John Lansing and his sister, heirs to a fortune, run afoul of crooks determined to swindle them out of their inheritance through a fake mine scheme. When Nick Carter agrees to help, he finds danger and murderous intent—these men will stop at nothing to win!
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Table of Contents
A CIGARETTE CLUE
or, “Salted” for a Million
Copyright © 2021 by Wildside Press LLC.
Copyright © 1905 by Street & Smith
Published by Wildside Press LLC.
wildsidepress.com | bcmystery.com
Nick Carter is a fictional character who began as a dime-novel private detective in 1886 and has appeared in a variety of formats over more than a century. He first appeared in the story paper New York Weekly (Vol. 41 No. 46, September 18, 1886) in a 13-week serial, The Old Detective’s Pupil; or, The Mysterious Crime of Madison Square.
The character was conceived by Ormond G. Smith, the son of one of the founders of Street & Smith, and realized by John R. Coryell. The character proved popular enough to headline its own magazine, Nick Carter Weekly. The serialized stories in Nick Carter Weekly were also reprinted as stand-alone titles under the New Magnet Library imprint.
By 1915, Nick Carter Weekly had ceased publication and Street & Smith had replaced it with Detective Story Magazine, which focused on a more varied cast of characters. There was a brief attempt at reviving Carter in 1924–27 in Detective Story Magazine, but it was not successful.
In the 1930s, due to the success of The Shadow and Doc Savage, Street & Smith revived Nick Carter in a pulp magazine (called Nick Carter Detective Magazine) that ran from 1933 to 1936. Since the Doc Savage character had basically been given Nick’s background, Nick Carter was now recast as a hard-boiled detective. Novels featuring Carter continued to appear through the 1950s, by which time there was also a popular radio show, Nick Carter, Master Detective, which aired on the Mutual Broadcasting System network from 1943 to 1955.
A Cigarette Clue (originally published in 1905 as A Cigarette Clew, using the archaic spelling) has been lightly edited to modernize language and punctuation.
Cabin John, Maryland
WANTED: TWO MEN
“Well, Chick, it’s good to strike little old New York again.”
Nick Carter jumped down from the railroad car and shook himself like a huge dog as his feet touched the stone flagging of the Grand Central Station.
“You’re not more glad to see New York than New York is to see you,” piped a shrill voice, and Patsy, Nick’s younger assistant, darted forward to greet his chief and Chick, who were elbowing their way through the crowd on the arrival platform.
The great detective had been out west on a puzzling case in which he had to run to earth a combination of Montana swindlers. Nick and his chief assistant had done splendid work, but there were still two members of the swindling gang to be accounted for.
Patsy’s first question as they jumped into a cab was:
“What’s the latest from Montana?”
“We landed all of the crooks but two,” said Nick. “They took fright a month ago when they heard we were to take the case, and it has been reported that they have come east. In that case, Patsy, you may have a chance to bag the men who slipped through my hands.”
“Nothing would please me better,” was Patsy’s retort, and Nick laughed at the boy’s eagerness.
“I bet Patsy will strike the fellows before you can say Jack Robinson,” put in Chick, with a grin.
“You win your bet,” said Patsy coolly. “I think I can put you on the trail of at least one of the men you want. The other fellow will have to stand till I look around a little.”
The word leaped from the lips of both Nick and Chick.
It was Patsy’s turn to grin now.
“When you boys stop jollying,” he said, “we will get down to business.”
“See here, Patsy, you’ve got news,” cried Nick. “Out with it.”
“Well, the truth is I have just come from an interview with a man who is trying to get back his senses after a cold plunge in the Sound. The cold plunge was not of his own choosing. He was thrown in at midnight, and the man who flung him in was a Westerner. Now are you interested?”
“But there are more Westerners than one in the world,” objected Nick.
“Yes, but this one was called Yasmar.”
“Singular name for a Westerner; but that don’t help us any. The man we want is a fellow called Ramsay.”
“And Ramsay spelled backward is Yasmar,” added Patsy.
“By Jove, you’re right! I never thought of that.”
“No,” retorted Patsy; “it’s a good thing you have a man of brains on your staff.”
“Let that pass,” said Nick, smiling. “Any old way, this is bully information. The report was true, then, and Ramsay and his pal have really come East and are at their tricks again.”
“Don’t know about the pal, but I think we have come up with Ramsay all right. The man he attacked is waiting for you at the office.”
“Great Scott, Patsy; that’s the most important piece of information you have brought us.”
“And I kept it till the end for a good reason.”
“The reason?” demanded Nick.
“Oh, simply that the man himself is in no great hurry, and, besides, he’s a good deal better off in Nick Carter’s study than anywhere else I can think of. You will say the same when you hear his story.”
“Well, you need not go into the details since you have the man at home, but what are the outstanding facts in the matter?”
“They’re not hard to tell. This man, his name is John Lansing, was on board a Fall River boat bound from New York to Boston, when he was attacked by Ramsay—or Yasmar as he calls himself now—and was flung over the side. He escaped with his life and came to New York to give you the story.
“I told him you were expected back in town by this train, and he said he’d wait till I came back with you. He’s had a pretty close shave and he was just a bit hysterical, but I quieted him down and I guess you will find him quite rational when you reach home.”
* * * *
Half an hour later Nick was closeted with the man who had narrowly escaped death in the waters of the Sound. Mr. John Lansing he found to be a young man hardly more than out of his teens. His face was pale and on his left temple there was a large patch of court-plaster.
“My younger assistant has told me something of your startling adventure,” said Nick, “and I am especially interested in the matter, for I suspect that your assailant is a man who escaped me in the West.”
“You mean Yasmar?”
“Yes, or rather Ramsay, to give him his right name. Since coming East he has seen fit to spell his name backward—the thinnest kind of an alias conceivable. But please let me have your story from the beginning.”
“First let me ask, Mr. Carter, have you seen a copy of the evening paper?”
“Yes, I glanced hastily at one and noticed your case.”
“That is what I wanted to know. What do the papers say about me?”
“Not much; they simply print a dispatch from Boston, saying that Mr. John Lansing has disappeared.”
“Any other particulars?”
“Oh, yes, the usual gush about your being such a good man and all that. They mentioned, by the way, that you left New York on a Fall River boat Monday night with Mr. Yasmar, and that the last Mr. Yasmar saw of you was on Tuesday afternoon.”
“Yes, I supposed he was spreading such a report,” said Lansing, “but the truth is, Mr. Carter, the last this man Yasmar saw of me was off the Long Island coast at midnight Monday, when he threw me overboard; and that brings me to the matter about which I wanted your help. You are the only man living who can help me; the question is will you do it?”
“Tell me your whole story first and then I will answer you.”
“I will be as brief as I can,” said Lansing.
“My parents are dead, and my sister Louise and I live with our uncle, Horace Montgomery, on West Forty-fourth Street. Mr. Montgomery is our guardian, and is the trustee of certain funds which were left to us. Between us, Louise and I have some five hundred thousand dollars on interest with a trust company.
“This man Yasmar came from the West, a month or more ago, and has interested my uncle and some Boston men in a Montana mine which he calls the Royal Ophir. Mr. Montgomery, in spite of my objections, is determined to invest this five hundred thousand in Yasmar’s mine, but I am sure that the whole thing is a swindle from start to finish.”
“How long have you felt sure that Yasmar was a swindler?” interposed Nick.
“I have had a feeling that he was crooked ever since my uncle first introduced him to me.”
“Just a ‘feeling.’ No other evidence prior to what happened on the Sound steamer Monday night?”
“No. But the fact that Yasmar hit me on the head and threw me overboard is proof that he considered me a menace to his plans and wanted me out of the way.”
“Of course. And then his spreading the report that you disappeared from Boston is another convincing detail.”
“Why did he spread that report? Why didn’t he say that I committed suicide by jumping from the boat?”
“That would have led to awkward questioning. Not only that, but if you were dead your money would be tied up in the probate court, and your uncle could not invest it.”
“I see. That had not occurred to me before. What a consummate villain that man Yasmar is!”
“If he is the fellow I am looking for,” said Nick, bluntly, “I may tell you there isn’t a more cunning scoundrel alive. But how did he manage to get the better of you on the Sound steamer? Put in all the details of the occurrence. They may help in working your case.”
“Well, Mr. Carter, it happened in this way. I met Yasmar on board, and we sauntered around the deck, talking pleasantly about general affairs. All went well till about midnight. Maybe it was ten or fifteen minutes after. But just about that time we got down to business. Yasmar and I were sitting on a bench in the narrow passage between the side of the boat and the cabin, well aft where it was shady.
“There was a full moon, the sky was cloudless, and the surroundings were almost as plain as day. But nobody seemed to care anything for the beauty of the scene except Yasmar and myself.
“We were not, however, vastly interested ourselves in the moonlit coast line or the white-topped waves that surged past.
“We had other things to think of just then, and I will confess that I was giving him a piece of my mind in reference to that mining affair.
“As we talked, both of us became excited and we rose and faced one another. In a sudden flash of anger Yasmar, who is a taller man than myself, made a jump for my throat.
“Then he bent me backward over the steamer rail.
“For a moment he held me in that position, glaring at me like a tiger.
“‘Be a little more temperate in your speech,’ he hissed, ‘or something will happen.’
“‘You’d kill me!’ I gasped, as he withdrew his hands.
“‘Well, something will happen,’ he repeated, threateningly.
“‘Why don’t you kill me?’ I said, with a sneer, ‘then you could have everything your own way.’
“‘Will you be reasonable?’
“‘I am reasonable,’ I replied. ‘You come from the West, Yasmar, and those knockdown-and-drag-out Western methods of yours won’t go in the East.’
“He muttered something under his breath.
“‘I am armed,’ I continued, threateningly, ‘and if you lay a hand on me again it will be at your own peril.’
“‘Don’t give me any cause to lay a hand on you, and you’ll be safe enough.’
“‘When I tell you I think you are trying to swindle my guardian on this Royal Ophir mine deal, I am stating what I believe to be a fact.’
“‘Swindle is a hard term, young man.’
“‘It’s the only term to use—sometimes.’
“‘This is not one of the times. Everything in this transaction is open and above board.’
“‘That is, it seems so.’
“‘It is so.’
“‘I have a feeling in my bones that my guardian is being tricked,’ I said.
“‘Sneer if you like, but it is my sister’s money and mine my guardian is putting into the deal; not yours or his.’
“‘Your guardian is safeguarding your interest in every possible way.’
“‘I don’t care if he is. You’re shrewd enough to pull the wool over his eyes, and I think you’re doing it.’
“‘There’s no possible chance to pull the wool over anybody’s eyes. It’s a straight, legitimate proposition.’
“‘I tell you I have a feeling that it is not.’
“‘You’re a man—don’t be so childish.’
“‘Childish! Is it childish to wish to keep for my sister and myself what money was left to us?’
“‘You’re a weak-kneed fool, Lansing!’
“‘Now you are using strong language,’ I answered, and I shouldn’t be surprised if my voice trembled with anger. ‘I give you fair warning of what I am going to do.’
“‘What are you going to do?’
“‘I’m going to hire the best detective in America to look into this mining proposition and see whether it’s as straight as you say it is.’
“‘You’re going to put a detective on my trail, are you?’ he hissed.
“‘That’s my intention.’
“‘I see your game! You’re going to fake up some sort of evidence to prove me dishonest and queer this mining deal!’
“‘If you are honest you have nothing to fear. If dishonest, you’ll be unmasked and a million will be saved to these New York and Boston investors.’
“‘Who are you going to hire?’
“‘Nicholas Carter, if I can get him.’
“‘Carter!’ When I spoke your name, Mr. Carter, it leaped fiercely from Yasmar’s lips, and was followed by a muffled oath. ‘You’re going to get Nick Carter to dog me about New York?’
“‘If he’ll take the case.’
“‘Then you really think I’m dishonest?’
“‘I think you’re a confidence man, Yasmar; a swindler, a ——’
“Like lightning, his hand, which had been thrust into his pocket and stealthily withdrawn, shot toward my temple.
“The hand was armed with a set of murderous knuckles, and the blow laid me half over the rail, silent and motionless.
“I was as nearly unconscious as I ever want to be, but I still had some feeling left, and I, as I hung there, half over the boat, I can remember Yasmar looking round to see if the coast was clear.
“Quickly he lifted me and pushed me over the rail.”
TO THE CREDIT OF THE CATBOAT
“The moment I struck the cool water it brought all my senses back with a rush.
“I kept myself afloat, and was picked up by two young men in a catboat. These young men were members of a fishing club that had a boathouse on the Sound, and were out for an all-night sail.
“They were close at hand when the steamer passed, and I was hurled into the water.”
“I see. You do not want your uncle to invest your money in the mine, and he is determined to do it.”
“That’s it. Yasmar is a glib talker, and uncle Horace is entirely carried away with him.”
“Could you not get a restraining order from the court and thus prevent your uncle from using the money?”
“Under my mother’s will, Mr. Carter, my guardian has a free hand. I will do Mr. Montgomery the credit of saying that he has gone into the matter in good faith, and he is usually level-headed. In this instance, however, he is playing directly into Yasmar’s hands.”
“It was Monday night when you were picked up by the young men in the catboat. This is Wednesday morning. Where have you been in the meantime?”
“At the boathouse on Long Island, where I gave a fictitious name.”
“You wish to make it appear to Yasmar that you are dead?”
“Yes. I feel that I can fight him better in that way.”
“That’s rather clever in one way, Mr. Lansing. In another way, however, it may be a very foolish move.”
“If you went to your uncle and told him how the villain had attempted your life, you would at once convince him that the Western man was a fraud, and thus prevent the investment in the Royal Ophir.”
“You do not know my uncle, Mr. Carter. He is investigating the mining proposition, and, if he is satisfied with the result of his investigations, the money will be invested.”
“Headstrong, is he?”
“Yes, sir; very much set in his way.”
“How did you happen to be on the same steamer with Yasmar?”
“I was going to Boston to interview some capitalists there, who are also intending to put money into the mine. By chance, he was on the same boat.”
“How is your uncle investigating the Royal Ophir mine?”
“The Boston men sent an expert in whom they have the utmost confidence to Montana to take a sample of ore from the Royal Ophir.
“That sample was not out of the expert’s hands, day or night, from the moment it was taken until, in a sealed bag, it was deposited in a New York bank.
“The Boston men and my uncle, accompanied by the expert, will call for the ore this afternoon, take it to an assayer, and have it assayed.
“On the result of that assay hangs the investment of a round million of dollars.”
“Who is to do the assaying?”
“Cruse & Cupell, near Sixth Avenue and Twenty-third Street.”
“Who is the expert?”
“Orlando G. Bates.”
“I know Bates, and he’s as straight as a string. The assayers are all right, too. Will Yasmar be present during the assaying?”
“No; no one but Mr. Bates, my uncle and the Boston men. Will you take the case for me, Mr. Carter?”
“It’s hardly a ‘case,’ Mr. Lansing. You want me to prove to your uncle that the Royal Ophir mine has been ‘salted,’ as the saying is.”
“That’s it. I’m sure the mine has been ‘salted,’ and I’m also sure that neither the expert nor my uncle nor the Boston men are clever enough to discover it. You are the only one who can do that, Mr. Carter.”
The detective smiled at the young man’s confidence.
Before he could answer Lansing’s question, another rap fell on the door, and the servant handed in a card bearing the following name:
A FAMILIAR FACE
“Bring him up,” said Nick, to the servant.
When the servant had gone, the detective opened the door of an adjoining apartment.
“You will have to step in here for a few minutes, Mr. Lansing,” said he. “Your man Yasmar has come to see me.”
“Yasmar!” exclaimed Lansing.
“Yes. Step in, quick. Be quiet, and do not come back until I open the door.”
“But what can he want?” murmured the astounded youth, passing into the other room.
“I shall find out very soon.”
Nick closed the door, and was seated at his desk, writing, when his second caller entered the study.
Nick dropped his pen, whirled around in his chair, and got up.
He saw before him a man of forty, or thereabouts, tall, muscular, smooth shaven and wearing a long frock coat, dark trousers, patent leather shoes and a flowing necktie.
In his left hand he held a black “slouch” hat. His right hand was extended and an amiable smile wreathed his face.
Nick took the extended hand, and was surprised to find the palm hard, as though roughened with manual labor.
For a “promoter,” dressed as this man was, the fact might have been significant.
“What can I do for you, Mr. Yasmar?” asked Nick, when they were both seated.
“I have a case, and there is no one in the city, except yourself, whom I desire to handle it.”
“Excuse me a moment while I finish this letter, and then I will give you my attention.”
Yasmar nodded, picked up the paper Nick had recently laid down, and the detective touched a bell.
“Send Patsy to me,” he said to the servant.
He scribbled away for a few seconds, folded the sheet and put it in an envelope, sealed the envelope and wrote the following:
“Look at this man well. He may be Ramsay, but I’m not sure. Shadow him.”
Patsy stood beside the desk when Nick faced around, the letter in his hand.
“Here’s a letter, Patsy, which I wish you to deliver immediately. You know the party, I think?”
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