When U. P. Snedeker, president of the Totem National Bank, arrived at that institution shortly before ten o’clock the morning of the tenth day after the robbery he was in a very bad humor.
The board of directors, as well as several gentlemen who were powers in the financial world and coincidently in the affairs of the Totem National, had seen fit, the day before, to treat him, U. P. Snedeker, as he often was in the habit of treating lesser employees of that bank.
In a word, he had been “called upon the carpet”—the carpet of his own com
fortable and handsomely furnished of- fice, to speak literally as well as figura- tively—and there also “called down.” He had been spoken to in very plain, rude words, words that were not minced and that hurt his self-love and pride, pointed words that also seriously threat- ened to affect his almost equal love of pelf and position.
He, Snedeker, U. P. Snedeker, presi- dent and autocrat of his little realm, who daily was accustomed to making his power and personality felt by all with whom he came in contact in the bank or out, had been told in almost the same tone and terms he would have used to a mere bookkeeper that one more chance would be given for him to make good. Making good, in this case, signified the recovery of the lost million of the bank’s most liquid assets, a loss, it was inti- mated more directly than diplomatically, which was due to his, Snedeker’s, failure to foresee and provide adequate safe- guards of the funds intrusted to him as the controlling official of the bank.
If he failed to restore—“restore” was the word they used—the funds within the additional time allotted to him by the aforesaid powers his resignation would be accepted—without regrets. Not only without regrets, but, it was intimated, with the possibility of civil or criminal action. They handed it to him good, with no more regard for his feelings or the facts than he himself would have shown.
So, as has been said, U. P. Snedeker was in a very bad humor. He barked at the doorman, snapped at the receiving teller and almost bit Daniels.
It was into this surcharged atmos- phere, this mental and temperamental curtain of fire—and brimstone—that Jim Carranaugh entered a few minutes later. A very blithe and cocky Carra- naugh, radiating peace on earth and good-will toward all men, including even burglars and bank presidents, one may
almost say particularly toward burglars and bank presidents, since it was to the happy combination of gentlemen pursu- ing these more or less diverse activities that Carranaugh owed his present high spirits.
Nor were these spirits in the least ironed out or even dampened by the scowl of the doorman, the snarl of the receiving teller or the snap of Daniels. No, not even by the excellent imitation of a savage and surly dog given by Snedeker. The Honorable James J. was above and beyond the reach of all such petty irritations, human or canine.
“Good morning to you, Mr. Snede- ker!”
“I've a bit of news for you.”
“You remember I promised to report progress this morning.”
“But first I want to have a little un- derstanding with you.”
The substance of Snedeker’s response, divested of its accompanying verbal adornment, was to the effect that Car- ranaugh certainly would come to an un- derstanding that would leave no room for doubt about the bank president’s opinion of all detectives in general and Carranaugh in particular.
When the cyclone had passed, Carra- naugh, unruffled by so much as a single hair, continued:
“About that fifty thousand reward.” / It is too bad that Snedeker’s language at this part of the dialogue cannot be re- ported verbatim, but the rules of public print forbid. If beauty consists of ar- tistic expression, then Snedeker’s re- marks were beautiful, however inde- cently nude. But beyond a smile of appreciation for successful effort, Car- ranaugh continued to be unimpressed, and unmoved from his line of thought and conversation.
“Will you pay it upon return of the
money and securities, or must delivery be made of the thieves as well?”
Snedeker, with a banker’s sense of the all-important when actual cash is the subject under discussion, immediately stopped wasting perfectly good words and countered:
“Have you found them?”
“The money or the thieves ?”
“I think I have.”
“ ‘Think! Think!’ I’m not paying you to think! I’m paying you to know!” “Begging your pardon, Mr. Snedeker, but you’re not paying for either—yet. You are only promising to do so. And it is what that promise covers, or de- mands, that I want to know.”
“Did I say ‘fifty’ thousand, Carra- naugh? Wasn’t ‘five’ the sum I men- tioned? Seems to me, as far as I can remember—”
“You’ll have to remember a good deal farther than that, Mr. Snedeker, if you want me to recover that million for you! If you are trying to crawfish because you think maybe I have succeeded where all the others failed, if you are trying to Jew me down because jou think I’ll be lucky, and glad, to get even five—anything you choose to pay—well, all I have to say is that you have another think coming! If that’s the way you feel about it I’ll say good morning and you can go to—”
“Tut, tut, Mr. Carranaugh, don’t allow yourself to get so excited and jump at unwarranted conclusions. Maybe it was fifty thousand, I said. Maybe it was.”
“No ‘maybe’ about it! Is it fifty?”
“Have you got them?”
“That depends, as I said before.” “Don’t fence with me, man! This is serious. Very serious. Much more serious than you can imagine.”
“I’m not fencing with you. I am trying to do business. Fifty thousand dollars’ worth of business to me—a mil
lion dollars’ worth to you. And if you’ll kindly cut out the cuss words and the condescension, drop the rough stuff and talk like a gentleman as well as a banker, maybe we can do that busi- ness.
‘What the devil do you mean? You impudent—”
“Oh, very well!” said Carranaugh, rising to his feet and picking up his hat. “If you are going to start that again I’ll be on my way and see if Peter B. Far—”
One syllable of that “power’s” name was enough, under the recent circum- stances and Carranaugh’s implied intent, to bring Snedeker to at least an outward semblance of politeness.
“Sit down, Mr. Carranaugh, sit down. I didn’t mean to be hasty—but you don’t know the load of responsi- bility I am carrying, what a strain I’ve been under the past ten days. Sit down and tell me all about what you think you have discovered and I’ll try to re- strain my natural impatience. Between my anxiety and the everlasting promises of ‘tomorrow’ of the score or more men I’ve had working on this case, you should not blame me for being sick of your tribe—I mean of your incom- petent competitors.”
“That’s all right, Mr. Snedeker. I understand. Only don’t class me with them or try to talk to me as you may to them. I’m apt to be fussy when I’m sworn at. And now, if you will answer my question, I will answer yours.” “What question ?”
“Do you pay that reward of fifty thousand dollars for the return of the million, or must the thieves be included in the delivery?”
“Damn the thieves! That is, of course, you understand—we must do our duty to society, uphold law and order at whatever cost to ourselves, con- sider the public weal and the demands of justice, and—
“Then, I understand, the money and the securities will be enough?”
“Have you negotiated for their re- turn—eh—that is, I mean can you de- liver them—if we don’t insist on ap- prehending the—”
“You can! You mean it? My dear Mr. Carranaugh! You don’t know what a load you are lifting from my heart! You surely—?”
“I surely can.”
“All of it?”
“Every sou—less the fifty thousand.”
“You mean they—?”
“No. I mean me. If I turn over the whole thing to you, without a dollar or a bond missing, do I get the fifty thou- sand?”
Snedeker’s eyes narrowed as he gazed straight into Carranaugh’s and Carra- naugh’s eyes were blandly wide open as he gazed back. Snedeker sighed, cleared his throat twice as if something was sticking in his thorax, finally squeezed out:
“Will you be good enough to put that on paper?”
“Do you doubt my—”
“I’m not doubting anything. Merely a matter of form, of business procedure, of—shall we say?-—ordinary banking precaution, Mr. Snedeker.”
“Can you do it ?”
“You can lay your hands on that million in less than five minutes after you sign that promise to pay—or you needn’t pay.”
Snedeker wrote hastily for a few minutes, made the wholly illegible scrawl that passed for his signature and handed the paper to Carranaugh with an explosive:
“There! Now show me!”
Carranaugh read the instrument, nodded in satisfaction with its provi- sions, folded and placed it carefully in his wallet and the wallet in his inside
vest pocket, and with a deliberation maddening to the banker, heaved him- self to his feet.
“If you’ll just step this way, Mr. Snedeker.”
Leading the banker into the general offices of the Totem National, where they immediately became the focal point of every eye in the place, Carranaugh stopped in front of the treasure vault from which the million had so mys- teriously disappeared.
“Open the door, please.”
The guardian of the door looked from the big man to the president and the latter, frankly mystified and curious, nodded. As they stepped inside the detective said:
“I first want to show you how' this vault was entered and the money taken out. If I turned it over to you first I’m afraid you would lose your interest in this feature of my discoveries.”
“All right. Only hurry.”
As had been said, Carranaugh would have made a good actor if he had not been a better detective, as his ensuing actions proved, nothing of their his- trionic value being lost because his au- dience was limited to one.
With much the air of Macbeth in the “apparition scene” he advanced to the center of the vault, making an im- pressive gesture with his arm calling Snedeker’s attention to the floor, upon which he tapped lightly with his foot.
It is permissible exaggeration to say that Snedeker’s eyes threatened to pop out of his head as, fascinated, they .saw one of the floor plates, one of the three- inch chrome steel supposedly impreg- nable floor plates, part company with its fellows and drop out of sight, to be re- placed a moment later by the head and broad shoulders of a man who turned a very dirty but grinning face up to look into the banker’s own, remarking: “Hello, Jim. All O.K. ?”
“Wh — wh — wh — what ?” gasped Snedeker.
“This is my partner, Thomas Peiper- son, of the Seattle Advertising Service, Mr. Snedeker. Mr. Snedeker—Mr. Peiperson. We’ll explain all the details later. Just now you must be more in- terested in the money. Come on, Tom.”
The banker nodded, having no words to express his feelings just then, and followed silently after Carranaugh and Peiperson as they led the way to the door of the safe-deposit vault.
It must be confessed, here and now, that for all his mystification, all his eagerness, Snedeker was not as nervous as his two outwardly calm but inwardly anxious guides, whose nerves were on a wire-edge. They had bet on a long shot, were gambling to a large extent upon what they felt were probabilities beyond reasonable doubt, but still prob- abilities.
It was just possible, for all the evi- dence upon which their belief was based, for all the feasibility of their theory, for all their confidence in their deduc- tions, that the thieves had not hidden the million where Carranaugh and Peiperson felt they must have hidden it. They might even be right in the place of concealment originally chosen but again there was the possibility that it no longer held the treasure, that it subsequently had been removed to a place of greater safety for the thieves.
So it was that there were three, in- stead of only one, extremely nervous men who watched the vault attendant unlock with his masterkey boxes num- bered 358-359-360, three of the largest boxes in the vault, the three boxes that had been rented by one Seth C. Seeley.