The Steel Door, A Mystery
by Arthur B. Reeve
It was what, in college, we used to call "good football weather"—a
crisp autumn afternoon that sent the blood tingling through brain and
muscle. Kennedy and I were enjoying a stroll on the drive, dividing
our attention between the glowing red sunset across the Hudson and the
string of homeward-bound automobiles on the broad parkway. Suddenly a
huge black touring-car marked with big letters, "P.D.N.Y.," shot past.
"Joy-riding again in one of the city's cars," I remarked. "I thought
the last Police Department shake-up had put a stop to that."
"Perhaps it has," returned Kennedy. "Did you see who was in the car?"
"No, but I see it has turned and is coming back."
"It was Inspector—I mean, First Deputy O'Connor. I thought he
recognized us as he whizzed along, and I guess he did, too. Ah,
congratulations, O'Connor! I haven't had a chance to tell you before
how pleased I was to learn you had been appointed first deputy. It
ought to have been commissioner, though," added Kennedy.
"Congratulations nothing," rejoined O'Connor. "Just another new
deal—election coming on, mayor must make a show of getting some
reform done, and all that sort of thing. So he began with the Police
Department, and here I am, first deputy. But, say, Kennedy," he added,
dropping his voice, "I've a little job on my mind that I'd like to
pull off in about as spectacular a fashion as I—as you know how. I
want to make good, conspicuously good, at the start—understand?
Maybe I'll be 'broke' for it and sent to pounding the pavements of
Dismissalville, but I don't care, I'll take a chance. On the level,
Kennedy, it's a big thing, and it ought to be done. Will you help me
put it across?"
"What is it?" asked Kennedy with a twinkle in his eye at O'Connor's
estimate of the security of his tenure of office.
O'Connor drew us away from the automobile toward the stone parapet
overlooking the railroad and river far below, and out of earshot of
the department chauffeur. "I want to pull off a successful raid on the
Vesper Club," he whispered earnestly, scanning our faces.
"Good heavens, man," I ejaculated, "don't you know that Senator
Danfield is interested in—"
"Jameson," interrupted O'Connor reproachfully, "I said 'on the level'
a few moments ago, and I meant it. Senator Danfield be—well, anyhow,
if I don't do it the district attorney will, with the aid of the
Dowling law, and I am going to beat him to it, that's all. There's
too much money being lost at the Vesper Club, anyhow. It won't hurt
Danfield to be taught a lesson not to run such a phony game. I may
like to put up a quiet bet myself on the ponies now and then—I won't
say I don't, but this thing of Danfield's has got beyond all reason.
It's the crookedest gambling joint in the city, at least judging by
the stories they tell of losses there. And so beastly aristocratic,
too. Read that."
O'Connor shoved a letter into Kennedy's hand, a dainty perfumed and
monogramed little missive addressed in a feminine hand. It was such a
letter as comes by the thousand to the police in the course of a year,
though seldom from ladies of the smart set:
* * * * *
Dear Sir: I notice in the newspapers this morning that you have just
been appointed first deputy commissioner of police and that you have
been ordered to suppress gambling in New York. For the love that you
must still bear toward your own mother, listen to the story of a
mother worn with anxiety for her only son, and if there is any justice
or righteousness in this great city close up a gambling hell that is
sending to ruin scores of our finest young men. No doubt you know or
have heard of my family—the DeLongs are not unknown in Hew York.
Perhaps you have also heard of the losses of my son Percival at the
Vesper Club. They are fast becoming the common talk of our set. I am
not rich, Mr. Commissioner, in spite of our social position, but I am
human, as human as a mother in any station of life, and oh, if there
is any way, close up that gilded society resort that is dissipating
our small fortune, ruining an only son, and slowly bringing to the
grave a gray-haired widow, as worthy of protection as any mother of
the poor whose plea has closed up a little poolroom or low policy
Sincerely, (Mrs.) JULIA M. DELONG.
P.S.—Please keep this confidential—at least from my son Percival.
* * * * *
"Well," said Kennedy, as he handed back the letter, "O'Connor, if you
do it, I'll take back all the hard things I've ever said about
the police system. Young DeLong was in one of my classes at the
university, until he was expelled for that last mad prank of his.
There's more to that boy than most people think, but he's the wildest
scion of wealth I have ever come in contact with. How are you going to
pull off your raid—is it to be down through the skylight or up from
"Kennedy," replied O'Connor in the same reproachful tone with which
he had addressed me, "talk sense. I'm in earnest. You know the Vesper
Club is barred and barricaded like the National City Bank. It isn't
one of those common gambling joints which depend for protection on
what we call 'ice-box doors.' It's proof against all the old methods.
Axes and sledge-hammers would make no impression there."
"Your predecessor had some success at opening doors with a hydraulic
jack, I believe, in some very difficult raids," put in Kennedy.
"A hydraulic jack wouldn't do for the Vesper Club, I'm afraid,"
remarked O'Connor wearily. "Why, sir, that place has been proved
bomb-proof—bomb-proof, sir. You remember recently the so-called
'gamblers' war' in which some rivals exploded a bomb on the steps? It
did more damage to the house next door than to the club. However,
I can get past the outer door, I think, even if it is strong. But
inside—you must have heard of it—is the famous steel door, three
inches thick, made of armor-plate. It's no use to try it at all unless
we can pass that door with reasonable quickness. All the evidence we
shall get will be of an innocent social club-room down-stairs. The
gambling is all on the second floor, beyond this door, in a
room without a window in it. Surely you've heard of that famous
gambling-room, with its perfect system of artificial ventilation and
electric lighting that makes it rival noonday at midnight. And don't
tell me I've got to get on the other side of the door by strategy,
either. It is strategy-proof. The system of lookouts is perfect.
No, force is necessary, but it must not be destructive of life or
property—or, by heaven, I'd drive up there and riddle the place with
a fourteen-inch gun," exclaimed O'Connor.
"H'm!" mused Kennedy as he flicked the ashes off his cigar and
meditatively watched a passing freight-train on the railroad below us.
"There goes a car loaded with tons and tons of scrap-iron. You want me
to scrap that three-inch steel door, do you?"
"Kennedy, I'll buy that particular scrap from you at—almost its
weight in gold. The fact is, I have a secret fund at my disposal such
as former commissioners have asked for in vain. I can afford to pay
you well, as well as any private client, and I hear you have had some
good fees lately. Only deliver the goods."
"No," answered Kennedy, rather piqued, "it isn't money that I am
after. I merely wanted to be sure that you are in earnest. I can get
you past that door as if it were made of green baize."
It was O'Connor's turn to look incredulous, but as Kennedy apparently
meant exactly what he said, he simply asked, "And will you?"
"I will do it to-night if you say so," replied Kennedy quietly. "Are
For answer O'Connor simply grasped Craig's hand, as if to seal the
"All right, then," continued Kennedy. "Send a furniture-van, one of
those closed vans that the storage warehouses use, up to my laboratory
any time before seven o'clock. How many men will you need in the raid?
Twelve? Will a van hold that many comfortably? I'll want to put some
apparatus in it, but that won't take much room."
"Why, yes, I think so," answered O'Connor. "I'll get a well-padded van
so that they won't be badly jolted by the ride down-town. By George!
Kennedy, I see you know more of that side of police strategy than I
gave you credit for."
"Then have the men drop into my laboratory singly about the same time.
You can arrange that so that it will not look suspicious, so far
up-town. It will be dark, anyhow. Perhaps, O'Connor, you can make up
as the driver yourself—anyhow, get one you can trust absolutely. Then
have the van down near the corner of Broadway below the club, driving
slowly along about the time the theatre crowd is out. Leave the rest
to me. I will give you or the driver orders when the time comes."
As O'Connor thanked Craig, he remarked without a shade of
insincerity, "Kennedy, talk about being commissioner, you ought to be
"Wait till I deliver the goods," answered Craig simply. "I may fall
down and bring you nothing but a lawsuit for damages for unlawful
entry or unjust persecution, or whatever they call it."
"I'll take a chance at that," called back O'Connor as he jumped into
his car and directed, "Headquarters, quick."
As the car disappeared, Kennedy filled his lungs with air as if
reluctant to leave the drive. "Our constitutional," he remarked, "is
abruptly at an end, Walter."
Then he laughed, as he looked about him.
"What a place in which to plot a raid on Danfield's Vesper Club! Why,
the nurse-maids have hardly got the children all in for supper and
bed. It's incongruous. Well, I must go over to the laboratory and
get some things ready to put in that van with the men. Meet me about
half-past seven, Walter, up in the room, all togged up. We'll dine at
the Café Riviera to-night in style. And, by the way, you're quite a
man about town—you must know someone who can introduce us into the
"But, Craig," I demurred, "if there is any rough work as a result, it
might queer me with them. They might object to being used—"
"Oh, that will be all right. I just want to look the place over and
lose a few chips in a good cause. No, it won't queer any of your
Star connections. We'll be on the outside when the time comes for
anything to happen. In fact I shouldn't wonder if your story
would make you all the more solid with the sports. I take all the
responsibility; you can have the glory. You know they like to hear the
inside gossip of such things, after the event. Try it. Remember, at
seven-thirty. We'll be a little late at dinner, but never mind; it
will be early enough for the club."
Left to my own devices I determined to do a little detective work on
my own account, and not only did I succeed in finding an acquaintance
who agreed to introduce us at the Vesper Club that night about nine
o'clock, but I also learned that Percival DeLong was certain to be
there that night, too. I was necessarily vague about Kennedy, for fear
my friend might have heard of some of his exploits, but fortunately he
did not prove inquisitive.
I hurried back to our apartment and was in the process of transforming
myself into a full-fledged boulevardier, when Kennedy arrived in
an extremely cheerful frame of mind. So far, his preparations had
progressed very favorably, I guessed, and I was quite elated when he
complimented me on what I had accomplished in the meantime.
"Pretty tough for the fellows who are condemned to ride around in that
van for four mortal hours, though," he said as he hurried into his
evening clothes, "but they won't be riding all the time. The driver
will make frequent stops."
I was so busy that I paid little attention to him until he had nearly
completed his toilet. I gave a gasp.
"Why, whatever are you doing?" I exclaimed as I glanced into his room.
There stood Kennedy arrayed in all the glory of a sharp-pointed
moustache and a goatee. He had put on evening clothes of decidedly
Parisian cut, clothes which he had used abroad and had brought back
with him, but which I had never known him to wear since he came back.
On a chair reposed a chimney-pot hat that would have been pronounced
faultless on the "continong," but was unknown, except among
impresarios, on Broadway.
Kennedy shrugged his shoulders—he even had the shrug.
"Figure to yourself, monsieur," he said. "Ze great Kennedy, ze
detectif Américain—to put it tersely in our own vernacular, wouldn't
it be a fool thing for me to appear at the Vesper Club where I should
surely be recognized by someone if I went in my ordinary clothes and
features? Un faux pas, at the start? Jamais!"
There was nothing to do but agree, and I was glad that I had been
discreetly reticent about my companion in talking with the friend who
was to gain us entrance to the Avernus beyond the steel door.
We met my friend at the Riviera and dined sumptuously. Fortunately he
seemed decidedly impressed with my friend Monsieur Kay—I could do no
better on the spur of the moment than take Kennedy's initial, which
seemed to serve. We progressed amicably from oysters and soup down to
coffee, cigars, and liqueurs, and I succeeded in swallowing Kennedy's
tales of Monte Carlo and Ostend and Ascot without even a smile. He
must have heard them somewhere, and treasured them up for just such an
occasion, but he told them in a manner that was verisimilitude itself,
using perfect English with just the trace of an accent at the right
At last it was time to saunter around to the Vesper Club without
seeming to be too indecently early. The theatres were not yet out, but
my friend said play was just beginning at the club and would soon be
in full swing.
I had a keen sense of wickedness as we mounted the steps in the yellow
flare of the flaming arc-light on the Broadway corner not far below
us. A heavy, grated door swung open at the practised signal of my
friend, and an obsequious negro servant stood bowing and pronouncing
his name in the sombre mahogany portal beyond, with its green marble
pillars and handsome decorations. A short parley followed, after which
we entered, my friend having apparently satisfied someone that we were
We did not stop to examine the first floor, which doubtless was
innocent enough, but turned quickly up a flight of steps. At the foot
of the broad staircase Kennedy paused to examine some rich carvings,
and I felt him nudge me. I turned. It was an enclosed staircase, with
walls that looked to be of re-enforced concrete. Swung back on hinges
concealed like those of a modern burglar-proof safe was the famous
We did not wish to appear to be too interested, yet a certain amount
of curiosity was only proper.
My friend paused on the steps, turned, and came back.
"You're perfectly safe," he smiled, tapping the door with his cane
with a sort of affectionate respect. "It would take the police ages to
get past that barrier, which would be swung shut and bolted the moment
the lookout gave the alarm. But there has never been any trouble. The
police know that it is so far, no farther. Besides," he added with
a wink to me, "you know, Senator Danfield wouldn't like this pretty
little door even scratched. Come up, I think I hear DeLong's voice
up-stairs. You've heard of him, monsieur? It's said his luck has
changed. I'm anxious to find out."
Quickly he led the way up the handsome staircase and into a large,
lofty, richly furnished room. Everywhere there were thick, heavy
carpets on the floors, into which your feet sank with an air of
The room into which we entered was indeed absolutely windowless. It
was a room built within the original room of the old house. Thus the
windows overlooking the street from the second floor in reality bore
no relation to it. For light it depended on a complete oval of lights
overhead so arranged as to be themselves invisible, but shining
through richly stained glass and conveying the illusion of a slightly
clouded noon-day. The absence of windows was made up for, as I learned
later, by a ventilating device so perfect that, although everyone was
smoking, a most fastidious person could scarcely have been offended by
the odor of tobacco.
Of course I did not notice all this at first. What I did notice,
however, was a faro-layout and a hazard-board, but as no one was
playing at either, my eye quickly traveled to a roulette-table which
stretched along the middle of the room. Some ten or a dozen men in
evening clothes were gathered watching with intent faces the spinning
wheel. There was no money on the table, nothing but piles of chips of
various denominations. Another thing that surprised me as I looked was
that the tense look on the faces of the players was anything but the
feverish, haggard gaze I had expected. In fact, they were sleek,
well-fed, typical prosperous New-Yorkers rather inclined to the
noticeable in dress and carrying their avoirdupois as if life was an
easy game with them. Most of them evidently belonged to the financial
and society classes. There were no tragedies; the tragedies were
elsewhere—in their offices, homes, in the courts, anywhere, but not
here at the club. Here all was life, light, and laughter.
For the benefit of those not acquainted with the roulette-wheel—and I
may as well confess that most of my own knowledge was gained in that
one crowded evening—I may say that it consists, briefly, of a wooden
disc very nicely balanced and turning in the center of a cavity set
into a table like a circular wash-basin, with an outer rim turned
slightly inward. The "croupier" revolves the wheel to the right. With
a quick motion of his middle finger he flicks a marble, usually of
ivory, to the left. At the Vesper Club, always up-to-date, the ball
was of platinum, not of ivory. The disc with its sloping sides is
provided with a number of brass rods, some perpendicular, some
horizontal. As the ball and the wheel lose momentum the ball strikes
against the rods and finally is deflected into one of the many little
pockets or stalls facing the rim of the wheel.
There are thirty-eight of these pockets; two are marked "0" and
"00," the other numbered from one to thirty-six in an irregular and
confusing order and painted alternately red and black. At each end of
the table are thirty-six large squares correspondingly numbered and
colored. The "0" and "00" are of a neutral color. Whenever the ball
falls in the "0" or "00" the bank takes the stakes, or sweeps the
board. The Monte Carlo wheel has only one "0," while the typical
American has two, and the Chinese has four.
To one like myself who had read of the Continental gambling-houses
with the clink of gold pieces on the table, and the croupier with
his wooden rake noisily raking in the winnings of the bank, the
comparative silence of the American game comes as a surprise.
As we advanced, we heard only the rattle of the ball, the click of the
chips, and the monotonous tone of the spinner: "Twenty-three, black.
Eight, red. Seventeen, black." It was almost like the boys in a
broker's office calling off the quotations of the ticker and marking
them up on the board.
Leaning forward, almost oblivious to the rest, was Percival DeLong, a
tall, lithe, handsome young man, whose boyish face ill comported
with the marks of dissipation clearly outlined on it. Such a boy, it
flashed across my mind, ought to be studying the possible plays of
football of an evening in the field-house after his dinner at the
training-table, rather than the possible gyrations of the little
platinum ball on the wheel.
"Curse the luck!" he exclaimed, as "17" appeared again.
A Hebrew banker staked a pile of chips on the "17" to come up a third
time. A murmur of applause at his nerve ran through the circle. DeLong
hesitated, as one who thought, "Seventeen has come out twice—the odds
against its coming again are too great, even though the winnings would
be fabulous, for a good stake." He placed his next bet on another
"He's playing Lord Rosslyn's system, to-night," whispered my friend.
The wheel spun, the ball rolled, and the croupier called again,
"Seventeen, black." A tremor of excitement ran through the crowd. It
was almost unprecedented.
DeLong, with a stiffed oath, leaned back and scanned the faces about
"And '17' has precisely the same chance of turning up in the next
spin as if it had not already had a run of three," said a voice at my
It was Kennedy. The roulette-table needs no introduction when curious
sequences are afoot. All are friends.
"That's the theory of Sir Hiram Maxim," commented my friend, as he
excused himself reluctantly for another appointment. "But no true
gambler will believe it, monsieur, or at least act on it."
All eyes were turned on Kennedy, who made a gesture of polite
deprecation, as if the remark of my friend were true, but—he
nonchalantly placed his chips on the "17."
"The odds against '17' appearing four consecutive times are some
millions," he went on, "and yet, having appeared three times, it is
just as likely to appear again as before. It is the usual practice
to avoid a number that has had a run, on the theory that some other
number is more likely to come up than it is. That would be the case if
it were drawing balls from a bag full of red and black balls—the more
red ones drawn the smaller the chance of drawing another red one. But
if the balls are put back in the bag after being drawn the chances of
drawing a red one after three have been drawn are exactly the same as
ever. If we toss a cent and heads appear twelve times, that does not
have the slightest effect on the thirteenth toss—there is still an
even chance that it, too, will be heads. So if '17' had come up five
times to-night, it would be just as likely to come the sixth as if the
previous five had not occurred, and that despite the fact that before
it had appeared at all odds against a run of the same number six times
in succession are about two billion, four hundred and ninety-six
million, and some thousands. Most systems are based on the old
persistent belief that occurrences of chance are affected in some way
by occurrences immediately preceding, but disconnected physically. If
we've had a run of black for twenty times, system says play the red
for the twenty-first. But black is just as likely to turn up the
twenty-first as if it were the first play of all. The confusion
arises because a run of twenty on the black should happen once in one
million, forty-eight thousand, five hundred and seventy-six coups. It
would take ten years to make that many coups, and the run of twenty
might occur once or any number of times in it. It is only when one
deals with infinitely large numbers of coups that one can count on
infinitely small variations in the mathematical results. This game
does not go on for infinity—therefore anything, everything, may
happen. Systems are based on the infinite; we play in the finite."
"You talk like a professor I had at the university," ejaculated DeLong
contemptuously as Craig finished his disquisition on the practical
fallibility of theoretically infallible systems. Again DeLong
carefully avoided the "17," as well as the black.
The wheel spun again; the ball rolled. The knot of spectators around
the table watched with bated breath.
As Kennedy piled up his winnings superciliously, without even the
appearance of triumph, a man behind me whispered, "A foreign nobleman
with a system—watch him."
"Non, monsieur," said Kennedy quickly, having overheard the remark,
"no system, sir. There is only one system of which I know."
"What?" asked DeLong eagerly.
Kennedy staked a large sum on the red to win. The black came up, and
he lost. He doubled the stake and played again, and again lost. With
amazing calmness Craig kept right on doubling.
"The martingale," I heard the men whisper behind me. "In other words,
double or quit."
Kennedy was now in for some hundreds, a sum that was sufficiently
large for him, but he doubled again, still cheerfully playing the red,
and the red won. As he gathered up his chips he rose.
"That's the only system," he said simply.
"But, go on, go on," came the chorus from about the table.
"No," said Kennedy quietly, "that is part of the system, too—to quit
when you have won back your stakes and a little more."
"Huh!" exclaimed DeLong in disgust. "Suppose you were in for some
thousands—you wouldn't quit. If you had real sporting blood you
wouldn't quit, anyhow!"
Kennedy calmly passed over the open insult, letting it be understood
that he ignored this beardless youth.
"There is no way you can beat the game in the long run if you keep at
it," he answered simply. "It is mathematically impossible. Consider.
We are Croesuses—we hire players to stake money for us on every
possible number at every coup. How do we come out? If there are no '0'
or '00,' we come out after each coup precisely where we started—we
are paying our own money back and forth among ourselves; we have
neither more nor less. But with the '0' and '00' the bank sweeps the
board every so often. It is only a question of time when, after paying
our money back and forth among ourselves, it has all filtered through
the 'O' and 'OO' into the bank. It is not a game of chance for
the bank—ah, it is exact, mathematical—c'est une question
d'arithmétique seulement, n'est-ce pas, messieurs?"
"Perhaps," admitted DeLong, "but it doesn't explain why I am losing
to-night while everyone else is winning."
"We are not winning," persisted Craig. "After I have had a bite to eat
I will demonstrate how to lose—by keeping on playing." He led the way
to the café.
DeLong was too intent on the game to leave, even for refreshments. Now
and then I saw him beckon to an attendant, who brought him a stiff
drink of whiskey. For a moment his play seemed a little better, then
he would drop back into his hopeless losing. For some reason or other
his "system" failed absolutely.
"You see, he is hopeless," mused Kennedy over our light repast. "And
yet of all gambling games roulette offers the player the best odds,
far better than horse-racing, for instance. Our method has usually
been to outlaw roulette and permit horse-racing; in other words,
suppress the more favorable and permit the less favorable. However,
we're doing better now; we're suppressing both. Of course what I say
applies only to roulette when it is honestly played—DeLong would lose
anyhow, I fear."
I started at Kennedy's tone and whispered hastily: "What do you mean?
Do you think the wheel is crooked?"
"I haven't a doubt of it," he replied in an undertone. "That run
of '17' might happen—yes. But it is improbable. They let me win
because I was a new player—new players always win at first. It is
proverbial, but the man who is running this game has made it look
like a platitude. To satisfy myself on that point I am going to play
again—until I have lost my winnings and am just square with the game.
When I reach the point that I am convinced that some crooked work is
going on I am going to try a little experiment, Walter. I want you to
stand close to me so that no one can see what I am doing. Do just as I
will indicate to you."
The gambling-room was now fast filling up with the first of the
theatre crowd. DeLong's table was the centre of attraction, owing to
the high play. A group of young men of his set were commiserating with
him on his luck and discussing it with the finished air of roués of
double their ages. He was doggedly following his system.
Kennedy and I approached.
"Ah, here is the philosophical stranger again," DeLong exclaimed,
catching sight of Kennedy. "Perhaps he can enlighten us on how to win
at roulette by playing his own system."
"Au contraire, monsieur, let me demonstrate how to lose," answered
Craig with a smile that showed a row of faultless teeth beneath his
black moustache, decidedly foreign.
Kennedy played and lost, and lost again; then he won, but in the main
he lost. After one particularly large loss I felt his arm on mine,
drawing me closely to him. DeLong had taken a sort of grim pleasure in
the fact that Kennedy, too, was losing. I found that Craig had paused
in his play at a moment when DeLong had staked a large sum that a
number below "18" would turn up—for five plays the numbers had been
between "18" and "36." Curious to see what Craig was doing, I looked
cautiously down between us. All eyes were fixed on the wheel. Kennedy
was holding an ordinary compass in the crooked-up palm of his hand.
The needle pointed at me, as I happened to be standing north of it.
The wheel spun. Suddenly the needle swung around to a point between
the north and south poles, quivered a moment, and came to rest in that
position. Then it swung back to the north.
It was some seconds before I realized the significance of it. It
had pointed at the table—and DeLong had lost again. There was some
electric attachment at work.
Kennedy and I exchanged glances, and he shoved the compass into my
hand quickly. "You watch it, Walter, while I play," he whispered.
Carefully concealing it, as he had done, yet holding it as close to
the table as I dared I tried to follow two things at once without
betraying myself. As near as I could make out, something happened at
every play. I would not go so far as to assert that whenever the large
stakes were on a certain number the needle pointed to the opposite
side of the wheel, for it was impossible to be at all accurate about
it. Once I noticed the needle did not move at all, and he won. But
on the next play he staked what I knew must be the remainder of his
winnings on what seemed a very good chance. Even before the wheel was
revolved and the ball set rolling, the needle swung about, and when
the platinum ball came to rest Kennedy rose from the table, a loser.
"By George, though," exclaimed DeLong, grasping his hand. "I take it
all back. You are a good loser, sir. I wish I could take it as well as
you do. But then, I'm in too deeply. There are too many 'markers' with
the house up against me."
Senator Danfield had just come in to see how things were going. He was
a sleek, fat man, and it was amazing to see with what deference his
victims treated him. He affected not to have heard what DeLong said,
but I could imagine what he was thinking, for I had heard that he had
scant sympathy with anyone after he "went broke"—another evidence of
the camaraderie and good-fellowship that surrounded the game.
Kennedy's next remark surprised me. "Oh, your luck will change,
D.L.,"—everyone referred to him as "D.L.," for gambling-houses have
an aversion for real names and greatly prefer initials—"your luck
will change presently. Keep right on with your system. It's the best
you can do to-night, short of quitting."
"I'll never quit." replied the young man under his breath.
Meanwhile Kennedy and I paused on the way out to compare notes. My
report of the behavior of the compass only confirmed him in his
As we turned to the stairs we took in a full view of the room.
A faro-layout was purchasing Senator Danfield a new touring-car every
hour at the expense of the players. Another group was gathered about
the hazard-board, deriving evident excitement, though I am sure none
could have given an intelligent account of the chances they were
taking. Two roulette-tables were now going full blast, the larger
crowd still about DeLong's. Snatches of conversation came to us now
and then, and I caught one sentence, "DeLong's in for over a hundred
thousand now on the week's play, I understand; poor boy—that about
cleans him up."
"The tragedy of it, Craig," I whispered, but he did not hear.
With his hat tilted at a rakish angle and his opera-coat over his arm
he sauntered over for a last look.
"Any luck yet?" he asked carelessly.
"The devil—no," returned the boy.
"Do you know what my advice to you is, the advice of a man who has
seen high play everywhere from Monte Carlo to Shanghai?"
"Play until your luck changes if it takes until to-morrow."
A supercilious smile crossed Senator Danfield's fat face.
"I intend to," and the haggard young face turned again to the table
and forgot us.
"For Heaven's sake, Kennedy," I gasped as we went down the stairway,
"what do you mean by giving him such advice—you?"
"Not so loud, Walter. He'd have done it anyhow, I suppose, but I want
him to keep at it. This night means life or death to Percival DeLong
and his mother, too. Come on, let's get out of this."
We passed the formidable steel door and gained the street, jostled by
the late-comers who had left the after-theatre restaurants for a few
moments of play at the famous club that so long had defied the police.
Almost gaily Kennedy swung along toward Broadway. At the corner he
hesitated, glanced up and down, caught sight of the furniture-van in
the middle of the next block. The driver was tugging at the harness of
the horses, apparently fixing it. We walked along and stopped beside
"Drive around in front of the Vesper Club slowly," said Kennedy as the
driver at last looked up.
The van lumbered ahead, and we followed it casually. Around the corner
it turned. We turned also. My heart was going like a sledge-hammer as
the critical moment approached. My head was in a whirl. What would
that gay throng back of those darkened windows down the street think
if they knew what was being prepared for them?
On, like the Trojan horse, the van lumbered. A man went into the
Vesper Club, and I saw the negro at the door eye the oncoming van
suspiciously. The door banged shut.
The next thing I knew, Kennedy had ripped off his disguise, had flung
himself up behind the van, and had swung the doors open. A dozen men
with axes and sledge-hammers swarmed out and up the steps of the club.
"Call the reserves, O'Connor," cried Kennedy. "Watch the roof and the
The driver of the van hastened to send in the call.
The sharp raps of the hammers and the axes sounded on the thick
brass-bound oak of the out-side door in quick succession. There was
a scurry of feet inside, and we could hear a grating noise and a
terrific jar as the inner, steel door shut.
"A raid! A raid on the Vesper Club!" shouted a belated passer-by. The
crowd swarmed around from Broadway, as if it were noon instead of
Banging and ripping and tearing, the outer door was slowly forced. As
it crashed in, the quick gongs of several police patrols sounded. The
reserves had been called out at the proper moment, too late for them
to "tip off" the club that there was going to be a raid, as frequently
Disregarding the mêlée behind me, I leaped through the wreckage with
the other raiders. The steel door barred all further progress with its
cold blue impassibility. How were we to surmount this last and most
I turned in time to see Kennedy and O'Connor hurrying up the steps
with a huge tank studded with bolts like a boiler, while two other men
carried a second tank.
"There," ordered Craig, "set the oxygen there," as he placed his own
tank on the opposite side.
Out of the tanks stout tubes led, with stop-cocks and gages at the
top. From a case under his arm Kennedy produced a curious arrangement
like a huge hook, with a curved neck and a sharp beak. Really it
consisted of two metal tubes which ran into a sort of cylinder, or
mixing chamber, above the nozzle, while parallel to them ran a third
separate tube with a second nozzle of its own. Quickly he joined the
ends of the tubes from the tanks to the metal hook, the oxygen-tank
being joined to two of the tubes of the hook, and the second tank
being joined to the other. With a match he touched the nozzle
gingerly. Instantly a hissing, spitting noise followed, and an intense
blinding needle of flame.
"Now for the oxy-acetylene blowpipe," cried Kennedy as he advanced
toward the steel door. "We'll make short work of this."
Almost as he said it, the steel beneath the blowpipe became
Just to test it, he cut off the head of a three-quarter-inch steel
rivet—taking about a quarter of a minute to do it. It was evident,
though, that that would not weaken the door appreciably, even if the
rivets were all driven through. Still they gave a starting-point for
the flame of the high-pressure acetylene torch.
It was a brilliant sight. The terrific heat from the first nozzle
caused the metal to glow under the torch as if in an open-hearth
furnace. From the second nozzle issued a stream of oxygen under which
the hot metal of the door was completely consumed. The force of the
blast as the compressed oxygen and acetylene were expelled carried a
fine spray and the disintegrated metal visibly before it. And yet it
was not a big hole that it made—scarcely an eighth of an inch wide,
but clear and sharp as if a buzz saw were eating its way through a
three-inch plank of white pine. With tense muscles Kennedy held this
terrific engine of destruction and moved it as easily as if it had
been a mere pencil of light. He was easily the calmest of us all as we
crowded about him at a respectful distance.
"Acetylene, as you may know," he hastily explained, never pausing for
a moment in his work, "is composed of carbon and hydrogen. As it burns
at the end of the nozzle it is broken into carbon and hydrogen—the
carbon gives the high temperature, and the hydrogen forms a cone that
protects the end of the blowpipe from being itself burnt up."
"But isn't it dangerous?" I asked, amazed at the skill with which he
handled the blowpipe.
"Not particularly—when you know how to do it. In that tank is a
porous asbestos packing saturated with acetone, under pressure. Thus I
can carry acetylene safely, for it is dissolved, and the possibility
of explosion is minimized. This mixing chamber by which I am holding
the torch, where the oxygen and acetylene mix, is also designed in
such a way as to prevent a flash-back. The best thing about this style
of blowpipe is the ease with which it can be transported and the
curious uses—like the present—to which it can be put."
He paused a moment to test the door. All was silence on the other
side. The door itself was as firm as ever.
"Huh!" exclaimed one of the detectives behind me, "these new-fangled
things ain't all they're cracked up to be. Now if I was runnin' this
show, I'd dynamite that door to kingdom come."
"And wreck the house and kill a few people," I returned, hotly
resenting the criticism of Kennedy. Kennedy affected not to hear.
"When I shut off the oxygen in this second jet," he resumed as if
nothing had been said, "you see the torch merely heats the steel.
I can get a heat of approximately sixty-three hundred degrees
Fahrenheit, and the flame will exert a pressure of fifty pounds to the
"Wonderful!" exclaimed O'Connor, who had not heard the remark of his
subordinate and was watching with undisguised admiration. "Kennedy,
how did you ever think of such a thing?"
"Why, it's used for welding, you know," answered Craig as he continued
to work calmly in the growing excitement. "I first saw it in actual
use in mending a cracked cylinder in an automobile. The cylinder was
repaired without being taken out at all. I've seen it weld new teeth
and build up old worn teeth on gearing, as good as new."
He paused to let us see the terrifically heated metal under the flame.
"You remember when we were talking on the drive about the raid,
O'Connor? A car-load of scrap-iron went by on the railroad below us.
They use this blowpipe to cut it up, frequently. That's what gave me
the idea. See. I turn on the oxygen now in this second nozzle. The
blowpipe is no longer an instrument for joining metals together, but
for cutting them asunder. The steel burns just as you, perhaps, have
seen a watch-spring burn in a jar of oxygen. Steel, hard or soft,
tempered, annealed, chrome, or Harveyized, it all burns just as fast
and just as easily. And it's cheap too. This raid may cost a couple of
dollars, as far as the blowpipe is concerned—quite a difference from
the thousands of dollars' loss that would follow an attempt to blow
the door in."
The last remark was directed quietly at the doubting detective. He had
nothing to say. We stood in awe-struck amazement as the torch slowly,
inexorably, traced a thin line along the edge of the door.
Minute after minute sped by, as the line burned by the blowpipe cut
straight from top to bottom. It seemed hours to me. Was Kennedy going
to slit the whole door and let it fall in with a crash?
No, I could see that even in his cursory examination of the door
he had gained a pretty good knowledge of the location of the bolts
imbedded in the steel. One after another he was cutting clear through
and severing them, as if with a super-human knife.
What was going on on the other side of the door, I wondered. I could
scarcely imagine the consternation of the gamblers caught in their own
With a quick motion Kennedy turned off the acetylene and oxygen. The
last bolt had been severed. A gentle push of the hand, and he swung
the once impregnable door on its delicately poised hinges as easily as
if he had merely said, "Open Sesame." The robbers' cave yawned before
We made a rush up the stairs. Kennedy was first, O'Connor next, and
myself scarcely a step behind, with the rest of O'Connor's men at our
I think we were all prepared for some sort of gun-play, for the crooks
were desperate characters, and I myself was surprised to encounter
nothing but physical force, which was quickly overcome.
In the now disordered richness of the rooms, waving his "John Doe"
warrant in one hand and his pistol in the other, O'Connor shouted:
"You're all under arrest, gentlemen. If you resist further it will go
hard with you."
Crowded now in one end of the room in speechless amazement was the
late gay party of gamblers, including Senator Danfield himself. They
had reckoned on toying with any chance but this. The pale white face
of DeLong among them was like a spectre, as he stood staring blankly
about and still insanely twisting the roulette wheel before him.
Kennedy advanced toward the table with an ax which he had seized from
one of our men. A well-directed blow shattered the mechanism of the
"DeLong," he said, "I'm not going to talk to you like your old
professor at the university, nor like your recent friend, the
Frenchman with a system. This is what you have been up against, my
His forefinger indicated an ingenious, but now tangled and twisted,
series of minute wires and electro-magnets in the broken wheel before
us. Delicate brushes led the current into the wheel. With another blow
of his axe, Craig disclosed wires running down through the leg of the
table to the floor and under the carpet to buttons operated by the man
who ran the game.
"Wh-what does it mean?" asked DeLong blankly.
"It means that you had little enough chance to win at a straight game
of roulette. But the wheel is very rarely straight, even with all the
odds in favor of the bank, as they are. This game was electrically
controlled. Others are mechanically controlled by what is sometimes
called the 'mule's ear,' and other devices. You can't win. There
wires and magnets can be made to attract the little ball into any
pocket the operator desires. Each one of those pockets contains a
little electro-magnet. One set of magnets in the red pockets is
connected with one button under the carpet and a battery. The other
set in the black pockets is connected with another button and
the battery. This ball is not really of platinum. Platinum is
non-magnetic. It is simply a soft iron hollow ball, plated with
platinum. Whichever set of electro-magnets is energized attracts the
ball and by this simple method it is in the power of the operator
to let the ball go to red or black as he may wish. Other similar
arrangements control the odd or even, and other combinations from
other push buttons. A special arrangement took care of that '17'
freak. There isn't an honest gambling-machine in the whole place—I
might almost say the whole city. The whole thing is crooked from start
to finish—the men, the machines—the—"
"That machine could be made to beat me by turning up a run of '17' any
number of times, or red or black, or odd or even, over '18' or under
'18,' or anything?"
"And I never had a chance," he repeated, meditatively fingering the
wires. "They broke me to-night. Danfield"—DeLong turned, looking
dazedly about in the crowd for his former friend, then his hand
shot into his pocket, and a little ivory-handled pistol flashed
out—"Danfield, your blood is on your own head. You have ruined me."
Kennedy must have been expecting something of the sort, for he seized
the arm of the young man, weakened by dissipation, and turned the
pistol upward as if it had been in the grasp of a mere child.
A blinding flash followed in the farthest corner of the room and a
huge puff of smoke. Before I could collect my wits another followed in
the opposite corner. The room was filled with a dense smoke.
Two men were scuffling at my feet. One was Kennedy. As I dropped down
quickly to help him I saw that the other was Danfield, his face purple
with the violence of the struggle.
"Don't be alarmed, gentlemen," I heard O'Connor shout, "the explosions
were only the flash-lights of the official police photographers.
We now have the evidence complete. Gentlemen, you will now go down
quietly to the patrol-wagons below, two by two. If you have anything
to say, say it to the magistrate of the night court."
"Hold his arms, Walter," panted Kennedy.
I did. With a dexterity that would have done credit to a pickpocket,
Kennedy reached into Danfield's pocket and pulled out some papers.
Before the smoke had cleared and order had been restored, Craig
exclaimed: "Let him up, Walter. Here, DeLong, here are the I.O.U.'s
against you. Tear them up—they are not even a debt of honor."