|Publisher:||Franklin Classics Trade Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.14(w) x 9.21(h) x 0.69(d)|
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By Jack Boyle
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2014 MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Boston Blackie ... in the archives of a hundred detective bureaus the name, invariably followed by a question mark, was pencilled after the records of unsolved safe-robberies of unequalled daring and skill.
The constantly recurring interrogation point was proof of the uncanny shrewdness and prevision of a crook who pitted his wits against those of organized society and gambled his all on the result of the game he played—for it was in the spirit of a man playing a vitally engrossing game against incalculable odds that Boston Blackie lived the life of crookdom. The question mark meant that the police suspected his guilt—even thought they knew it—but had no proof.
The name, Boston Blackie, was an anathema at the annual convention of police chiefs. The continually growing list of exploits attributed to him left them raging impotently at his incomparable audacity. He neither looked, worked nor lived as experience taught them a crook should. Traps innumerable had been laid for him without result. Always, it seemed, an intuitive foreknowledge of what the police would do guided him to safety. In short, Boston Blackie, safe- cracker de luxe, was the great enigma of the harried, savagely incensed guardians of property rights.
Though detectives never guessed it, the secret of Boston Blackie's invulnerability lay in his mental attitude toward the law and those paid to uphold it. In his own mind he was not a criminal but a combatant. He had declared war upon Society and, if defeated, was ready to pay the penalty it inflicted. Undefeated, he felt the world could not hold a grudge against him. The laws of the statute books he discarded as mere "scraps of paper." He saw himself not as a lawbreaker but as a law- upholder, for he lived under the rigid mandates of a crook-world code that he held more sacred than life itself. A guilty conscience proves the downfall of most prison inmates. Blackie, his conscience clear, played the game winningly with the zest of a school-boy and the joy of a gambler confidently risking great stakes.
Boston Blackie was no roystering cabaret habitue squandering the proceeds of his exploits in night-life dissipation. University trained and with a natural predilection for good literature, his pleasures were those of a gentleman of independent means with a mental trend toward the humanitarian problems of the day. His home was his place of recreation and in that home, sharing joyously the perils and pleasures of his strangely ordered life was Mary, his wife—Boston Blackie's Mary to the crook-world that looked up to them with unfeigned adulation as the chief exponents of its queerly warped creed.
Mary was Boston Blackie's best loved pal and sole confidant. She alone knew all he did and why, and, knowing, she joined in his exploits with the wholeheartedness of unquestioning love. Together they played; together they worked and always they were happy in good fortune or evil. A strange couple, so unusual in thought and life and habit that detectives, judging them by other crooks, were forever at sea.
Seated in their cozy apartment in San Francisco which for the time was their home Blackie suddenly dropped the current volume on mysticism which he had been reading and looked across the room to Mary, busy with an intricate piece of embroidery.
"We need a bit of excitement, Mary," he said with the unconcerned air of a husband about to suggest an evening at the theatre. "We'll take the Wilmerding jewel collection to-night."
"I'll drive your car myself if you're going out there," she answered with the faintest trace of womanly anxiety in her voice.
"Well, then, that's settled."
Boston Blackie resumed his reading and Mary her embroidery.CHAPTER 2
BOSTON BLACKIE'S LITTLE PAL
The room was faintly illumined by the intermittent flame of a wood-fire slowly dying on the hearth of an open grate. The house was silent dark, seemingly deserted. Outside, the dripping San Francisco fog clung to everything in the heavy impenetrable folds that isolated the residence from its neighbors as though it stood alone in an otherwise empty world.
Inside the handsomely furnished living-room, and opposite the fire which now and then leaped up and cast his shadow in grotesque shapes against the ceiling, stood a man intently studying the paneled walls—a man with a white handkerchief masking his face and a coat that sagged under the weight of the gun slung ready for instant use beneath one of its lapels.
The man was Boston Blackie. Concealed behind the oaken panels he inspected so painstakingly was a safe in which lay the Wilmerding jewels—a famous collection.
For two generations San Franciscans had eyed them with envy. Handed down from mother to daughter they had played their part in the social warfare of the city of the Golden Gate for half a century. And Blackie was there to make them his own.
He ran acutely sensitive fingers—sandpapered until the blood showed redly below the skin—over the woodwork, seeking the hidden spring he knew was there—for an incautious servant's remark had traveled up through the underworld until it reached Blackie, the one in a thousand expert enough to use it. Quickly his questing fingers located the key panel, and the door rolled noiselessly back, disclosing a steel strong-box.
"Ah, neatly arranged!" murmured the safe-cracker in an inaudible and satisfied whisper as he stooped and gently turned the combination-knob. It revolved without perceptible sound, but science is an impartial ally—the ally of able crooks as well as of those who war upon them. Blackie laid a tiny metal disk against the combination. Wires led from it to a transmitter he hooked over his ear. Then he turned the dial-knob again slowly and with' infinite care. The audion bulb within the transmitter—science's newest device for magnifying otherwise imperceptible sound—carried to his ear plainly the faint click of the tumblers within as the dial crossed the numbers of the combination that guarded the jewels. One by one he memorized them, slowly but surely reading the combination that, once his, would enable him to open the safe, take the gems, relock the strong-box and depart without leaving behind the slightest outward evidence that robbery had been done. The cracksman smiled contentedly as he worked. Already he reckoned the Wilmerding collection of jewels as his own.
A faint sound from behind caught his ear. He straightened quickly, dropped the audion bulb into his pocket and slid the panel noiselessly back into place.
"A step on the stair!" he whispered in sudden alarm. "And I was sure the house was empty except for the two servants asleep below-stairs—I counted them out one by one; and yet there's some one coming down from above. Coming down slowly, stealthily, too!"—as he heard a second cautious step. "Too bad! In another five minutes I'd have been gone."
He drew his mask higher over his face and stepped backward into the shadow of the drapery before the window he had prepared for a quick exit in an emergency. Then he waited, listening with every sense alert, every muscle rigid.
Again he heard the step, now close to the doorway. Then in the dim firelight a small tousled head appeared—the head of a little child who stood irresolute outside the room.
The boy—a mere baby of four—hesitated on the threshold of the dark room, evidently trying to summon courage to enter. The safe-cracker from his refuge saw and read a conflict between fear and determination in the wide eyes of the little intruder. For a full minute the child hung back; then suddenly with a low cry, half fearful, half courageous, he ran across the room to the window and tumbled straight into the arms of the safe-cracker, of whose presence he had no inkling.
Blackie, fearing an outcry, spoke quickly, soothingly, but the boy neither screamed nor cried. He stared wonderingly for a moment into the kind eyes that looked down into his, and then with a faint sigh of relief involuntarily nestled closer in the protecting arms that held him—a lonely, frightened child finding comfort and consolation in the unexpected solace of human companionship.
"Who is you?" lisped the little fellow, smiling confidingly up into Blackie's perplexed face. Then with suddenly increased interest: "You isn't Santy, is you? No, you isn't Santy 'cause that on your face is a hanky, not beards." He had reached up and given the partially disarranged handkerchief mask a gentle, impairing tug.
Blackie smiled back at him.
"No, I'm not Santa Claus to-night, little man," he said. "Who are you?"
"I'm Martin Wilmerding, Junior, and I'm four years old," the boy said proudly.
"You are! Well, well! And where is your mamma and your papa?"
"Papa's gone away, Mamma says, and Mamma's gone to a party; and w'en Mamma was gone, then Nursey went out too, and said she'd spank me if I told. John and Emily is downstairs s'eeping, and I woke up an' it was dark, and I was 'fraid—a little."
"So they've all traipsed off and left you alone for me to entertain, have they!" said Blackie, his eyes narrowing grimly as understanding of the situation came to him. "But what were you coming, downstairs for? Looking for Mamma?"
"Oh, no—Mamma won't come for ever and ever so long. I was all alone and 'fraid, and I came down for Rex."
"Rex—who is he?" asked Blackie quickly. "He's my doggie, my woolly doggie. See, here he is."
The boy squirmed out of Blackie's arms and pattered in bare feet to the window-seat, where he resurrected Rex from beneath a cushion. Then he hurried back to Boston Blackie and climbed to his lap with the toy dog clasped in his arms.
"Rex s'eeps upstairs with me," the child informed his new-found friend. "But to-night Nursey forgot him, an' I woked up an' 'membered where he was, an' it was so dark an' I wanted him so bad, so I corned downstairs for him. I isn't 'fraid when I has Rex, 'cause I can hold him close an' talk to him, an' then we bofe goes to s'eep. See, isn't he a dear little doggie?"
Unconsciously Boston Blackie's arms tightened around the soft little body nestling contentedly against his breast.
"You poor, abandoned little kiddie !" he said softly. "You poor little orphan! You're a little man, too, for it took real nerve to come down here after your pal Rex—far more nerve than I had to use to get in here."
"I likes you. You're a nice man," said the boy with childish intuitive understanding that the man in whose arms he lay was a friend.
Blackie looked at his burden in puzzled indecision. He hadn't the heart to desert his new- found pal, and yet he was a safe-breaker in a strange house, with each passing minute doubling his risk. Even the sound of their voices, low-pitched though they were, was an imminent danger. The boy, quiet and content, cuddled close to him, hugging his precious woolly dog.
"Hadn't you better run back to bed, Martin?" said Blackie gently at last. "Nursey will be back soon, and she'll be cross if she finds you down here."
The child clutched the arms that sheltered him.
"Y-e-s," he admitted slowly. Then wistfully: "It's awful dark and quiet upstairs. If you come up and tuck me an' Rex in bed, we'll be good and go right to s'eep. P'ease."
"Of course I will," said the safe-cracker a bit huskily. "I'd do it if the whole house were full of coppers."
He rose with the boy still in his arms.
"You must show me the way, Martin," he said. "And we mustn't make any noise and wake John and Emily. Now we'll go."
They climbed the dark stairway together and, the child directing, came to the open door of a big deserted nursery. A little empty bed revealed the refuge from which Martin Wilmerding, Jr., had begun his perilous adventure in search of Rex and companionship. Blackie laid the boy down and covered him gently as a mother might have done.
"Good-night, little pal," he said. "I'm glad I happened to be here to-night."
The boy clutched his hand.
"P'ease stay and hold my hand," he pleaded. "I's going right to s'eep if you will. P'ease, 'cause it's awful dark."
Boston Blackie sat on the edge of the bed and took a tiny hand in his. The boy with a sigh of perfect contentment nestled snugly in downy comforts.
"Goo' night," he said drowsily.
"Good night, little pal," answered Blackie. Silence descended over the nursery as Blackie with aching throat waited hand in hand with the little Wilmerding heir, who was learning too soon that life's problems must be mastered alone and unaided.
Five minutes passed, and Blackie, looking down, saw the boy was fast asleep with baby lips parted in a peaceful smile, and Rex's fuzzy head tightly clasped to his breast. The safe-cracker gently withdrew his hand and smoothed the covers.
"Poor little chap!" he said. "Everything in the world that doesn't count and only one real friend—Rex. Poor, lonely little chap!"
The safe-cracker crept noiselessly down the stairs to the room that contained the purpose of his visit. The fire had died to a few glowing embers. Again he rolled back the paneled door and exposed the safe. Again he adjusted the audion bulb and began anew the task of deciphering the combination. And again with his work but half finished there came a startling interruption—a short and a long blast from an autohorn that sounded from somewhere out in the fog.
"Mary's signal! Some one's coming," he reflected disgustedly. Quickly he drew a damp cloth from his pocket and mopped off the door of the safe and the woodwork to destroy the possibility of telltale fingerprints, then once more closed the panel. He drew back into the comparatively safe shelter of the window-hangings, and waited.
"I'm going to have those jewels to-night if I have to stay here till morning," he murmured resolutely. "I wonder who this can be? The nurse who slipped out on her own business and left the poor little kiddie alone, I suppose."
The faint purr of a motor stopping before the house reached his ears.
"That doesn't sound like a nurse to me," he thought. "If it's the mother of that boy, she'll be here, likely enough, with all the lights on in a minute. Well, anyway, we'll wait and see what happens. The window's ready for a quick get-away, and all the coppers in town couldn't get me once I'm outside in this fog, with Mary and the machine ready. We haven't lost out yet."
The whir of the motor died, and voices sounded outside as steps ascended from the street.
"Two are coming—a man and a woman," murmured Blackie. "Matters are growing interesting."
The outer door opened and closed softly. In the darkness the safe-cracker sensed two dim forms in the doorway; then an electric button clicked, and the room was flooded with light. Blackie saw a brilliantly handsome woman, cloaked and in evening dress, and an equally handsome man similarly garbed. The woman let her wrap slip to the floor as she turned to her companion.
"What is it, Don?" she asked apprehensively. "What is troubling you so? Tell me."
"The same thing that always troubles me," he answered, stepping toward her and taking her hands in his. "My love for you, Marian!"
The man drew her closer to him gently but irresistibly, and his arm dropped to her slender waist.
"Your own heart tells you all that is in mine—it must," he added quickly. "Marian, dear, this torture must end to-night."
For a second, with his arm around her, she swayed toward him. Then slowly she released herself and drew away.
"Don't, Don, please!" she begged tremulously. "You know we agreed not to discuss things that—that can't be remedied. Is this all you had to tell me? Is this why you have brought me home now from the dance where at least we might have forgotten and been happy for an hour?"
Her face, as she looked up at him, was a strangely mingled contradiction. There was reproach in her voice; there were tenderness and regret in her eyes, but behind them lay an instinctive womanly shrinking from something to be feared.
"Yes," her companion said, studying her face, "that is what I have come to tell you to-night: first that I love you; then that I am going away. Marian, I sail for Honolulu to-morrow morning on the Manchuria."
"Oh, no, no!" the woman cried, springing to his side and catching his arm in a movement imploringly detaining. "Oh, Don, you wouldn't! You couldn't! Tell me it isn't so. You say you—you—care; and yet you would leave me to face an empty life here—alone—in this house."
Excerpted from Boston Blackie by Jack Boyle. Copyright © 2014 MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Great characters, scenes, and endings. I want to get more of Boston Blackie.
Barns&Noble Readers-Welcome! By this writers Lights, this is one of the best books of early modern cime fiction ever to see print. The author,Mr.Boyle was a newspaper man, drug addict, convict, Hollywood writer & a first rate Knight of the Quill. Just for an ensample, his first novel was snapped up for a silent movie, he spent a succesful life working as a writer for films from his books. The writing is powerful, consice, & shows a larger understanding of the human condition.It also decrys an era of Law Enforcement abuse(the use of a stait jacket to cut off your bloodflow-as a prision punishment-graft of Police Chiefs &misc). The quality of writing is on a line with HL Menchen, Ambrose Bierce, Mark Twain, & E.A.Poe with a bit of Ellory Queen, Dick Tracy, Sam Spade, & even "Guy Noir-Private Eye-of PBS fame. The saddest part of this Book is its loss to the current generation of readers, both at home & at schools; the defect corrected by Kessinger Publishing Company. I own several of the "Boston Blackie' movies- they hold not a candle to the original stories. So, put your kopecks you would spend on buying your morning coffee into a Mason Jar-when you have enough GO FORTH AND BUY THIS BOOK! And it even gives you an insight into the current political race; do you know "Mitt"(as in Mitt Rommey) means 'to shake another man's hand?! This is the One Book to Buy-even if you never more buy another book this year, wether you are a Crime Fiction fan or not. The Education you will have on the Genius of the Human Mind under adverse conditons-will pay you all the dividends. Oh, did I say--Buy This Book? Read On