“I came in for a little help, Tom,” said Jim Carranaugh to Tom Peiper-

son, head of the Seattle Advertising Service, as the big man entered his friend’s office.

“Sorry, but I’m down to small change. If that will do you any—”

“It’s not bracing you I am—this time. I want a little advice, maybe a little help into the bargain.”

“Cheapest thing I know.”

“I’m up against a queer sort of proposition.”

“Let’s have it.”

“You noticed about that last ship- ment of gold from Skagway—two hun- dred thousand dollars’ worth on the Bertha?”

“Yes. Saw it in the window of the Totem National. Now if they only would let me handle their advertising I’d—”

“Never mind about that now, Tom. If you can help me pull off this stunt I’ll whack up more than all the banks in Seattle would spend for advertising in a year.”

“That sounds reasonable. Proceed.”

“Can you—will you keep mum if I tell you something that the newspapers would break their city editors’ necks to get hold of?”

“I can and will.”

“Listen: That two hundred thousand in gold, along with over eight hundred thousand more in money and securities, was stolen from the Totem National a week ago last night.”

“What! Who? Stolen! When? I haven’t seen a word about it in the papers. Where’d you get the story? Have they caught—”

“ ‘Cease firing.’ The ‘what’ I’ve just told you. I’ll give you details in a minute. The ‘who’ is for us to find out. You haven’t seen anything about it in the papers for the very good reason that they neither know nor suspect any- thing about it—and are not apt to un- less and until the thing is cleared up.”

“Then how, where did you—”

“I’ve just come from an interview with old man Snedeker—president of the Totem, you know. He sent for me this morning, swore me to secrecy by every oath a banker knows and told me all about it. Seems Stein, the Pink- ertons, and the secret service men have been working at the case for a week without finding the smell of a smell. Snedeker said he was disgusted with the whole outfit, had heard of the work I did in that ‘Praxiteles’ affair— I didn’t interrupt to tell him that you did as much or more than I in clearing that up—and that if I could do as well in this case for him there’d be a cool fifty thousand in it for me—and no questions asked. I gathered that he meant he was much more anxious about the bank’s recovering the money than about catching the thieves, though of course he wants them snagged too if possible. So it’s up to us. Think of it, Tom! Fifty thousand bucks!”

“Sounds very luscious. But why the ‘us’? Where do I come in?”

“Fifty-fifty with me. Or, better— twenty-five—twenty-five.”

“But you’re the only original Sher- lock, Jim. I’m ready to tackle any problem in the advertising line, but when it comes to—”

“How about the ‘Praxiteles’ case?”

“That wasn’t de-teck-eting. That was just advertising. You don’t ex- pect me to run a personal, do you, say- ing : ‘The gentlemen who robbed the Totem Natibnal Bank will learn of something to their disadvantage if they will call at the office of James Carra- naugh, Sleuth.’?”

“No-o-o. Not quite that.”

“ ‘Not quite’! What in the name of the Chilkat gods do you expect me to do?”

“Nothing—that is, I want you to tell me. I thought you might be able to help me locate or find out something about a chap by the name of ‘Samuel 

Smith,’ who stopped at seven Seattle hotels one day last week.”

“What’s that? At seven hotels? Is this Smith a man or a convention ?”

“That’s one of the things that I don’t know, that we have to find out. But he, or they, is, are—that is, were—”

“Give her more gas, Jim, your en- gine’s missing fire.”

“Don’t josh, Tom. This is the biggest thing I’ve ever had a chance to tackle, one of the biggest ever pulled off on the Coast, and if I—we can make/good be- fore the government men, Pinkertons and police, our reputation’s made, and with that reward we can buy that island in the South Seas and all—”

“Wait until you catch your hare. To return to this Samuel Smith—where does he come in ?”

“He stopped at seven hotels—”

“So you said. That’s unusual but not necessarily criminal.”

“And they found him in the vault.”

“Hold on! What’s that? ‘Found him in the vault’ ? I thought you said, a minute ago, that they hadn’t caught anyone, didn’t know who did it? If they’ve got him what’s the use of—” “They’ve got Smith all right—at the morgue. But that hasn’t helped any— yet.”

“At the—he’s dead?”

“As dead as they make ’em. About eight inches of knife in his back.”

“Better back ’way up, Jim, and tell me the whole story if you want me to help, if I can help you at all. It’s begin- ning to get interesting.”

“It’ll get a heap more so before we’re through, or I miss my guess. Well, Snedeker told me—”

There is no need of repeating what Carranaugh told Peiperson of what Snedeker had told him.

When the detective had finished re- counting the details of the robbery the advertising man smoked thoughtfully for nearly five minutes, gazing out of 

his window at the Olympics with their perennial snow peaks like old men in nightcaps. Coming out of his trance with a jerk Peiperson grabbed his hat and was halfway out of the door of his private office before Carranaugh could heave himself to his feet.

“Where’re you going?”

“To those hotels. Come on ! Hurry! You have the list? Must get busy. There’s something queer there. Might as well start at that as well as at any other place, now that you’ve roped me into this. And I’d have murdered you if you had left me out! Then we can go down to the morgue and the bank and—”

The rest was lost to Carranaugh as Peiperson stopped to tell Chris, his of- fice boy, that he probably would not be back that afternoon and to tell any possible callers that he was busy figur- ing on a big contract. “And that’s no lie!” he said to Jim as they ran for the descending elevator.

Going from one hotel to another un- til they had talked with the clerks and attaches of all seven they gradually pieced together the amazing and per- plexing problem of the apparent seven- fold identity of Samuel Smith.

As they left the Hotel Butler, the last on Carranaugh’s list, Jim uttered a piously emphatic belief in his future eternal condemnation, and Tom Peiper- son agreed, for both of them. Mulling, wordless, over this mystery within a mystery, they walked over to the morgue and as silently checked up the items of the dead man’s former appear- ance that coincided exactly with the seven times told description they had just listened to. Discuss it from every angle, they were no nearer a solution when, within a block of the Totem National, Peiperson halted, saying:

“No use both of us covering the same ground—there’s plenty for each of us to do, and then some. You go on to

the bank and have Snedeker let you examine that vault, as you suggested, and pick up anything more you can about the way the body of Smith looked when they found it. I don’t suppose any of ’em had the brains to take a flashlight of the vault interior before they disturbed the lay-out. That’s what comes of keeping the newspaper boys out of it! If they had been let in on it from the jump-off we wouldn’t have to be depending upon the alleged mem- ories of a lot of incompetent witnesses who have probably forgotten most of what they did see and imagine a lot that never was, they’d have a detailed and exact description by someone who knew how to see and what to look for. This hush stunt makes me tired.”

“But in that case maybe we wouldn’t have had a chance at the fifty thou- sand.”

“That’s so. Maybe not. Anyway, it’s too late now. While you are at the bank I’ll get busy and see if I can learn any more about this ‘Samuel Smith’. Talk about your alibis ! Meet me at my office—wait for me or I will for you. Adios.”


It was close to nine o’clock that eve- ning when a tired, hungry, perplexed and perspiring advertising man let him- self into his office to find an equally hungry and perplexed detective await- ing him.

“Well, what’d you find?”

“How about it?”

“Your lead, Tom.”

“It won’t take me long to tell. Smith left town the day before the bank was burgled.”

“Left town ! But the dead—”

“No, alive. Six times or six of him. He took boat for Victoria, San Fran- cisco and Skagway, and train for Spo- kane, Portland, and Vancouver, B. C.”

“The same day?”

“The same day.”

“The same Smith?”

“The same Samuel Smith—or a man who is described as looking exactly like him and who used that name.”

“But I tell you he’s dead.”

“Maybe so, maybe so. But he wasn’t last Wednesday, not six of him.”

“But he couldn’t—”

“No, he couldn’t, any more than he could have done the same things at the same times at seven different hotels. But they could.”

“I get you! There were seven of him—then.”

“Seven is right—seven men who looked alike, who dressed and acted in the same way according to a carefully prepared and rehearsed schedule, each of whom appeared, did his little stunt, and disappeared by and on the appoint- ed minutes.”

“But that lets them out of cracking the vault—if they left the day before. Everything was all right up to mid- night Wednesday a week ago.”

“Six of them left town that Tues- day.”

“Six? Six! Then the seventh turned the trick and—”

“Aren’t you forgetting the dead man found in the vault with a knife in his ribs ?”

“Well, I’ll be—”

“You probably will, if you continue to insist on it. But don’t let’s worry about that—yet. I’m anxious to hear what you found at the bank. There’s nothing except the results that is inter- esting about my afternoon’s work. I simply made the rounds of the railroads and steamship offices, depots and docks, until I satisfied myself beyond any doubt that all six and only six Samuel Smiths had left for the places I named, that they actually had gone and not merely pretended to. I would have thought the seventh one had taken an 

automobile for his getaway if it had not been for the man in the vault. He com- pletes the count.”

“That surely lets them out of it—at least of getting away with the million. But if they didn’t—then why all the acting? They must have been mixed up in it in some way, or one of them wouldn’t be in the morgue. And I was almost ready to finger Snedeker’s check! Damn!”

“Then you found something at the bank?”

“I did—or I think I did. I can’t be sure until—but wait until I tell you. I told Snedeker what I wanted and he gave me the run of the whole place— but with that idiot Daniels tagging at my heels and blatting every second about the ‘effrontery of the miscreants’ in picking on the Totem National for their ‘dastardly outrage.’ To hear him you’d think that the Totem was the only bank that ever had been cracked, that it was nothing short of sacrilege and high treason for rude hands to touch even a deposit slip belonging to it. If Daniels was judge and jury the thieves would be convicted on sight and boiled in oil—when they’re caught. And he thinks the whole city, state and coun- try administration should come to a halt until the heavy hand of the law is laid upon them—and that of the Totem Na- tional on its million. He got on my nerves until I wanted to hit him, choke him, anything to stop his incessant cackle—until I discovered what I think I discovered. Then I didn’t hear his clack any more, though he kept it up without interruption. He—”

“Oh, cut the Daniels part now, Jim. Tell me what you found.”

“Well, I think I found the way the thieves or thief got into the vault.”

“You did?”

“Think, mind you. I’m not sure and can’t be until I get a chance to investi- gate further. If I’m right I don’t want 

Snedeker to know about it—yet. Not until we are ready to spring the whole story. He might go blabbing to the cops and spill our fat in the fire. They would try to grab all the credit and nose in on the reward. Then where would our island be? We don’t want—”

“For the love of Mike, Jim, can the soliloquy and get down to cases. What did you find?”

“I’m telling you fast as I can, ain’t I ? Of course, if you want to call in every flattie on the force to share our pie or take it all away from us and put that island in the ‘too muchee bime- by’—”

Peiperson threw up his hands in mock despair and Jim, grinning, got down to cases as exhorted.

"I had gone over every inch of the vault—walls, floor, ceiling, every nook and corner—several times without see- ing a single thing out of kilter, and was standing thinking what to do next, wishing Daniels would shut up long enough to let me think uninterruptedly for a second, when I noticed one of the plates in the floor.

“The vault is built up, Snedeker told me, of three-inch chrome steel plates, three feet square, bolted together un- derneath like those of a battleship and set in concrete. The vault, the whole building, in fact, rests on solid ground, Snedeker said, without cellar or space of any kind below the level of the street. Seems they were afraid of wa- ter in that locality. He had assured me that our burglars could not have broken in from underground whatever other route they may have taken. Of course, I took his say-so on this point for what it might be worth, and no more.

“But as I looked at that plate in the middle of the vault floor I began to suspect that his confidence was not based on any firmer foundation than his building. The plate looked just like

any of the others. It was the appear- ance of the lines where it joined the four around it that made me kneel down for closer, examination. And, you know, I don’t stoop my proud stomach any more than I have to. Luckily Daniels was puttering around absorbed in his monologue of Gott- strafing all bank burglars and paying no particular attention to what I was doing. His opinion of detectives, I had gathered, was only one point bet- ter than it was of burglars.

“What first had attracted my atten- tion was no more than that the lines of demarkation between this particular plate and the others seemed a bit wider than the corresponding lines elsewhere and quite a bit dirtier, as if they were filled with greasy dust. When I knelt I found I was right about both—they were wider and they were dirtier. It was greasy dust or dusty grease and deeper than I could probe with my fin- ger-nail, though the similar lines near- by were not depressed over a few hun- dredths of an inch.

“I confess that my hand trembled as I opened the blade of my knife and thrust it into those cracks—not in one place only but in a dozen, on all four sides of the plate. And each time it went clear in its full length without meeting any obstruction! I scraped out a little bit of that ‘grease’—I’ll show it to you in a minute—and then smoothed over all the holes that I had made. What do you think of that. Sticking an ordinary knife blade through chrome steel!”

“Let’s look at that sample of ‘grease’.”

Carranaugh took his wallet from his pocket and from it a cigarette-paper- wrapped pellet of a greasy gray steel color. It was odorless, had the feeling and consistency of paraffine filled with small grit.

“And then?” asked Peiperson, laying 

the gray pellet carefully on the desk be- side him.

“Then, more with the idea of getting Daniels away from that vault where he might happen to see what I had seen than with any idea of finding anything more, I asked to be shown the other vaults. I went through them all but discovered nothing until we came to the one used for the safe-deposit de- partment, next to and directly east of the one from which the money had been taken.

“In the floor of this vault, and, as far as I could judge without making measurements, in direct line with the other loose plate, was a section in ex- actly the same condition—the same thin crack all around it filled with this.” Carranaugh touched the gray pellet and replaced it in his wallet.


“Isn’t that enough? There have been at least twenty trained men, sup- posedly experts, who have gone over that vault with fine-toothed combs in the past week, and not one of them discovered a smidgeon of evidence to show how the vault or the building-was entered. And here I—”

“It’s mighty fine work, Jim. I didn’t mean that it wasn’t. I simply was anxious to know what came next.” “If you mean what did I do next—I told Snedeker I thought I would have something interesting to report within forty-eight hours. He sniffed and mumbled something about ‘they all say that,’ but I didn’t mind his being scep- tical. Can’t blame him for sniffing at the end of a week of nothing but prom- ises without performances. Then I came here and put in the time, while waiting for you, in figuring out a work- ing theory.”

“Have you got one?”

“Sort of one. Remember, I’m not sure those plates are loose. I only think so. But I’m basing as much of a 

theory as I have on their being so.” “Then they must have tunneled un- der the building after all—is that it?” “It looks that way. Something like that. But what I’m bothered about is the loose plate, if it is loose, in the safe deposit vault. Instead of making the proposition simpler, it complicates it. What on earth did they want to mon- key round that vault for—probably not enough valuables in the boxes to pay high class crooks for the taking, men who were figuring on more than a mil- lion. Can you dope that out? I can’t, yet.”

“Maybe they made a mistake— opened up the wrong vault first and then went on to the right one.”

“Maybe. That’s possible. But not probable. Expert cracksmen who could locate the center of the vaults at all wouldn’t make a mistake of over twenty feet in their point of attack. No, that isn’t the explanation. I’m sure it isn’t. There’s some other twist in the tangle, a better reason than that.” “Then maybe—”

“Hold on a minute, Tom! An al- most human idea is trying to bore its way into my brain and I’m afraid to frighten it away by talking. Sit still and pray!”

Peiperson smoked his pipe and was silent as directed while Carranaugh almost visibly labored in his effort to concentrate on the glimmer of thought that suddenly had occurred to him. Finally, slowly, his eyes brightened, his huge body seemed to bulk even more hugely, he breathed like a diver com- ing to the surface as he whispered: “By-the-seven-gods - who - rule - the- seas, I believe I’ve got it! I believe— I believe I know where that million is lying this blessed minute and how it got there! I believe I could lay my hands on it in less than ten minutes’ walk from where we’re sitting! I be- lieve—I believe—His voice trailed 

off into nothingness as he stared at the wall as if his eyes were piercing through and beyond it to the hiding place of the missing million.

“Spring it, Jim ! Spring it!”

But Carranaugh insisted that they go and eat their long deferred dinner before he told his vision, declaring that he needed to piece it out in spots be- fore telling even Tom. So it was not until he had fed mightily that he ex- plained his “almost human idea.” Then the two fell eagerly to discussing the pros and cons, the possibilities and their plans of activity for the morrow —a morrow that was fairly well begun when Jim caught a Madison street car for his houseboat on Lake Washington and Tom one going south for Mount Baker Park, where he knew that M-rs. Tom would be waiting up for him even at that hour, so unholy for the home- coming of a married man. CHAPTER VII

At nine o’clock next morning Peip- erson appeared at the office of the city engineer and asked to be allowed to examine plats of the Pioneer Square district, new and old, the older the bet- ter.

There was little that Tom could not get granted when he asked for it as he knew how to ask. For the next several hours he pored over the maps looking for a certain definite something that he felt convinced was in existence, whether the plats showed it or not. Luncheon and everything else were forgotten as he dug and delved through the dusty blue prints, tracings and brown paper drawings.

Finally, as his finger followed line after line on the earliest city map he could find it came to rest upon two par- allel series of small dashes enclosing the word “Abandoned.” Heaving a sigh of combined satisfaction and wea- 

riness, he borrowed a piece of tracing cloth and a pen from one of the draughtsmen and made a rapid but carefully accurate copy of the street and property lines in the district sur- rounding the spot that had ended his quest and the contiguous waterfront and wharves.

This sectional map he then compared and checked with the latest official plat, noting the changes and corrections made by the city’s development and growth. Thanking the engineer who had assisted him he departed, trying to whistle and smoke at the same time.

Meanwhile Carranaugh had put in an equally busy morning at the Totem National going over the records of the safe-deposit department, making nu- merous inquiries of the bank official directly in charge and generally, in the opinton of that official and of Daniels, making a pronounced and utterly use- less nuisance of himself.

“Instead of going right out and catching the thieves and returning our money to us,” as Daniels phrased it to his fellow employe, who agreed whole- heartedly, adding that “asking foolish and impertinent questions about re- spectable customers who rented safe- deposit boxes” was not the way he would have set about catching bank burglars if he had been a detective, which, he was devoutly thankful to say, he was not.

“Little better than burglars them- selves,” declared Daniels. “No wonder they talk about ‘setting a thief to catch a thief.’ ”

And so on in undertones during the interims between Carranaugh’s count- less inquiries of who, why, when and whither about the men who held the keys to those boxes.

Finally Carranaugh discovered the specific something for which he had been looking as evidently as had Peiper- son, made an entry consisting of three 

numbers in his note book, smiled con- tentedly in self-appreciation that would have been no whit lessened had he overheard the opinions that had so re- cently been expressed about detectives in general and one in particular, and betook himself to the appointed ren- dezvous with Peiperson.

About six o’clock that evening Car- ranaugh and Peiperson, dressed in old clothes and rubber hip-boots, rowed out into the Bay in a boat, in which fishing tackle was prominently displayed and other equipment as carefully concealed.

At nightfall they had not returned but the boat owner, knowing both in- timately as fishermen and men, neither worried nor waited.

They would “get back when they returned” this safety-first-prophet de- clared and was satisfied to let it go at that.

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