The Black Hand, A Mystery
by Arthur B. Reeve
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 Kennedy:
"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
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
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
"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, lowtoned 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."
"No, no!" exclaimed Gennaro excitedly. "Not that. I want to get my
daughter first. After that, catch them if you can—yes, I should like
to have someone do it. But read this first and tell me what you think
of it. How should I act to get my little Adelina back without
harming a hair of her head?" The famous singer drew from a capacious
pocketbook a dirty, crumpled letter, scrawled on cheap paper.
Kennedy translated it quickly. It read:
* * * * *
Honorable sir: Your daughter is in safe hands. But, by the saints, if
you give this letter to the police as you did the other, not only she
but your family also, someone near to you, will suffer. We will not
fail as we did Wednesday. If you want your daughter back, go yourself,
alone and without telling a soul, to Enrico Albano's Saturday night
at the twelfth hour. You must provide yourself with $10,000 in bills
hidden in Saturday's Il Progresso Italiano. In the back room you
will see a man sitting alone at a table. He will have a red flower
on his coat. You are to say, "A fine opera is 'I Pagliacci.'" If he
answers, "Not without Gennaro," lay the newspaper down on the table.
He will pick it up, leaving his own, the Bolletino. On the third
page you will find written the place where your daughter has been left
waiting for you. Go immediately and get her. But, by the God, if you
have so much as a shadow of the police near Enrico's your daughter
will be sent to you in a box that night. Do not fear to come. We
pledge our word to deal fairly if you deal fairly. This is a last
warning. Lest you shall forget we will show one other sign of our
LA MANO NERA.
* * * * *
The end of this ominous letter was gruesomely decorated with a skull
and cross-bones, a rough drawing of a dagger thrust through a bleeding
heart, a coffin, and, under all, a huge black hand. There was no doubt
about the type of letter that it was. It was such as have of late
years become increasingly common in all our large cities, baffling the
"You have not showed this to the police, I presume?" asked Kennedy.
"Are you going Saturday night?"
"I am afraid to go and afraid to stay away," was the reply, and the
voice of the fifty-thousand-dollars-a-season tenor was as human as
that of a five-dollar-a-week father, for at bottom all men, high or
low, are one.
"'We will not fail as we did Wednesday,'" reread Craig. "What does
Gennaro fumbled in his pocketbook again, and at last drew forth a
typewritten letter bearing the letter-head of the Leslie Laboratories,
"After I received the first threat," explained Gennaro, "my wife and
I went from our apartments at the hotel to her father's, the banker
Cesare, you know, who lives on Fifth Avenue. I gave the letter to
the Italian Squad of the police. The next morning my father-in-law's
butler noticed something peculiar about the milk. He barely touched
some of it to his tongue, and he has been violently ill ever since. I
at once sent the milk to the laboratory of my friend Doctor Leslie to
have it analyzed. This letter shows what the household escaped."
"My dear Gennaro," read Kennedy. "The milk submitted to us for
examination on the 10th inst. has been carefully analyzed, and I beg
to hand you herewith the result:
"Specific gravity 1.036 at 15 degrees Cent.
Water 84.60 per cent.
Casein 3.49 " "
Albumin 56 " "
Globulin 1.32 " "
Lactose 5.08 " "
Ash 72 " "
Fat 3.42 " "
Ricin 1.19 " "
"Ricin is a new and little-known poison derived from the shell of the
castor-oil bean. Professor Ehrlich states that one gram of the pure
poison will kill 1,500,000 guinea pigs. Ricin was lately isolated by
Professor Robert, of Rostock, but is seldom found except in an impure
state, though still very deadly. It surpasses strychnin, prussic
acid, and other commonly known drugs. I congratulate you and yours on
escaping and shall of course respect your wishes absolutely regarding
keeping secret this attempt on your life. Believe me,
"Very sincerely yours,
As Kennedy handed the letter back, he remarked significantly: "I can
see very readily why you don't care to have the police figure in your
case. It has got quite beyond ordinary police methods."
"And to-morrow, too, they are going to give another sign of their
power," groaned Gennaro, sinking into the chair before his untasted
"You say you have left your hotel?" inquired Kennedy.
"Yes. My wife insisted that we would be more safely guarded at the
residence of her father, the banker. But we are afraid even there
since the poison attempt. So I have come here secretly to Luigi, my
old friend Luigi, who is preparing food for us, and in a few minutes
one of Cesare's automobiles will be here, and I will take the food up
to her—sparing no expense or trouble. She is heart-broken. It will
kill her, Professor Kennedy, if anything happens to our little
"Ah sir, I am not poor myself. A month's salary at the opera-house,
that is what they ask of me. Gladly would I give it, ten thousand
dollars—all, if they asked it, of my contract with Herr
Schleppencour, the director. But the police—bah!—they are all for
catching the villains. What good will it do me if they catch them and
my little Adelina is returned to me dead? It is all very well for the
Anglo-Saxon to talk of justice and the law, but I am—what you call
it?—an emotional Latin. I want my little daughter—and at any cost.
Catch the villains afterward—yes. I will pay double then to catch
them so that they cannot blackmail me again. Only first I want my
"And your father-in-law?"
"My father-in-law, he has been among you long enough to be one of you.
He has fought them. He has put up a sign in his banking-house, 'No
money paid on threats.' But I say it is foolish. I do not know America
as well as he, but I know this: the police never succeed—the ransom
is paid without their knowledge, and they very often take the credit.
I say, pay first, then I will swear a righteous vendetta—I will bring
the dogs to justice with the money yet on them. Only show me how, show
"First of all," replied Kennedy, "I want you to answer one question,
truthfully, without reservation, as to a friend. I am your friend,
believe me. Is there any person, a relative or acquaintance of
yourself or your wife or your father-in-law, whom you even have reason
to suspect of being capable of extorting money from you in this way?
I needn't say that that is the experience of the district attorney's
office in the large majority of cases of this so-called Black Hand."
"No," replied the tenor without hesitation. "I know that, and I have
thought about it. No, I can think of no one. I know you Americans
often speak of the Black Hand as a myth coined originally by a
newspaper writer. Perhaps it has no organization. But, Professor
Kennedy, to me it is no myth. What if the real Black Hand is any gang
of criminals who choose to use that convenient name to extort money?
Is it the less real? My daughter is gone!"
"Exactly," agreed Kennedy. "It is not a theory that confronts you.
It is a hard, cold fact. I understand that perfectly. What is, the
address of this Albano's?"
Luigi mentioned a number on Mulberry Street, and Kennedy made a note
"It is a gambling saloon," explained Luigi. "Albano is a Neapolitan,
a Camorrista, one of my countrymen of whom I am thoroughly ashamed,
"Do you think this Albano had anything to do with the letter?"
Luigi shrugged his shoulders.
Just then a big limousine was heard outside. Luigi picked up a huge
hamper that was placed in a corner of the room and, followed closely
by Signer Gennaro, hurried down to it. As the tenor left us he grasped
our hands in each of his.
"I have an idea in my mind," said Craig simply. "I will try to think
it out in detail to-night. Where can I find you to-morrow?"
"Come to me at the opera-house in the afternoon, or if you want me
sooner at Mr. Cesare's residence. Good night, and a thousand thanks
to you, Professor Kennedy, and to you, also, Mr. Jameson. I trust you
absolutely because Luigi trusts you."
We sat in the little dining-room until we heard the door of the
limousine bang shut and the car shoot off with the rattle of the
"One more question, Luigi," said Craig as the door opened again. "I
have never been on that block in Mulberry Street where this Albano's
is. Do you happen to know any of the shopkeepers on it or near it?"
"I have a cousin who has a drug-store on the corner below Albano's, on
the same side of the street."
"Good! Do you think he would let me use his store for a few minutes
Saturday night—of course without any risk to himself?"
"I think I could arrange it."
"Very well. Then to-morrow, say at nine in the morning, I will stop
here, and we will all go over to see him. Good night, Luigi, and many
thanks for thinking of me in connection with this case. I've enjoyed
Signor Gennaro's singing often enough at the opera to want to render
him this service, and I'm only too glad to be able to be of service to
all honest Italians; that is, if I succeed in carrying out a plan I
have in mind."
A little before nine the following day Kennedy and I dropped into
Luigi's again. Kennedy was carrying a suitcase which he had taken over
from his laboratory to our rooms the night before. Luigi was waiting
for us, and without losing a minute we sallied forth.
By means of the tortuous twists of streets in old Greenwich village we
came out at last on Bleecker Street and began walking east amid the
hurly-burly of races of lower New York. We had not quite reached
Mulberry Street when our attention was attracted by a large crowd on
one of the busy corners, held back by a cordon of police who were
endeavoring to keep the people moving with that burly good nature
which the six-foot Irish policeman displays toward the five-foot
burden-bearers of southern and eastern Europe who throng New York.
Apparently, we saw, as we edged up into the front of the crowd, here
was a building whose whole front had literally been torn off and
wrecked. The thick plate-glass of the windows was smashed to a mass
of greenish splinters on the sidewalk, while the windows of the upper
floors and for several houses down the block in either street were
likewise broken. Some thick iron bars which had formerly protected the
windows were now bent and twisted. A huge hole yawned in the floor
inside the doorway, and peering in we could see the desks and chairs a
tangled mass of kindling.
"What's the matter?" I inquired of an officer near me, displaying my
reporter's fire-line badge, more for its moral effect than in the hope
of getting any real information in these days of enforced silence
toward the press.
"Black Hand bomb," was the laconic reply.
"Whew!" I whistled. "Anyone hurt?"
"They don't usually kill anyone, do they?" asked the officer by way of
reply to test my acquaintance with such things.
"No," I admitted. "They destroy more property than lives. But did they
get anyone this time? This must have been a thoroughly over-loaded
bomb, I should judge by the looks of things."
"Came pretty close to it. The bank hadn't any more than opened when,
bang! went this gas-pipe-and-dynamite thing. Crowd collected before
the smoke had fairly cleared. Man who owns the bank was hurt, but not
badly. Now come, beat it down to headquarters if you want to find
out any more. You'll find it printed on the pink slip—the 'squeal
book'—by this time. 'Gainst the rules for me to talk," he added with
a good-natured grin, then to the crowd: "G'wan, now. You're blockin'
traffic. Keep movin'."
I turned to Craig and Luigi. Their eyes were riveted on the big gilt
sign, half broken, and all askew overhead. It read:
CIRO DI CESARE & CO. BANKERS
NEW YORK, GENOA, NAPLES, ROME, PALERMO
"This is the reminder so that Gennaro and his father-in-law will not
forget," I gasped.
"Yes," added Craig, pulling us away, "and Cesare himself is wounded,
too. Perhaps that was for putting up the notice refusing to pay.
Perhaps not. It's a queer case—they usually set the bombs off at
night when no one is around. There must be more back of this than
merely to scare Gennaro. It looks to me as if they were after Cesare,
too, first by poison, then by dynamite."
We shouldered our way out through the crowd and went on until we came
to Mulberry Street, pulsing with life. Down we went past the little
shops, dodging the children, and making way for women with huge
bundles of sweat-shop clothing accurately balanced on their heads or
hugged up under their capacious capes. Here was just one little colony
of the hundreds of thousands of Italians—a population larger than the
Italian population of Rome—of whose life the rest of New York knew
and cared nothing.
At last we came to Albano's little wine-shop, a dark, evil, malodorous
place on the street level of a five-story, alleged "new-law" tenement.
Without hesitation Kennedy entered, and we followed, acting the part
of a slumming party. There were a few customers at this early hour,
men out of employment and an inoffensive-looking lot, though of course
they eyed us sharply. Albano himself proved to be a greasy, low-browed
fellow who had a sort of cunning look. I could well imagine such
a fellow spreading terror in the hearts of simple folk by merely
pressing both temples with his thumbs and drawing his long bony
fore-finger under his throat—the so-called Black Hand sign that has
shut up many a witness in the middle of his testimony even in open
We pushed through to the low-ceilinged back room, which was empty, and
sat down at a table. Over a bottle of Albano's famous California "red
ink" we sat silently. Kennedy was making a mental note of the place.
In the middle of the ceiling was a single gas-burner with a big
reflector over it. In the back wall of the room was a horizontal
oblong window, barred, and with a sash that opened like a transom.
The tables were dirty and the chairs rickety. The walls were bare and
unfinished, with beams innocent of decoration. Altogether it was as
unprepossessing a place as I had ever seen.
Apparently satisfied with his scrutiny, Kennedy got up to go,
complimenting the proprietor on his wine. I could see that Kennedy had
made up his mind as to his course of action.
"How sordid crime really is," he remarked as we walked on down the
street. "Look at that place of Albano's. I defy even the police news
reporter on the Star to find any glamour in that."
Our next stop was at the corner at the little store kept by the cousin
of Luigi, who conducted us back of the partition where prescriptions
were compounded, and found us chairs.
A hurried explanation from Luigi brought a cloud to the open face of
the druggist, as if he hesitated to lay himself and his little fortune
open to the blackmailers. Kennedy saw it and interrupted.
"All that I wish to do," he said, "is to put in a little instrument
here and use it to-night for a few minutes. Indeed, there will be no
risk to you, Vincenzo. Secrecy is what I desire, and no one will ever
know about it."
Vincenzo was at length convinced, and Craig opened his suit-case.
There was little in it except several coils of insulated wire, some
tools, a couple of packages wrapped up, and a couple of pairs of
overalls. In a moment Kennedy had donned overalls and was smearing
dirt and grease over his face and hands. Under his direction I did the
Taking the bag of tools, the wire, and one of the small packages, we
went out on the street and then up through the dark and ill-ventilated
hall of the tenement. Half-way up a woman stopped us suspiciously.
"Telephone company," said Craig curtly. "Here's permission from the
owner of the house to string wires across the roof."
He pulled an old letter out of his pocket, but as it was too dark to
read even if the woman had cared to do so, we went on up as he had
expected, unmolested. At last we came to the roof, where there were
some children at play a couple of houses down from us.
Kennedy began by dropping two strands of wire down to the ground in
the back yard behind Vincenzo's shop. Then he proceeded to lay two
wires along the edge of the roof.
We had worked only a little while when the children began to collect.
However, Kennedy kept right on until we reached the tenement next to
that in which Albano's shop was.
"Walter," he whispered, "just get the children away for a minute now."
"Look here, you kids," I yelled, "some of you will fall off if you get
so close to the edge of the roof. Keep back."
It had no effect. Apparently they looked not a bit frightened at the
dizzy mass of clothes-lines below us.
"Say, is there a candy-store on this block?" I asked in desperation.
"Yes, sir," came the chorus.
"Who'll go down and get me a bottle of ginger ale?" I asked.
A chorus of voices and glittering eyes was the answer. They all would.
I took a half-dollar from my pocket and gave it to the oldest.
"All right now, hustle along, and divide the change."
With the scamper of many feet they were gone, and we were alone.
Kennedy had now reached Albano's and as soon as the last head had
disappeared below the scuttle of the roof he dropped two long strands
down into the back yard, as he had done at Vincenzo's.
I started to go back, but he stopped me.
"Oh, that will never do," he said. "The kids will see that the wires
end here. I must carry them on several houses farther as a blind and
trust to luck that they don't see the wire leading down below."
We were several houses down, still putting up wires when the crowd
came shouting back, sticky with cheap trust-made candy and black with
East Side chocolate. We opened the ginger ale and forced ourselves
to drink it so as to excite no suspicion, then a few minutes later
descended the stairs of the tenement, coming out just above Albano's.
I was wondering how Kennedy was going to get into Albano's again
without exciting suspicion. He solved it neatly.
"Now, Walter, do you think you could stand another dip into that red
ink of Albano's?"
I said I might in the interests of science and justice—not otherwise.
"Well, your face is sufficiently dirty," he commented, "so that with
the overalls you don't look very much as you did the first time you
went in. I don't think they will recognize you. Do I look pretty
"You look like a coal-heaver out of a job," I said. "I can scarcely
restrain my admiration."
"All right. Then take this little glass bottle. Go into the back room
and order something cheap, in keeping with your looks. Then when you
are all alone break the bottle. It is full of gas drippings. Your nose
will dictate what to do next. Just tell the proprietor you saw the gas
company's wagon on the next block and come up here and tell me."
I entered. There was a sinister-looking man, with a sort of
unscrupulous intelligence, writing at a table. As he wrote and puffed
at his cigar, I noticed a scar on his face, a deep furrow running from
the lobe of his ear to his mouth. That, I knew, was a brand set upon
him by the Camorra. I sat and smoked and sipped slowly for several
minutes, cursing him inwardly more for his presence than for his
evident look of the "mala vita." At last he went out to ask the
bar-keeper for a stamp.
Quickly I tiptoed over to another corner of the room and ground the
little bottle under my heel. Then I resumed my seat. The odor that
pervaded the room was sickening.
The sinister-looking man with the scar came in again and sniffed. I
sniffed. Then the proprietor came in and sniffed.
"Say," I said in the toughest voice I could assume, "you got a leak.
Wait. I seen the gas company wagon on the next block when I came in.
I'll get the man."
I dashed out and hurried up the street to the place where Kennedy was
waiting impatiently. Rattling his tools, he followed me with apparent
As he entered the wine-shop he snorted, after the manner of gas-men,
"Where's de leak?"
"You find-a da leak," grunted Albano. "What-a you get-a pay for? You
want-a me do your work?"
"Well, half a dozen o' you wops get out o' here, that's all. D'youse
all wanter be blown ter pieces wid dem pipes and cigarettes? Clear
out," growled Kennedy.
They retreated precipitately, and Craig hastily opened his bag of
"Quick, Walter, shut the door and hold it," exclaimed Craig, working
rapidly. He unwrapped a little package and took out a round, flat,
disc-like thing of black vulcanized rubber. Jumping up on a table, he
fixed it to the top of the reflector over the gas-jet.
"Can you see that from the floor, Walter?" he asked under his breath.
"No," I replied, "not even when I know it is there."
Then he attached a couple of wires to it and let them across the
ceiling toward the window, concealing them carefully by sticking them
in the shadow of a beam. At the window he quickly attached the wires
to the two that were dangling down from the roof and shoved them
around out of sight.
"We'll have to trust that no one sees them," he said. "That's the best
I can do at such short notice. I never saw a room so bare as this,
anyway. There isn't another place I could put that thing without its
We gathered up the broken glass of the gas-drippings bottle, and I
opened the door.
"It's all right, now," said Craig, sauntering out before the bar.
"Only de next time you has anyt'ing de matter call de company up. I
ain't supposed to do dis wit'out orders, see?"
A moment later I followed, glad to get out of the oppressive
atmosphere, and joined him in the back of Vincenzo's drugstore, where
he was again at work. As there was no back window there, it was quite
a job to lead the wires around the outside from the back yard and
in at a side window. It was at last done, however, without exciting
suspicion, and Kennedy attached them to an oblong box of weathered oak
and a pair of specially constructed dry batteries.
"Now," said Craig, as we washed off the stains of work and stowed the
overalls back in the suit-case, "that is done to my satisfaction. I
can tell Gennaro to go ahead safely now and meet the Black-Handers."
From Vincenzo's we walked over toward Centre Street, where Kennedy and
I left Luigi to return to his restaurant, with instructions to be at
Vincenzo's at half-past eleven that night.
We turned into the new police headquarters and went down the long
corridor to the Italian Bureau. Kennedy sent in his card to Lieutenant
Giuseppe in charge, and we were quickly admitted. The lieutenant was
a short, full-faced, fleshy Italian, with lightish hair and eyes that
were apparently dull, until you suddenly discovered that that was
merely a cover to their really restless way of taking in everything
and fixing the impressions on his mind, as if on a sensitive plate.
"I want to talk about the Gennaro case," began Craig. "I may add that
I have been rather closely associated with Inspector O'Connor of the
Central Office on a number of cases, so that I think we can trust each
other. Would you mind telling me what you know about it if I promise
you that I, too, have something to reveal?"
The lieutenant leaned back and watched Kennedy closely without seeming
to do so. "When I was in Italy last year," he replied at length, "I
did a good deal of work in tracing up some Camorra suspects, I had a
tip about some of them to look up their records—I needn't say where
it came from, but it was a good one. Much of the evidence against some
of those fellows who are being tried at Viterbo was gathered by the
Carabinieri as a result of hints that I was able to give them—clues
that were furnished to me here in America from the source I speak of.
I suppose there is really no need to conceal it, though. The original
tip came from a certain banker here in New York."
"I can guess who it was," nodded Craig.
"Then, as you know, this banker is a fighter. He is the man who
organized the White Hand—an organization which is trying to rid
the Italian population of the Black Hand. His society had a lot of
evidence regarding former members of both the Camorra in Naples and
the Mafia in Sicily, as well as the Black Hand gangs in New York,
Chicago, and other cities. Well, Cesare, as you know, is Gennaro's
"While I was in Naples looking up the record of a certain criminal
I heard of a peculiar murder committed some years ago. There was an
honest old music master who apparently lived the quietest and most
harmless of lives. But it became known that he was supported by Cesare
and had received handsome presents of money from him. The old man was,
as you may have guessed, the first music teacher of Gennaro, the man
who discovered him. One might have been at a loss to see how he could
have an enemy, but there was one who coveted his small fortune. One
day he was stabbed and robbed. His murderer ran out into the street,
crying out that the poor man had been killed. Naturally a crowd rushed
up in a moment, for it was in the middle of the day. Before the
injured man could make it understood who had struck him the assassin
was down the street and lost in the maze of old Naples where he well
knew the houses of his friends who would hide him. The man who is
known to have committed that crime—Francesco Paoli—escaped to New
York. We are looking for him to-day. He is a clever man, far above the
average—son of a doctor in a town a few miles from Naples, went to
the university, was expelled for some mad prank—in short, he was the
black sheep of the family. Of course over here he is too high-born to
work with his hands on a railroad or in a trench, and not educated
enough to work at anything else. So he has been preying on his more
industrious countrymen—a typical case of a man living by his wits
with no visible means of support.
"Now I don't mind telling you in strict confidence," continued the
lieutenant, "that it's my theory that old Cesare has seen Paoli here,
knew he was wanted for that murder of the old music master, and gave
me the tip to look up his record. At any rate Paoli disappeared right
after I returned from Italy, and we haven't been able to locate him
since. He must have found out in some way that the tip to look him up
had been given by the White Hand. He had been a Camorrista, in Italy,
and had many ways of getting information here in America."
He paused, and balanced a piece of cardboard in his hand. "It is my
theory of this case that if we could locate this Paoli we could solve
the kidnapping of little Adelina Gennaro very quickly. That's his
Kennedy and I bent over to look at it, and I started in surprise. It
was my evil-looking friend with the scar on his cheek.
"Well," said Craig, quietly handing back the card, "whether or not
he is the man, I know where we can catch the kidnappers to-night,
It was Giuseppe's turn to show surprise now.
"With your assistance I'll get this man and the whole gang to-night,"
explained Craig, rapidly sketching over his plan and concealing just
enough to make sure that no matter how anxious the lieutenant was
to get the credit he could not spoil the affair by premature
The final arrangement was that four of the best men of the squad were
to hide in a vacant store across from Vincenzo's early in the evening,
long before anyone was watching. The signal for them to appear was to
be the extinguishing of the lights behind the colored bottles in the
druggist's window. A taxicab was to be kept waiting at headquarters
at the same time with three other good men ready to start for a given
address the moment the alarm was given over the telephone.
We found Gennaro awaiting us with the greatest anxiety at the
opera-house. The bomb at Cesare's had been the last straw. Gennaro had
already drawn from his bank ten crisp one-thousand-dollar bills, and
already had a copy of Il Progresso in which he had hidden the money
between the sheets.
"Mr. Kennedy," he said, "I am going to meet them to-night. They may
kill me. See, I have provided myself with a pistol—I shall fight,
too, if necessary for my little Adelina. But if it is only money they
want, they shall have it."
"One thing I want to say," began Kennedy.
"No, no, no!" cried the tenor. "I will go—you shall not stop me."
"I don't wish to stop you," Craig reassured him. "But one thing—do
exactly as I tell you, and I swear not a hair of the child's head will
be injured and we "will get the blackmailers, too."
"How?" eagerly asked Gennaro. "What do you want me to do?"
"All I want you to do is to go to Albano's at the appointed time. Sit
down in the back room. Get into conversation with them, and, above
all, Signor, as soon as you get the copy of the Bolletino turn to
the third page, pretend not to be able to read the address. Ask the
man to read it. Then repeat it after him. Pretend to be overjoyed.
Offer to set up wine for the whole crowd. Just a few minutes, that is
all I ask, and I will guarantee that you will be the happiest man in
New York to-morrow."
Gennaro's eyes filled with tears as he grasped Kennedy's hand. "That
is better than having the whole police force back of me," he said. "I
shall never forget, never forget."
As we went out Kennedy remarked: "You can't blame them for keeping
their troubles to themselves. Here we send a police officer over to
Italy to look up the records of some of the worst suspects. He loses
his life. Another takes his place. Then after he gets back he is set
to work on the mere clerical routine of translating them. One of his
associates is reduced in rank. And so what does it come to? Hundreds
of records have become useless because the three years within which
the criminals could be deported have elapsed with nothing done.
Intelligent, isn't it? I believe it has been established that all
but about fifty of seven hundred known Italian suspects are still at
large, mostly in this city. And the rest of the Italian population
is guarded from them by a squad of police in number scarcely
one-thirtieth of the number of known criminals. No, it's our fault if
the Black Hand thrives."
We had been standing on the corner of Broadway, waiting for a car.
"Now, Walter, don't forget. Meet me at the Bleecker Street station of
the subway at eleven-thirty. I'm off to the university. I have some
very important experiments with phosphorescent salts that I want to
"What has that to do with the case?" I asked mystified.
"Nothing," replied Craig. "I didn't say it had. At eleven-thirty,
don't forget. By George, though, that Paoli must be a clever
one—think of his knowing about ricin. I only heard of it myself
recently. Well, here's my car. Good-bye."
Craig swung aboard an Amsterdam Avenue car, leaving me to kill eight
nervous hours of my weekly day of rest from the Star.
They passed at length, and at precisely the appointed time Kennedy and
I met. With suppressed excitement, at least on my part, we walked over
to Vincenzo's. At night this section of the city was indeed a black
enigma. The lights in the shops where olive oil, fruit, and other
things were sold, were winking out one by one; here and there strains
of music floated out of wine-shops, and little groups lingered on
corners conversing in animated sentences. We passed Albano's on the
other side of the street, being careful not to look at it too closely,
for several men were hanging idly about—pickets, apparently, with
some secret code that would instantly have spread far and wide the
news of any alarming action.
At the corner we crossed and looked in Vincenzo's window a moment,
casting a furtive glance across the street at the dark empty store
where the police must be hiding. Then we went in and casually
sauntered back of the partition. Luigi was there already. There were
several customers still in the store, however, and therefore we had
to sit in silence while Vincenzo quickly finished a prescription and
waited on the last one.
At last the doors were locked and the lights lowered, all except those
in the windows which were to serve as signals.
"Ten minutes to twelve," said Kennedy, placing the oblong box on the
table. "Gennaro will be going in soon. Let us try this machine now and
see if it works. If the wires have been cut since we put them up this
morning Gennaro will have to take his chances alone."
Kennedy reached over and with a light movement of his forefinger
touched a switch.
Instantly a babel of voices filled the store, all talking at once,
rapidly and loudly. Here and there we could distinguish a snatch of
conversation, a word, a phrase, now and then even a whole sentence
above the rest. There was a clink of glasses. I could hear the
rattle of dice on a bare table, and an oath. A cork popped. Somebody
scratched a match.
We sat bewildered, looking at Kennedy for an explanation.
"Imagine that you are sitting at a table in Albano's back room," was
all he said. "This is what you would be hearing. This is my 'electric
ear'—in other words the dictograph, used, I am told, by the Secret
Service of the United States. Wait, in a moment you will hear Gennaro
come in. Luigi and Vincenzo, translate what you hear. My knowledge of
Italian is pretty rusty."
"Can they hear us?" whispered Luigi in an awe-struck whisper.
Craig laughed. "No, not yet. But I have only to touch this other
switch, and I could produce an effect in that room that would rival
the famous writing on Belshazzar's wall—only it would be a voice from
the wall instead of writing."
"They seem to be waiting for someone," said Vincenzo. "I heard
somebody say: 'He will be here in a few minutes. Now get out.'"
The babel of voices seemed to calm down as men withdrew from the room.
Only one or two were left.
"One of them says the child is all right. She has been left in the
back yard," translated Luigi.
"What yard? Did he say?" asked Kennedy.
"No; they just speak of it as the 'yard,'" replied Luigi.
"Jameson, go outside in the store to the telephone booth and call up
headquarters. Ask them if the automobile is ready, with the men in
I rang up, and after a moment the police central answered that
everything was right.
"Then tell central to hold the line clear—we mustn't lose a moment.
Jameson, you stay in the booth. Vincenzo, you pretend to be working
around your window, but not in such a way as to attract attention, for
they have men watching the street very carefully. What is it, Luigi?"
"Gennaro is coming. I just heard one of them say, 'Here he comes.'"
Even from the booth I could hear the dictograph repeating the
conversation in the dingy little back room of Albano's, down the
"He's ordering a bottle of red wine," murmured Luigi, dancing up and
down with excitement.
Vincenzo was so nervous that he knocked a bottle down in the window,
and I believe that my heart-beats were almost audible over the
telephone which I was holding, for the police operator called me down
for asking so many times if all was ready.
"There it is—the signal," cried Craig. "'A fine opera is "I
Pagliacci."' Now listen for the answer."
A moment elapsed, then, "Not without Gennaro," came a gruff voice in
Italian from the dictograph.
A silence ensued. It was tense.
"Wait, wait," said a voice which I recognized instantly as Gennaro's.
"I cannot read this. What is this 23-1/2 Prince Street?"
"No, 33-1/2. She has been left in the back yard," answered the voice.
"Jameson," called Craig, "tell them to drive straight to 33-1/2 Prince
Street. They will find the girl in the back yard quick, before the
Black Handers have a chance to go back on their word."
I fairly shouted my orders to the police headquarters. "They're off,"
came back the answer, and I hung up the, receiver.
"What was that?" Craig was asking of Luigi. "I didn't catch it. What
did they say?"
"That other voice said to Gennaro, 'Sit down while I count this.'"
"Sh! he's talking again."
"If it is a penny less than ten thousand or I find a mark on the bills
I'll call to Enrico, and your daughter will he spirited away again,"
"Now, Gennaro is talking," said Craig. "Good—he is gaining time.
He is a trump. I can distinguish that all right. He's asking the
gruff-voiced fellow if he will have another bottle of wine. He says he
will. Good. They must be at Prince Street now—we'll give them a few
minutes more, not too much, for word will be back to Albano's like
wildfire, and they will get Gennaro after all. Ah, they are drinking
again. What was that, Luigi? The money is all right, he says? Now,
Vincenzo, out with the lights!"
A door banged open across the street, and four huge dark figures
darted out in the direction of Albano's.
With his finger Kennedy pulled down the other switch and shouted:
"Gennaro, this is Kennedy! To the street! Polizia! Polizia!"
A scuffle and a cry of surprise followed. A second voice, apparently
from the bar, shouted, "Out with the lights, out with the lights!"
Bang! went a pistol, and another.
The dictograph, which had been all sound a moment before, was as mute
as a cigar-box.
"What's the matter?" I asked Kennedy, as he rushed past me.
"They have shot out the lights. My receiving instrument is destroyed.
Come on, Jameson; Vincenzo, stay back, if you don't want to appear in
A short figure rushed by me, faster even than I could go. It was the
In front of Albano's an exciting fight was going on. Shots were being
fired wildly in the darkness, and heads were popping out of tenement
windows on all sides. As Kennedy and I flung ourselves into the crowd
we caught a glimpse of Gennaro, with blood streaming from a cut on his
shoulder, struggling with a policeman while Luigi vainly was trying to
interpose himself between them. A man, held by another policeman, was
urging the first officer on. "That's the man," he was crying. "That's
the kidnapper. I caught him."
In a moment Kennedy was behind him. "Paoli, you lie. You are the
kidnapper. Seize him—he has the money on him. That other is Gennaro
The policeman released the tenor, and both of them seized Paoli.
The others were beating at the door, which was being frantically
Just then a taxicab came swinging up the street. Three men jumped out
and added their strength to those who were battering down Albano's
Gennaro, with a cry, leaped into the taxicab. Over his shoulder I
could see a tangled mass of dark brown curls, and a childish voice
lisped: "Why didn't you come for me, papa? The bad man told me if I
waited in the yard you would come for me. But if I cried he said he
would shoot me. And I waited, and waited—"
"There, there, 'Lina; papa's going to take you straight home to
A crash followed as the door yielded, and the famous Paoli gang was in
the hands of the law.