The Project Gutenberg eBook of The gray brotherhood

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Title: The gray brotherhood

Author: Henry Leverage

Release date: September 10, 2022 [eBook #68951]

Language: English

Original publication: United States: The Story-Press Corporation, 1920

Credits: Roger Frank and Sue Clark


The Gray Brotherhood

by Henry Leverage

An exciting story of Chester Fay, underworld prince, and of one of his most daredevil exploits ... Henry Leverage at his best.

A gray taxi was threading the traffic of Fifth Avenue. Up through the wealthiest street in the world the driver flashed with all the aplomb of a professional “bucker” who knew the elastic limits of the automobile laws.

Chester Fay leaned forward now and then and studied the hands which shifted the lever at the street intersections like those of an American Ace at the “stick” of a biplane.

“Good boy,” he exclaimed when the taxi came to a grinding halt before the doorman of the Hotel Rockingham. “Good kid!” he added when he extended the fare.

“I thank you,” said the driver of the gray taxi.

Fay paused at the marble steps of the Hotel Rockingham. The taxi turned and darted southward.

Wheeling with a pucker of interest on his features, Fay strode through an alley of palms and bronze vases and leaned over an onyx-topped desk where stood a trim-looking clerk whose collar and tie indicated prosperity in subordinate positions.

“Arthur Hilton?” Fay questioned.

“By appointment?”

“Yes. He phoned me at—” Fay glanced up to the gilt clock over the clerk’s head. “Exactly twenty minutes ago!” he declared.

The page who responded to the pressure of a button led the way to a private elevator, nodded to the pilot and closed the green-grilled door when Fay stepped briskly inside the cage.

He was whisked to a silent stop on an upper floor. He stepped out and faced a gray-haired English detective of the superior type, who had been pacing an ornate hallway.

“Arthur Hilton?” said Fay.

“By Sir Arthur’s consent?”


“You may follow me,” drawled the Scotland Yard man.

Fay found himself in the foyer of a splendid suite. He waited, toying with his cap, as the detective passed through a rift in the portiéres which led in the general direction of Fifth Avenue. He was on the point of coughing to attract attention when the curtains parted in invitation.

Sir Arthur Hilton stood by a long window with the white light of a western sky reflected across his furrowed face like the reaching hand of a specter.

“You’re Fay?” he said as the Scotland Yard man backed into the shadow of an inner room.

“Yes. Chester Fay—Mr. George Mott, the reformer’s friend.”

“Good—good and bad! There’s the old Nick to pay. Putney Stephney of Downing Street—a King’s greyhound—with thirty thousand pounds in American banknotes, was found dead on top of a goods-train at Poughkeepsie this morning.”

Fay pulled out a cigarette.

“Murdered!” declared Hilton with a rising voice. “Killed in cold blood somewhere between the steamer dock at West Street and—and Poughkeepsie.”

Fay dragged on the cigarette, thrust his hands into his pockets and leaned forward. His eyes hardened slightly. They fastened within the steady stare of Sir Arthur’s own.

“Facts are these,” resumed the British representative. “Stephney had landed at the dock at ten-twenty last night. Was seen by two of the steamship company’s detectives who were watching all embarking passengers.”

“Was that the Carpathia?” asked Fay.

“Yes—the Carpathia! Stephney came down the gangplank, turned at the customroom, went inside a telephone booth, came out and was observed taking a gray taxi at the foot of the dock. That was the last seen of him until the chief of the railroad detectives at Poughkeepsie found his body on top of a goods-train. Skull was slightly crushed. Pockets rifled. Portfolio, with banknotes and memoranda, missing.”

“Quick work!”

“Beastly quick!” shot back Hilton through rigid lips. “Beastly clever, too!”

The British representative glanced toward the doorway before which the portiéres draped. He strode to Fay’s side and leaned forward as his fingers clutched the investigator’s left shoulder in the grip of a bulldog.

“Stephney didn’t die from the crushed skull,” he said tersely. “That accident came afterward. He was killed by an unknown method. He was lured to death in the heart of civilization!”

“An unknown method?”

“Fact! Had the coroner of Poughkeepsie on the wire not an hour ago. A surgeon from Plattsburg happened to assist at the autopsy. It was he who detected the condition of the lungs. Also, Stephney’s face was greenish-black.”

Fay backed away and allowed Sir Arthur’s hand to drop. His eyes glazed with speculation. They hardened.

“You have other facts?” he asked.

“Little more! Stephney was last seen alive getting into a gray taxi which disappeared soon afterward. He was headed for this hotel. I sat up until three o’clock waiting for him.”

“Who else knew he was coming to New York?”

“The Washington Embassy.”

“Who knew it in London?”

“Downing Street.”

“Whom do you suspect?”

“American crooks.”

“Everybody blames them—for everything.”

Sir Arthur frowned. “I’ve given you the case—on account of Mr. Mott’s interest in ex-convicts and the Gray Brotherhood.”

“Oh, I’ll take it. I’ll jump! I want all the facts you can allow me to have.”

“I’ve given you everything. The body found at Poughkeepsie on top of the goods-train was Stephney’s. There’s no doubt of that. He was first identified by the tailor’s name in his pockets—Concre, of London, I think. We’ve a solicitor up there who made a complete identification.”

“Did Stephney ever visit New York before?”

“Once, two years ago—just after the end of the war.”

“Would he know any women here?”

“Hardly! He was to come right to me!”

Fay moved a chair and lifted his cap. He turned at the portiéres. His glance toward Arthur Hilton was one of understanding.

“You and Mr. Mott alone know that I am on this case?”

“It is locked with us!”

“I have carte blanche?”

“Up to ten thousand pounds.”

“Good-by!” said Fay, creasing his checked cap as he parted the curtains and strode through the suite to the hallway of the hotel.

He jabbed at a pearl button until the private elevator floated up to him. He reached the street and turned toward the Avenue. He saw there a gray taxi. A young man sat on the driver’s seat. He was moving southward close by the right curb.

A swift sprint, a ducking lunge before the silver radiator of a polished limousine, a hasty reach for the wind-shield of the taxi, and a startled exclamation from the driver—these occurred within seven seconds.

“I’m going downtown,” said Fay, settling back in the front seat and staring boldly at the driver. “Don’t mind if I ride out here?”

“I certainly do! It’s against the company’s regulations.”

“Set the meter and drive on. I’ve really got something I want to say to you.”

“Well, of all the nerve!”

“Certainly—certainly! I’ve always been interested in this new company with the gray taxies and the paroled men who drive them. I’m a Western newspaper man—come from Chicago. Suppose you tell me all about the Gray Taxi Company. How many taxies are there? Who’s the originator? How’s business? Do you cover the steamship docks?”

“Say! On the dead, you’ve got nerve. I’m going to call the first traffic cop I meet. There’s one!”

Fay reached into his right-hand trouser pocket. His hand appeared with a five-dollar bill between his fingers.

“I’ll bet you this you don’t,” he said, pressing the bill into the driver’s lap. “Take it and buy a good dinner. There’s another coming to you if you answer my questions.”

The driver clutched the steering-wheel with both hands as he brought his knees together and pressed a leather toe upon the throttle. The taxi leaped by the traffic cop, dodged a bus and roared on down the Avenue until an open place was gained.

“Go slow,” said Fay. “Loaf along and let me get some dope for my article. Who owns the Gray Taxi Company?”

“James Ponsardin.”

“Proprietor of the morning Messenger?”

“Sure! He owns the company.”

“How many taxies?”

“Fifty running now.”

“Who manages it?”

“A girl!”


“Sure! Her name is Elsie De Groot. She’s making it pay, too.”

“That’s interesting.” Fay stared into the alert face of the driver at the wheel. “Is she an ex-convict?”

“I never heard that said about her!”

“Loyal!” thought Chester Fay, shifting in his position. “You never heard,” he repeated aloud. “That’s definite. Do you keep records of passengers carried?”

“We make a report out at night. Miss Elsie gets them.”

“Do your taxies cover the steamship docks?”

“Sometimes—if there’s a call.”

Fay saw that he was in the presence of a very matter-of-fact young man who was making his own way in the world.

“Mind taking me to the Southampton Line?” he asked.

The driver’s answer was to glance around the right-hand side of the taxi, slow to a crawl, then swing the corner with both arms over the wheel.

Fay braced himself for five blocks of cobbled streets upon the surface of which ragged children played ball and dodged death. He stepped down from the taxi as it came to a gliding stop before the ornate entrance to the great dock.

“Mind waiting?”

The driver glanced at the taxi-meter.

“You’ve paid me for a couple of hours.”

“Stay right here. Ill be back in ten minutes.”

Chester Fay found two English detectives covering the dock. With them was a Secret Service operative of slight acquaintance.

“Hello!” he said, drawing this man to one side. “Say, Gardner,” he whispered, “who would know down here what happened last night when the Carpathia’s passengers came down the planks? I want to trace a man who took a Gray taxi. The man is—”

“Putney Steph—Stephney.”

“Yes.” Fay raised his brows. The matter was evidently out.

“Has he been found?”

Fay shook his head. He recalled that Sir Arthur Hilton had not given instructions to make public the matter of the finding of the body on the railroad train at Poughkeepsie.

“Not found yet, eh?” Gardner said. “Well, I did all I could. Come over here. That’s right. Now we can talk. That British team are listening-in.”

“What did you find?”

“Stephney came down the plank, showed his passports, went into a slot-booth, lugged his bag and a leather case out toward the street and there hailed a Gray taxi. That much is settled. The taxi was driven by a chauffeur with reddish-brown hair. His nose was slightly turned up. He had on a yellow coat and leather leggins. He’d been waiting around the dock for over three hours.”

“Must have expected him!”

“Looks that way, Chester. He had plenty of fares offered him. You see, them Gray taxies are all the fashion now. They’re gettin’ the business.”

“You were here at the time the passenger arrived?”

“No. I got my information from old Harry, who watched the express wagons and taxies. He’s positive about the red-haired chauffeur. Said he was a bold trick!”

“He’s right. Good-by!”

Fay left the Government operative and darted for a telephone booth. Into the slot of this he dropped a nickel and obtained, after a brief wait, Mr. George Mott’s secretary.

“This is Chester Fay!” he said briskly. “Say, get about ten of the Gray Brotherhood rounded up right away and cover these assignments. Got it?” he added, drawing the door shut with caution. “Yes—yes! They’ll do. Cover Poughkeepsie and a corpse found there this morning on top of a New York Central freight-car. Cover the morgue. Have them see the Army surgeon who made the autopsy on the lungs. Have them connect with the coroner and the railroad detectives who found the body.”

Fay paused and mopped his brow with his sleeve. It was hot in the booth.

“Yes, there’s more!” he snapped. “Cover James Ponsardin of the Messenger. Put him to bed and get him up in the morning. Find him and keep the boys tailing him till I call them off. That’s all ... no, send Rake to the corner of the block where the Gray Taxi Company has its garage. Tell him I’ll meet him there in fifteen minutes!”

It was eleven minutes later when Fay requested the driver of the taxi to deposit him on the northeastern corner of the block around which Gray taxies to the number of a score or more were scattered. Fay handed over a second bill with a polite bow.

“I’m going to visit your boss,” he said with a quick smile. “I’ll pump her in private for that write-up of mine. It ought to go big in our Western syndicate.”

The driver twisted his wrist and studied the time. He set the meter to the off position. “Good-by!” he said, leaning over and releasing the emergency brake. “I’m much obliged!”

Fay turned and stared into the broad Irish face of the ex-convict he had expected to meet.

“Ah, Rake—on time!”

“Sure, Chester! I was just watchin’ you and that wild-looking driver. They’re gettin’ all the high-class business.”

“Come on! Follow me and keep your eyes open. We’re going to look a little lady over. Miss Elsie, the manager, is under suspicion.”

Fay led the way along the sidewalk and threaded his steps through a group of young men outside the Gray Taxi Garage. He eyed each one for possible red hair and turned-up nose. He entered the doorway, dodged a fast-flying taxi which was coming out on second speed, then knocked upon the ground glass of a door marked Private—Keep Out—This Means You!

A slip of a girl answered the knock. She glanced from Fay’s face to the peering countenance of Rake.

“Well?” she asked.

“I’m looking for a Miss Elsie De Groot,” said Fay, thrusting his foot forward. “I’m a newspaper man. I—want to write her up for a Western syndicate. It ought to bring some business.”

The girl toyed with a pencil which she jabbed like a bayonet into a raven-hued turban. “I’ll see,” she said, turning and gliding through an inner door.

Presently her elfin face gladdened the opening as Fay half advanced into the outer office.

“Come in, please. Miss De Groot will see you.”

Chester Fay removed his cap, crushed it between his fingers and stepped briskly forward. He paused before the edge of a rug. Across this rug sat a girl. She swiveled in a businesslike chair and threw one neat ankle over the other. She glanced impatiently upward.

“We’d like to see you alone,” Fay said as he noted a mop of reddish hair and a freckled nose which seemed to be pressed up by an unseen finger. “Alone,” he added, swinging upon the stenographer and jerking his chin toward the door.

“Why, certainly!”

The girl slipped out and closed the door. Fay left Rake’s side and moved up close to a littered desk which bore some resemblance to order.

“To be brief as time!” he said, drawing a card from his pocket. “To be brief,” he whispered, replacing the card, “I want to know just why you took a taxi at or about six o’clock last night, went down to the Southampton Dock and waited for a passenger who wore a Silver Greyhound—indicating that he was on British Government business, urgent and pressing.”

The girl’s broad forehead whitened slightly. She recrossed her trim ankles. She tapped the desk before her with polished nails. She reached and adjusted a hairpin in her reddish knot, which added beauty to a resolute, somewhat bold face.

“I don’t know what business that is of yours!” she said.

Fay frowned. “It’s the people’s business! It’s Charles Mott’s business. Are you going to help me?”

“I never talk to strangers. You may be Mr. Mott’s representative. You may be connected with the Gray Brotherhood. How do I know?”

“You know what happened to your fare last night?”

The girl swung in the chair and glanced at Rake. Her eyes opened to brown pools of protest. She brought both feet down on the rug and rose with her hand on the back of the chair.

“You both better go.”

“Just a minute. You know Putney Stephney?”

“Perhaps I do.”

“You know what happened to him?”


“Do you want to know?”

“See here!” The girl’s voice indicated reserve strength. “See here! This is my office. We—I, am obeying the law. Our business is of such a nature that we do not talk to strangers. To tell you frankly, I detest people who ask too many questions.”

Fay took the thrust with good humor. “They’re not all the same,” he said, moving closer to the girl and regarding her with admiration. “Now you, for instance, know full well that I didn’t come here without being pretty sure of my ground. You’ll have to answer my questions, or you will be called to account for a number of nasty accusations. Mr. Mott is your friend—he also is my friend!”

The girl turned helplessly toward the closed door. She tapped her foot on the rug. She bent her head.

“How came you to know Putney Stephney?” Fay asked, feeling his way for a surprise.

“I met him two years ago. He was just a good friend of mine. I can’t see your purpose in questioning me concerning him.”

Fay watched her lips tremble. He had conceived a liking for Elsie De Groot over the period of minutes. He said through his white teeth:

“Putney Stephney was murdered last night!”

The girl swayed. She reached blindly for the arms of the chair.

“Murdered by an unknown method!”

A gasping sob racked the air. The beat of a powerful engine throbbed the garage. It was like the roll of a muffled drum.

“Foully murdered! Done to death between the steamship dock and Poughkeepsie, where he was found with skull crushed and his lungs empty of air. He was last seen getting into your taxicab!”

“Oh, don’t! It isn’t true!”

Fay leaned until his eyes compelled hers to waver. “It’s true,” he whispered. “Now, tell me what happened to Putney Stephney? The matter is going to do the Gray Brotherhood and the Gray Taxi Company considerable harm.”

“Do with him?”

“Certainly! What did you do with him? The truth, and nothing but the truth. It’s bound to come out!”

“See here!” The girl braced her shoulders and stared back defiantly. “See here!” she flashed with sudden anger. “I can give you no information except—”

“Except what?”

“The record of the call. That is all that I will ever give you or anybody else. My personal affairs are not to be dragged about by an amateur investigator.”

“That’s all I want.” Fay turned and motioned for Rake to leave the office. He waited until the door closed with a click.

“We’re going to be frank,” he said. “I’m here to help you out. You met Stephney at the dock, after waiting around for hours. I’d judge by this action that you knew him. He perhaps wirelessed or telegraphed you from Quarantine.”

The girl brushed her hair from her eyes with the back of her right hand. She stared at the rug, then into Fay’s keen face.

“I met him by his own appointment.”

“Ah! Now we’re getting on, Miss Elsie. You met him—after waiting a long time. He had an enormous sum of money. You alone knew that he was coming. He trusted in you so as to be safe in a city comparatively strange—to him. He—”

“Trusted me—yes! We stopped at Figaro’s on Forty-second Street. We had a club sandwich served to us. I sat outside with him because I—I had these clothes on.”

The girl swept her hands over her leggins and short skirt.

“And then?”

“Why, I took him on uptown within six or seven blocks of the Rockingham. He said he would walk the rest of the way. I left him on the curb. He started north.”

“That’s clear,” said Fay. “He started north. Did you see him any more?”

The girl dropped her eyes and studied the design of the office rug. “I did and I didn’t. He got in another cab—I think!”


“Yes. There was no reason for him to do that. He had only a few blocks to go in order to reach the hotel.”

“What kind of a cab?”

“One of ours—a Gray taxi.”

“Well, don’t you know who was driving it? Was it following you?”

A puzzled pucker gathered in a little square upon the girl’s white forehead. She reached to the littered desk and lifted a call-sheet. She held this out with shaking fingers.

“I’ve questioned every one of my drivers. No one of them admits taking Mr. Stephney or anyone else to the Rockingham. I didn’t understand it last night; I don’t now. It was certainly a taxi painted like ours that he got in. I thought it so strange.”

“Did this other driver call him?”

“I don’t know. I was turning when I looked up the Avenue. Putney was running from the curb with one hand raised. He jumped on the running-board of the taxi, which disappeared from under an arclight. I didn’t see anything more.”

“Didn’t that strike you as a strange proceeding?”

“Yes, it did! I thought a lot about it. I went over the call-sheet and asked all of the drivers. Two are out yet, but I know where they were at the time.”

“Do you often take representatives of the British Government around? Have they a charge-account?”

“I can’t answer those questions. You must ask Mr. Hilton.”

“Do you want to tell me anything about James Ponsardin?”

The girl started. She folded the call-sheet by running it through her fingers.

“No, I don’t! You’ll have to see him.”

Fay fished in his pocket and brought forth the same card he had before shown to the girl.

“You’ll find me at Mr. George Mott’s office. Please call me up if you discover anything. Ask those two drivers whom you didn’t question. Help us in every way. This murder is an international matter. Keep thinking about what happened last night. We must find the murderer!”

Fay laid the card on the desk, bowed slightly toward the silent girl, nodded to the stenographer, and joined Rake in the run-way of the garage.

The big ex-convict was staring at the group of drivers who were awaiting assignments. He smiled broadly as he felt Fay’s hand on his shoulder.

“Some bunch, Chester!”

“Any of your old pals here?”

“The only one I remember is that snob-nosed mechanic over there—the fellow under that car.”

Fay wheeled. A pair of bright eyes, grease-rimmed and shadowed with blond lashes, was peering out at him. A tapping sounded upon the rear axle of the taxi as Fay stooped a trifle. The mechanic extended one hand and coiled his fingers about a spanner.

“The only one in the place,” said Rake. “I served time with him somewhere—maybe in Sing Sing, maybe Joliet.”

“Come on, Rake!”

Fay led the way to the sidewalk, nodded pleasantly to the staring drivers, then turned toward the west. It was at the corner of the block where he paused and glanced in the direction of the garage.

“The entire case rests there,” he declared without pointing. “Stephney was murdered in a Gray taxi. He was suffocated in some way to render him unconscious. He was tossed on top of a freight-train after being well plucked. This much we know. Now, how was it done?”

“I don’t think a woman was mixed up in it. That girl looked like a perfect lady. An old night-hawk, who is as crooked as his whip, might do it. He could get a cab an’ turn the trick.”

“But the mysterious way of suffocating a man?”

The ex-convict scratched his head.

“That’s different,” he admitted. “O’Toole, Flynn, Fogarty, Harris an’ Johnson—they ought to discover something, Chester. Harrigan, Mr. Mott’s man, sent them running after you telephoned. He’s called on the Harlem Branch for three more of the Brotherhood to cover the case. You’ve got nine or ten boys out now.”

“Hardly enough. We’ll get more! Suppose we walk west for a block or two. I want to think this puzzle over.”

Rake fell in behind Fay. They crossed the street and took a shady side. The last rays of the western sun struck slanting through the cañon of tenements. The street resounded with the shouts of urchins playing ball. A truck went by as Fay paused and clicked keys in his pocket.

He glanced up at Rake.

“We’ll have to cover the Hudson River homes,” he said. “Looks to me as if the body was being taken over the railroad track when it was thrown on top of a freight-car. Who is investigating Poughkeepsie and the routing of the train?”

“O’Toole an’ Flynn went north, Chester.”

Fay dragged out his watch and studied the dial. “It’s too early yet for them to report. It’s too—”

He stared open-mouthed toward the Avenue ahead of him. He reached and clutched Rake’s arm. He gripped this with fingers of steel.

“Did you see that?”

“See wot, Chester?”

“The Gray taxi that went by?”

“I saw one. I didn’t notice it particularly.”

“It was being driven thirty miles an hour by Elsie De Groot! I’m positive it was her. Reddish hair and turned-up nose!”

“That’s the colleen who runs the garage?”

“Yes—the girl of the garage! The same little lady who met Putney Stephney at the steamship dock last night.”

“We’re gettin’ on, Chester. It looks bad for the Brotherhood.”

“And for the Sisterhood! We just finished talking to her not a half—not twenty minutes ago; and there she goes uptown—full speed and more.”

Fay eyed his watch and ran a polished finger-nail over the crystal.

“Twenty-two minutes!” he declared, replacing the timepiece in his vest pocket.

“Let’s go back, Chester.”

“No! We’ll go on to the office of the morning Messenger. Foley is their sporting editor. Perhaps he can tell us something about Ponsardin and the taxi-company.”

“Nice name!” blurted the ex-inmate. “Sounds like a doped wine an’ deep-dyed villainy.”

Fay grasped Rake by the elbow and hurried him in the direction of the avenue up which the taxi had flashed. There was no trace of it. Fay hesitated a moment, like a keen hound on a scent, then fell into a brisk walk northward, which took him to the somewhat unostentatious building that housed the uptown offices of the Messenger.

Foley, the sporting editor, was in. He greeted Fay with a hand thrust over a battered typewriter propped upon a broken desk. He thrust aside a bundle of press clippings and cleared off two chairs.

“Sit down!” he welcomed. “Got some dope on the crook game for me?”

Fay leaned back and glanced about the office with slow caution, then shot a question at Foley through rigid lips.

“What do you know about Ponsardin—your proprietor?”

Foley tried to wink with lashless eyelids. He upended a huge can of cold tea, drank deeply, glanced at the keyboard of his typewriter before he set the can down on the corner of a box which had once contained ink rolls.

“What do I know? Nothing! He’s a queer stick. Bought the paper about three years ago. Hardly ever see him. Goes to Washington quite often. The police are investigating the sheet, I guess.”

“Ah!” said Fay.

“Yep! There’s been talk of the actual ownership being in the hands of a lot of sure-thing grafters and gamblers. I’m looking for a knockout and an upper-cut from the postal authorities any time. You can’t pinch me! I don’t write the editorials.”

“They advocate horse-racing and open gambling?”

“They certainly did—a year or two ago. Now we’ve been instructed to hit a bunch of contractors and reformers. Take it from me, Fay, I don’t think the Messenger is making any money.”

“Bills paid and all that?”

“Oh, sure! James Ponsardin is rated three A’s and a One.”

“Is he French or Swiss?”

“Came from Switzerland, I think. Bright fellow, but—”

“Where does he live? Directory gives an apartment on Riverside Drive.”

“I went up there once with some tickets to a bout. He wasn’t there. Butler said he was up-State. I guess he’s dug in, covered up and pulled the hole in after him. No one around here or downtown knows where to find him.”

“Do you know anything about the Gray Taxi Company?”

“The one with the ex-convict drivers?”

Chester Fay nodded.

“No. I heard the bunch talking about it. Why did you ask?”

Fay rose from his chair and threw back his shoulders. “Your boss is supposed to own it,” he said. “Ponsardin is the owner! I’ve got a case that’s far from being clear, Foley. I’ll give you first chance when I’ve worked it out for Mr. Mott. Good-by!”

Rake led the way out and down the steps to the street.

“Where to, Chester?” he asked as they stood on the sidewalk.

“Nearest telephone!” said Fay, thrusting his hands in his pockets in search for some change.

Rake waited outside of the cigar-store while Fay entered a booth. Night was dropping on the city. The sun had set over the blue barriers of the Palisades. The lights of Broadway slashed the purple heavens from south to north. Forty-second Street with its sign-clusters marked the center of the illumination.

It was a long ten minutes before Fay emerged with his teeth clamping a slender Perfecto. He passed one to Rake.

“Smoke up!” he said. “It’s on the British representatives. I’ve got a good lead from Arthur Hilton. It’s one I overlooked in my haste this morning. I think we get our people tonight!”

“What people, Chester?”

“The crooks who killed Stephney. They were after bigger game. The others of Stephney’s suite are due on the Imparada. Hilton tells me privately that she has been sighted from Sandy Hook.”

Rake examined the cigar, then lighted it and started puffing.

“I don’t get you! What’s due on the ship? What’s it got to do with—”

Fay started toward Broadway. Rake followed with the question still upon his mind.

“We’re closing in,” said Fay as he brought a sheet of paper from his side pocket and spread it out on the palm of his right hand. “I did a lot of phoning. There’s nothing new at Poughkeepsie—except that the train upon which Stephney’s body was found was made up on Tenth Avenue, New York.”

“That’s Death Avenue!”

“It’s well named. It left at seven o’clock. It passed the Harlem River at eight-sixteen. It reached Harmon at nine-three. It rolled into Poughkeepsie early in the morning and was shunted on a sidetrack. The railroad detectives searched it carefully while looking for tramps. It was then they found the body.”

Rake eyed the sheet of paper.

“Did O’Toole get all that?” he asked.

“Yes. He saw the coroner and the Army surgeon. Stephney was suffocated and completely out of this life when his body was dropped on top of the train. That must have been from some small bridge leading over the tracks to the Hudson River. It was either to a boathouse or a private estate.”

“Go on,” said Rake.

“Hilton—Sir Arthur—tells me that two members of the same banking firm, coming over on the Imparada, have considerable money with them. This Commission, of which Stephney was a member, came on different steamers on account of a secret matter pertaining to pending treaties. These two members will dock sometime tonight.”

“At the same pier, Chester?”

“At the Southampton Pier.”

“That looks like business. We’ll be there, eh?”

“Right there! We’ll meet the bankers at Quarantine, substitute ourselves for them, and land, all regular and proper, at the Southampton dock. I notified Harrigan, at Mr. Mott’s office, to get our outfits. They’ll be waiting for us with a valet at the Battery. We will have a valet.”

“What, Chester?”

“Joe Yeader will play that part to perfection. Remember his accent? He did time in Brixton Jail.”

“I don’t get it all,” blurted Rake. “What is coming off?”

Fay furrowed his brow and stared seriously toward the paper in his hand. He thrust it into his pocket. “I’ll explain later,” he said. “We’re going right into the lion’s den. We’ll bait the trap with more banknotes. We’ve got to clear the name of the Gray Brotherhood and the ex-inmates working for the Gray Taxi Company.”

“Do you suspect that girl?”

“I have every reason to believe she is guilty.”

“She don’t look the part.”

“Looks and beauty are skin deep!”

“She didn’t talk like a gun moll or a fallen sister.”

“She’s employed by a man who is suspected by the police and Mr. Mott. She has sole charge of Ponsardin’s taxicab interests. She was the first to meet Stephney on this side of the Atlantic. She was the last to see him alive, according to her own admission. What would you think from all that?”

“I think a lot, Chester. But appearances are deceiving. She’d never admitted takin’ that Stephney from the dock if she was guilty. She’d of denied it. The only time my Mary, at home, is lyin’ to me is when she says nothing.”

“Illogical logic!”

“Sure—an’ it’s the truth, nine times out of ten, Chester.”

Fay glanced at his watch and quickened his steps. “We’ll take the Subway to the Customhouse. From there we go over the Bay.”

Rake scratched his head and followed Fay down the steps, past the ticket-chopper, and lunged with him into the warm interior of a subway car. They were hurtled southward. Fay said nothing during the quick trip. His mind wove the details of the plan which he had to save the name of the Gray Brotherhood.

He mounted to the surface of the street, closely followed by Rake. He sought a phone-booth before crossing to the Customhouse. Rake heard him giving a series of rapid-fire directions to Harrigan, the manager at George Mott’s headquarters.

Fay emerged, tossed a dollar across to the cigar-clerk and jerked his thumb toward a box of Perfectos. “Eight of those!” he said. “Eight!”

Outside, in the cool evening, the two men drew a long breath of smoke for the final plunge. They dodged a flashing taxi, climbed the Customhouse steps, and found, after consulting an alert doorman, that the harbor master’s assistant was in.

To him Fay showed his card, his authority from George Mott, and other identifications. He sealed the matter with a cigar. The assistant to the harbor master made out passes in duplicate. He found the sealing wax and a well-chewed pen. He passed the finished documents over, after a scrawled signature in each corner.

“They’ll take you aboard anything from here to the Hook,” he said, leaning and watching Fay.

“Thanks!” said Fay. “I’ll see if they will!”

The ferry-house was thronged with passengers as the two ex-inmates searched about for Joe Yeader. These passengers thinned. A man stepped forward and clucked from the corner of his mouth.

“All right,” said Fay swiftly. “Hop aboard, and we’ll follow.”

Rake trailed Yeader and Fay. The three men secured seats in the smoking-cabin. Yeader, crossing his legs over a yellow kit-bag, took Fay’s proffered Perfecto, and drawled:

“At your service, sirs. Beastly sultry night.”

The ferry-boat reached St. George. The three rushed for a train which would pass Quarantine Station on an inland route. They descended at a dark station, walked rapidly through silent streets till they came to the gleaming waters of the Narrows.

Fay saluted a man on guard, showed his authority from the Customhouse, and received permission to enter the telegraph station.

He turned on the steps and glanced down at Yeader and Rake.

“Stay here!” he said. “Hold the bag. I’m going up and find out when the Imparada comes in. Also, I shall send a wireless message to the manager of the Gray Taxi Company.”

Rake started. He frowned in perplexity. “How can you do that, Chester?”

“I’ve got authority to do most anything. I want a Gray taxi to meet us when we dock with the Imparada. Perhaps your nice little blonde with the turned-up nose will be driving.”

Rake shook his head when Fay disappeared. He clenched his fists and glanced upward at the topmost light in the dark tower. He swung on one heel as Yeader touched his shoulder.

“Big ship coming in!”

“The Imparada?”

“Looks like it. We’ll have to hurry. Call Chester!”

Fay appeared at Rake’s third shrilling whistle.

“All set,” he said, waving his arm toward the Government dock. “Let’s get down to the quarantine boat.”

A dark wharf jutted like a pointing finger from a green, sloping shore. Upon this wharf great, rusty cables and buoys were scattered.

Fay led the way through the buoys and presented his passes to a sailor on guard before a wire gate.

“Going out to the Imparada!” he said authoritatively.

The sailor hitched his trousers, turned, squinted through the sea mists, then swung the gate.

“You’ll have to hurry,” he said. “The quarantine boat is casting off her shore lines.”

Wrapped in the cloak of gray vapor, the three men crouched forward of the wheelhouse and stared out across the Narrows to where a great ship glided like a glow-worm in a garden.

They heard the quarantine boat’s bells as it maneuvered beneath the towering overhang of the giant passenger ship. They mounted a pilot’s ladder which had been lowered for the quarantine officers.

Fay whispered into an officer’s ear after he sprang over the rail. He motioned aft. Rake and Yeader, with the kit-bag, followed closely.

The two British bankers were seated at the taffrail. To them Fay told his mission, and his object of substituting himself and party, in order to discover who had slain Stephney. The bankers had already been informed of the murder. They were noncommittal. They rose from steamer chairs, studied Fay’s credentials, stared keenly at Yeader and Rake, then consulted in whispers.

“All right,” they said finally. “Come to our staterooms.”

The transformation which was made while the ship glided to her dock was thorough and startling. Fay upended Yeader’s kit-bag and sorted out its contents. He changed his appearance before the eyes of the silent Britishers. He put on goggles and borrowed a more pronounced checked cap than the one he had worn to the ship.

He ran a hand across his face, then tapped a well-bound packet suggestively.

“All set,” he said, looking at himself in a glass. “By Jove! George Mott or Arthur Hilton wouldn’t know me!”

Wrapping a long mackintosh about his slender form, Fay threw open the door and led the way to the boat-deck.

“We’ll stand here,” he said to Rake and Yeader. “The ship is almost in. Now play your parts. Look out for a Gray taxi.”

The ship snugged against the dock, under pressure from two snorting tugs. Steam plumed aft the giant funnels. A bell clanged its final message to the engine-room. A gangplank was raised in the gloom. It steadied and swung inboard.

“Come!” cried Fay; “Follow me!”

The way led down through a companion, along a luggage-littered deck and past the second officer, who gave the signal that they could descend the gangplank.

Fay shaded his face from the Central Office men at the foot of the plank. He turned and motioned for Rake and Yeader. They hurried over the splintered dock and reached the first of the shore throng to meet the incoming passengers.

“Go ahead!” said Fay to Yeader. “Lug the bag and find the taxi. Tell the driver you’re from the British Banking Commission. Pile on all the Cockney you know.”

The throng parted. Fay saw, to one side of the dock entrance, a waiting taxi. Upon its seat a form crouched. Yeader waved his hand, opened the taxi door, tossed in the bag and assisted Fay and Rake to mount the running-board and step inside.

“’Otel Rockingham!” exclaimed Yeader. “Go a’ead!”

The door clicked shut with a strong pressure. The driver lowered the taxi-meter flag, released the brake and moved through first, second, and into third speed with the cunning manipulation of a professional.

Fay rubbed the thick plate glass at his side, glanced out at the flashing lights and street intersections, before he leaned down and opened the bag.

“Take these,” he whispered, handing Rake and Yeader two heavy automatics. “Plant them on the seat. Now this hatchet.”

Joe Yeader straightened with the package in his hand. He broke the string, ripped off the wrapping paper and held out a bright-looking hatchet.

“Hold it ready!” said Fay. “We’re turning into Fifth Avenue!”

The taxi swerved, straightened and lunged northward. Rake sputtered and swore as he attempted to open a door. Yeader bent over and tried the knob on the other door.

“Did you notice our driver?” asked Fay.

“Red hair and turned-up nose,” said Yeader. “What to hell kind of a bloody trap did we get into?”

Rake turned and pressed his nose against the front glass of the taxi. He turned as Fay reached and jerked down the blind.

“It’s Elsie De Groot!” he blurted. “It’s the dame of the garage!”


A slight noise like a steam-exhaust sounded. Fay reached close by the seat. He pressed one knee against Yeader. He nodded comprehendingly.

“The air’s gettin’ thinner!” exclaimed Rake. “I can’t breathe!”

Fay dropped to his knees, swayed, and ran his hand over the bottom of the cab. He curled into a knot with his feet on the seat. He raised a hand and indicated for Rake and Yeader to bend down.

“We’re supposed to be dead!” he whispered. “There’s a suction pump on the engine that’s exhausting the air from the cab. The driver started the pump when she started the cab. The windows and framework are built to withstand enormous outside pressure.”

The taxi came to a sudden halt at a curb. The driver sprang from the front seat, mounted the running-board and pressed a pair of sharp eyes against the side glass. Fay, Rake and Yeader lay on the cab floor with their faces shielded by their up-thrown arms.

The driver swung into the seat, raced the engine, and clicked through the speeds. The taxi darted up Fifth Avenue. It gained Fifty-ninth Street and turned into the Park. It swung the dark curves on its swift passage uptown.

Fay’s fingers groped along the seat and clasped an automatic. “Get the other!” he said into Rake’s ear. “You, Yeader, take the hatchet and pry at the bottom of the door. I’ve got my hand over the suction pipe. We wont be suffocated.”

The ride seemed endless. The taxi rolled from out the foliage of the Park and climbed a long hill. It turned northward along street-car tracks.

“Broadway!” said Fay, sensing his position. “We’re going right out Broadway.”

Rake gasped and pressed a finger across his mouth. He coughed, pounded his chest, and recovered himself. His eyes glared indignantly. He waited till the taxi clattered over a bridge, then he protested:

“Let me out, Chester. I’ll wring that damn girl’s neck! I can’t stand this much longer. There’s no air.”

“Sisst!” said Fay. “Are you sure Elsie De Groot is driving the taxi?”

“Sure! I’d swear to it!”

Fay chuckled. “We’ll soon know. This is Yonkers. We’ve passed Getty Square. We’re turning now. Now we’re going north. Two turns and then a straight road. I’d know where we are, blindfolded.”

It was twenty minutes later when the taxi slowed, backed, then swung toward the left and took a narrow bumpy road. Fay sat up, pressed his toe on the sucking exhaust-pipe and clamped his teeth with a suggestive grind.

“All ready!” he said nudging Yeader. “See, we’re rising. We’re going across a bridge. Listen! That’s the New York Central Railroad below us. This is where Stephney was thrown on the freight-train. Now—look out!”

The taxi dropped down a long, sharp incline with its brakes grinding. It rounded a lodge-gate, swung by a dark, stone house and came to a sudden halt in a sheltered courtyard.

The driver sprang out. Fay braced his feet against the door. He heard two voices in whispered conversation. A third joined in with a protesting snarl. The handle of the door clicked. A key was inserted. The lock snapped open.

Fay bent his knees, aimed at the exact center of the panel and kicked outward. He rolled over with the force of his blow. He staggered from the cab with Yeader and Rake scrambling after him.

“Get up your hands!” he exclaimed, jabbing forward the automatic. “Up! Up! Up! All three of you!”

Rake lunged swiftly and wrapped his arms about the forward figure of a startled group. He went down with the man under him.

The two figures in front of Fay’s automatic hesitated, spread, and bolted to right and left. Fay lowered his gun, fired once at the ground, then dashed in pursuit of the taxi-driver, whose khaki leggings were a fair mark to follow.

He gained with each stride. He reached forward, stumbled over a low wall, and clutched a coat which was torn from his fingers. He bounded across a roadway, dropped the automatic and made a flying tackle which brought his quarry to the close-cropped grass.

“Lie still, you!” he ordered as his fingers closed on a pair of flailing arms. “Get down! I think I know you!”

Fay’s hands gripped with strength. He heard a low moan below him, and eased the clutch he had fastened upon a thick throat. He wheeled and stared toward the courtyard. Rake had already secured his prisoner. The big ex-convict was looking up the road, which merged into gloom and dripping trees. A man was bounding along this road, with Yeader close behind him. The Cockney raised his revolver in a slow aim. He lowered it and dashed on. A taxi with blazing cones of yellow light swung over the bridge across the railroad track and began descending the grade. It slowed. It stopped with a shriek of metal bands on metal.

Two drivers sprang from the front seat and reached for the man whom Yeader was pursuing. He sank to his knees in the roadway as other forms scrambled from the taxi. He was surrounded by a resolute group of taxi-drivers. Their leader called an order and came running toward the taxi in the courtyard.

Fay twisted his fingers in a close collar, ran his hand over the figure below him and found, in a pocket, a matted red wig. He sprang erect.

“The mechanic of the garage!” he exclaimed. “You settle one doubt! You impersonated Elsie De Groot!”

The leader of the drivers who had arrived in the second taxi ran across the courtyard, paused, and stared at Fay’s prisoner. She turned with her eyes sweeping the windows of the silent house. She came over the grass.

“Just in time, Miss Elsie!” said Fay. “You got a man up the road. Who was he?”

“A crook! And this is—”

“This is one of your mechanics. He resembles you. He must have had access to your desk. He impersonated you by putting on a wig after you set Stephney down on Fifth Avenue. He was Ponsardin’s tool. His taxi was equipped with a suction pipe and a set of snap locks on the doors. It was death to enter it. They were after big game tonight.”

The girl shuddered. She turned away from Fay and his prisoner.

“I don’t know how it all happened,” she said. “I suspected the mechanic after your visit. We followed him tonight. He had a taxi exactly like ours. We lost him in the Park. We were close behind you. Then—we found the trail again, up above Yonkers. It led here. You see, he had different tires than most cars. One was vulcanized on the tread and made a different mark in the dust.”

“That was clever!”

The girl trembled slightly.

“Who’s the third man,” Fay asked, “the one you looked at before you came over to me?”

“Oh, that’s Ponsardin! He’s the owner of the Gray Taxi Company. I wonder what will become of it now? I hate to see the boys lose their jobs.”

“They won’t, and you won’t. I’m sure I can fix things so that once in a while I can drop around and call upon Miss Elsie De Groot—President and General Manager of the Gray Taxi Company—which Mr. George Mott will surely take care of, no matter what happens to Ponsardin.”

The girl seized Fay’s extended hand.

“That’ll be corking! The Gray Brotherhood has certainly cleared its name tonight.”

“And so have you!” said Chester Fay with a smile.

Transcriber’s Note: This story appeared in the October 1920 issue of The Blue Book magazine.