank while in transit to other points of distribution.
As this indicates, the $200,000 worth of gold was not all of the treasure that was missing, the total figure reaching to over the million mark whenJ:he care- ful check of the vault’s contents had been made. This sum was made up, in addition to the gold brought by the Bertha, of gold coin, bank notes and easily negotiable securities. Silver spe- cie, bills of small denomination, and papers of problematical value to the thieves were found scattered about the floor of the vault around and under the dead body, discarded as contemptu- ously as this now insensate and useless clay.
The body was that of a man about five feet eleven inches in height, weight one hundred and sixty to one hundred and seventy pounds, in his late thirties
or early forties, with neatly trimmed brown mustache and Vandyke beard. It was dressed in a suit of blue serge, double-breasted coat, tan shoes. On the floor near by lay a lightweight gray overcoat, a broad brimmed black soft hat, the broken pieces of what had been spectacles with large, rimless, egg- shaped lenses, a black Gladstone bag and a sole-leather suitcase.
The last named was empty, but the bag was partially filled with pajamas, shirts, collars and the usual toilet acces- sories of a man particular about his ap- pearance. In the pockets of the clothes there was found nothing by which to identify the dead man except a card- case stamped with and containing cards engraved with the name, “Samuel Smith,” and receipted bills made out in the same name and all bearing the same date, that of the previous day, from seven Seattle hotels.
But the foregoing might apply in a general way to the body of any dead man under normal circumstances. What took this body out of the ordinary was not only its inexplicable presence in the locked and guarded vault but also the fact that from the back there protrud- ed the handle of a large hunting knife —one of the elkhorn variety never car- ried except by chechahco hunters. The long blade was buried in the body just below and to the right of the left shoul- der-blade, between it and the spine, and had been driven in with such a forceful blow that the haft made an indentation iri the flesh about the wound.
An inquiry, conducted quietly and circumspectly out of regard for the tender feelings of the Totem National, developed the fact that a man answer- ing to this description and the name of Samuel Smith had stopped at each and all of the hotels indicated by the bills, that he had settled his accounts and de- parted the day before, Wednesday, for a destination unknown to any of the
clerks, leaving no forwarding address. But the policeman in plain clothes who reported on this feature of the case was not gifted with imagination above “carrying a message to Garcia,” and so he did only what he was told to do and asked only what he had been told to ask, thus he overlooked the coincidence in the times of arrival and departure of the said Smith, which later was de- veloped.
The Chief of Police and the city de- tectives working under him on the case were unanimous in their opinion of the dead man’s part in the problem. There was not the slightest doubt, Chief Stein declared, and the others echoed, that the man must have been one of the gang that turned the trick, and that he had been murdered by his confederates dur- ing a quarrel over the division of the spoils.
The suitcase, they pointed out, un- questionably had been provided for carrying away this Smith’s share of the proceeds of the robbery, and its empti- ness was conclusive evidence that he, in turn, had been cheated of that share and stabbed when he attempted to pro- test. To them, the police, the dead man simply was one crook the less to require their attention—and good rid- dance. Nor, to them, did he even pro- vide one of their dearly beloved clues.
The government officers were not in- terested at all in the death or murder, except for its possible value as an indi- cation of the gang’s identity, presup- posing that there was a gang that had turned the trick. The man’s face and description were not on file at any po- lice headquarters in the country and cabled inquiry abroad did not serve to identify him as a known or suspected criminal.
The Pinkerton operatives, acting di- rectly for the bank and the Bankers’ Protective Association, were, like the secret service-men, far more interested
in the recovery of the vanished treasure than in avenging the death of an un- known and, presumably, unimportant stranger, who probably had received only his just deserts.
So the main facts of the case were, and so they remained without a single illuminating ray of enlightenment at the end of a week after the discovery of the crime. Of course the police ar- rested a number of tramps, I. W. W.’s, ex-convicts and others known unfavor- ably to the force, but were forced re- luctantly to let them go again, for lack of a single item of even police evidence that would warrant their further deten- tion as suspicious characters. That is one of the annoyances of police ad- ministration under our puerile system of limiting the power of the guardians of our wealth and safety. Now in Russia—
Oh, yes, Stein reported daily to the officials of the Totem National that he was “making progress.” But nothing whatever had been discovered to indi- cate the means taken by the thieves to enter or leave the vault or the bank building itself. The guards, regular and special watchmen, the patrolman on the beat, had seen nothing, heard nothing. All doors and locks were in perfect condition, as they had been left the night before the robbery. There were no signs of violence other than the dead body and the litter within the vault. No tool-marks, no finger-prints, no tampering with combinations, noth- ing that appeared in any way different from the way it should be.
The treasure had disappeared. The dead man’s body had appeared.
That was all and it remained all.