Sometime later, when the contents of the three boxes had been most care- fully counted and checked, when every
dollar and ounce of gold, every bond and security, every item of value down to the last sheet of government revenue stamps that had been missing were ac- counted for, when that paper signed by Snedeker had been exchanged for a Totem National checking account made out to the joint credit of James Carra- naugh and Thomas Peiperson, when Snedeker had telephoned to certain gentlemen in a tone of voice suggesting injured innocence triumphant over un- deserved criticism, when Jim had told their story with such emendations and additions as his imagination suggested were called for by its proper presenta- tion and to the due credit of one Peiper- son and himself, when these and sun- dry lesser matters had been attended to, a smiling and affable Snedeker asked of a smiling and equally courteous Car- ranaugh :
“Now that everything of importance has been attended to, suppose you gen- tlemen go to lunch with me and later tell me how the trick was worked and how you are going to catch the thieves.”
“The luncheon today—with pleasure. The explanation next week—with equal pleasure. But the thieves, Mr. Sned- eker—don’t you think it only fair to leave the glory of catching them to Chief Stein and his men? Surely we should grant them that consideration, not usurp their special prerogatives. Mr. Peiper- son and I are not common cops, man hunters, bloodhounds willing to sacrifice value for victims. We are simply, may I say, mathematicians who put two and two together for the benefit of the finan- cial interests of the community. Of course we could catch the men responsi- ble for this outrage on you and your bank if we wanted to stoop to the lower problems of our arithmetical hobby— but you hardly would expect us to do that, I am sure, any more than you would stoop to the practices of a pawn- broker. I know you wouldn’t. Your
own position at the head of your profes- sion enables you to appreciate our stand- ing and feelings at the head of ours. So we may call the case closed, the problem solved, may we not? Thank you.”
With which, to Peiperson, deliciously ironical effrontery, and, to Snedeker, properly phrased and satisfactory end- ing of what had been a very unpleasant experience which he would be glad to forget completely as soon as possible, Carranaugh rose to his feet and mutely signified his readiness to add several more superfluous pounds to his weight. CHAPTER XI
But if Snedeker was so easily an- swered a certain married woman in Seattle was not. She demanded full explanation of several features of the mystery that the bank president was content to consider unimportant if not irrelevant details.
But then—the banker was a man and had recovered a lost million and a nearly lost place and prestige, while Mrs. Thomas Peiperson, though she had a proprietary interest in a certain fifty thousand dollars, still was a woman and a woman not disposed to forego her feminine and marital prerogatives. And as, moreover, she was the wife of a thoroughly home-broken and properly trained husband, her questions could not be so easily evaded, not even by the clever twistings of the tongues of that husband and their mutual intimate.
On an evening a week or so later, having “fed the brutes” according to the injunction of Mrs. Solomon, placed them in easy chairs before the big fire- place with a supply of tobacco and glasses that tinkled enticingly, and curled herself up on the couch in an entirely graceful and receptive attitude of beautiful body and alert mind, she commanded:
"Now, begin. I know all about the seven Samuel Smiths stopping at the seven hotels, the six who went away and the one who—who stayed, how they stole and hid the money, and the wonderful work you two did finding it. What you are to tell me now is why and how the one was killed, how the money was taken after the six were gone and the seventh was dead, why they masqueraded that way when it was sure to attract attention, why they put the money in another vault of the same bank instead of taking it away with them, and—and all the rest of it. Go ahead. I’m listening.”
“Guess it’s up to you, Jim. Perform for the lady,” said Peiperson.
Dropping into a touch of the brogue that he sometimes affected when in cer- tain moods Carranaugh grinned back, saying:
“She’s your wife, not mine—sorra be! It’s too full I am of her dinner and good things to talk yet awhile. I’m too busy looking at her and thinkin’ what a fool for luck y’ are, Tom dear. Besides, I’ve gained another twenty pounds the past week and it’s on my conscience I must bant again, bad luck to the fat of me! Let me meditate in peace upon the last man’s meal I’ll have for many’s the day. Do you tell the girl. I’ll add a word or two here and there should you forget, or correct you if you don’t give me the credit that’s due me, egregious egotist that y’ are. Make him, Mary, there’s the darlin’.”
And Mary made him.
“Well, dear, it’ll do no harm to con- fess in the bosom of our family that we only can guess at part of what you want to know, deduce other parts from cir- cumstantial evidence, and be sure only of the little that remains. But if you will take the explanation as a mixture of all three and let it go at that without being too particular about which is which, here it is:
“So that you will understand from the outset something that bothered us a good deal and very nearly threw us off the right track—as it was intended to do—I’ll begin in the middle with the fact that the body found in the vault was not one of the original seven Samuel Smiths at all, was not murdered or killed by them or anyone else, and had nothing to do with the looting of the bank except as a bit of ‘evidence’ plant- ed in the vault to complicate the case and confuse the police.
“The leader of the gang, the real ‘Samuel Smith’ or whatever his name is, saw very clearly that an attempt, at least, would be made to trace the move- ments of the seven men. He made the departing trails of his six assistants very easy to follow, once they had done their part of the heavy preliminary work in the old sewer. He figured that the police, finding six identical clues, would be so puzzled that they would simply begin to chase their tails. And even if they caught one or two of the six, they would still be beaten, for the money was still safe in the vault.
“But, since he himself was compelled to remain in the city to carry out the actual robbery and then wait until it would be reasonably safe to take the swag out of town without being caught at railroad station or steamship dock by the plain-clothes men on guard, it was necessary that the seventh ‘mem- ber’ also should be as easily accounted for.
“That’s where the ‘murdered’ man came in as part of the setting of the scene. He had, it is probable, been pro- vided for in advance and held in readi- ness for the silent but important part he played. It was no insuperable diffi- culty for such a clever and resourceful crook as ‘Samuel Smith’ to secure from some other city a body of a man with a Vandyke beard and looking sufficiently like himself and the other six to pass
muster—especially since the police and we ourselves were only too ready to jump blindly at conclusions. It really needed no more than a fair suggestion of a likeness, coupled with the duplicate clothes and belongings, to turn the trick and make us all think that the entire gang was accounted for.
“And we would have let it go at that and probably never dispelled the mys- tery if it had not been for our sleepy friend here. Jim’s suspicions were aroused the first time he visited the morgue and examined the body. The wound in the back didn’t look just right to him as a basis for a burial certificate, and there was not nearly enough blood on the blade of the hunting knife to satisfy his demand for gore. He fussed around and made himself such a gen- eral nuisance to the coroner and the coroner’s physician that, to get rid of his pestering, they agreed to perform an autopsy.
“They did. Jim was right. That wound in the back was not the cause of death. The knife had been driven into the body at least and probably more than forty-eight hours after the man had died of a hemorrhage of one of the large abdominal arteries, due to a ma- lignant ulceration of the intestines. This was proved, not only by finding the very evident proof of the internal rupture, but also by the fact that all the blood in the body had drained into the abdominal cavity, where it had almost entirely coagulated. Also, there was no sign of bleeding in or about the region of the ‘wound.’
“So much for so much.
“I’ve just suggested the reason for their not taking the loot with them at once—every avenue of egress from the city would be watched for days after- ward by the forces of the law. Well, then, what hiding place would be less likely to be suspected than the safe-de- posit vault of the bank itself? Smith
was evidently too experienced a crook to find any difficulty in getting hold of a master key. So he simply opened the boxes, took out his packages, emptied the rocks or old bricks that filled them into the sewer opening, and put in the gold, money and securities. Now he could come back, weeks or months after- ward, take out his packages, and escape all suspicion. But Jim here doped it all out the moment he ran across the trail of the three boxes rented by ‘Seth C. Seeley’—who of course was none other than the gang leader himself— after he had discovered the second loose plate.
“If you could have gone through that abandoned sewer with us—which your sensitive nose may be thankful you didn’t—and seen the amount of work it must have taken to clear it of the debris of years, to cut those holes up to the concrete foundation and then chip it away under both plates through several feet reinforced with steel rods, and finally to burn those extremely narrow cuts through three inches of super- hardened steel, you would have won- dered that it had not taken seventy men instead of seven. They must have been at it for weeks.
“The ‘greasy dust’ was paraffine mixed with fine steel filings and served simply to fill and hide the cuts made in the plates.
“About the ‘masquerading,’ as you call it, at the hotels. I think some of that performance was just that and no more —a touch of melodramatic theatricalism put on for its own sake and to gratify the whimsical humor of ‘Samuel Smith,’ who, I imagine, is a bit of a farceur in his way. Of course he had a serious purpose also. His plan—which he car- ried out exactly in every detail except the final disappearance with the million —called for the transference of the treasure from one vault to the other in a single night and by himself alone,
after the plain departure of the six lesser crooks.
“This involved not only a number of hours of very hard work for him but also the running of the greatest degree of risk that had been taken. He planned, in the event of his being caught at any stage of the proceedings, except when he was actually handling the valuables, to be able to make all attempts at posi- tive identification so ridiculous that no court would have held him on the evi- dence submitted.
“He would have some thirty-odd reputable witnesses to swear that he was in seven places doing the same things at the same times—and so discredit any police testimony about his actions at any other time. If the one was impossi- ble—the other would or might appear equally so. Or, at any rate, the chance was worth the effort—the chances plus the pure whimsical humor of it.
“There you have the whole story.”
“Do you mean to say that you are going to stop there, that that is all there is to it? Fiddle! It isn’t a bit as ex- citing as I thought it was going to be. You’ve taken all the romance out of it. I want to know what became of ‘Samuel Smith’ and his six doubles or would you call it sextuples ? What he did when he found you had opened those boxes instead of his—how he finally got away—and a whole lot of other things,” expostulated Mary Peiperson, pouting
at her husband and the somnolent Car- ranaugh.
“Sorry, Sweetheart, but I’ve told you all I know.”
“And there isn’t any dramatic end- ing ?”
“Guess not. ‘Them’s the bare unin- teresting facts’ in a nutshell—unless you want to call an interchange of ads. dra- matic.”
“ Ads. ? What ads. ?”
“One I wrote and one in reply from ‘Samuel Smith’.” “That sounds a little encouraging.” “Thanks for the wild applause. I can quote them both from memory. Mine, published in all the large papers of the Northwest, ran: To the Seven Who Were One and the One Who Was Seven, Greeting. Thanks for your contribution to the deserving charity that begins at the home of " C. and P.
“And he replied in the same papers: -C. and P.
You are welcome, since I was unable to contribute to the still more deserving charity nearer home that I had intended to benefit. Sorry not to be able to offer my congratulations in person but the first law of nature forbids. Possibly we shall meet at some later date. Tables have a way of turning. Au revoir. The Man Who Was Seven.”