The Second Nick Carter MEGAPACK® - Nicholas Carter - E-Book

The Second Nick Carter MEGAPACK® E-Book

Nicholas Carter

0,0
0,99 €

Beschreibung

This volume of the best-selling MEGAPACK series presents 5 classic Nick Carter stories. Included are:


The Man Without a Conscience
The Crime of the French Café
Nick Carter's Ghost Story
The Mystery of St. Agnes Hospital
Snarled Identities
A Broken Bond


If you enjoy this ebook, check out the more than 400 more titles in the MEGAPADCK® series, showcasing huge collections of science fiction, mystery, adventure, ghost stories—and much, much more. Search your favorite ebook stores for "Wildside Press MEGAPACK" to see all the available titles.

Sie lesen das E-Book in den Legimi-Apps auf:

Android
iOS
von Legimi
zertifizierten E-Readern

Seitenzahl: 1018

Bewertungen
0,0
0
0
0
0
0



Table of Contents

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION

A NOTE FROM THE PUBLISHER

THE MAN WITHOUT A CONSCIENCE

CHAPTER I.

CHAPTER II.

CHAPTER III.

CHAPTER IV.

CHAPTER V.

CHAPTER VI.

CHAPTER VII.

CHAPTER VIII.

CHAPTER IX.

CHAPTER X.

CHAPTER XI.

CHAPTER XII.

CHAPTER XIII.

CHAPTER XIV.

CHAPTER XV.

CHAPTER XVI.

CHAPTER XVII.

CHAPTER XVIII.

CHAPTER XIX.

THE CRIME OF THE FRENCH CAFE

CHAPTER I.

CHAPTER II.

CHAPTER III.

CHAPTER IV.

CHAPTER V.

CHAPTER VI.

CHAPTER VII.

CHAPTER VIII.

CHAPTER IX.

CHAPTER X.

NICK CARTER’S GHOST STORY

CHAPTER I.

CHAPTER II.

CHAPTER III.

CHAPTER IV.

CHAPTER V.

CHAPTER VI.

CHAPTER VII.

CHAPTER VIII.

CHAPTER IX.

CHAPTER X.

THE MYSTERY OF ST. AGNES’ HOSPITAL

CHAPTER I.

CHAPTER II.

CHAPTER III.

CHAPTER IV.

CHAPTER V.

CHAPTER VI.

CHAPTER VII.

CHAPTER VIII.

CHAPTER IX.

CHAPTER X.

SNARLED IDENTITIES

CHAPTER I.

CHAPTER II.

CHAPTER III.

CHAPTER IV.

CHAPTER V.

CHAPTER VI.

CHAPTER VII.

CHAPTER VIII.

CHAPTER IX.

CHAPTER X.

CHAPTER XI.

CHAPTER XII.

CHAPTER XIII.

CHAPTER XIV.

CHAPTER XV.

CHAPTER XVI.

CHAPTER XVII.

CHAPTER XVIII.

CHAPTER XIX.

CHAPTER XX.

CHAPTER XXI.

CHAPTER XXII.

CHAPTER XXIII.

CHAPTER XXIV.

CHAPTER XXV.

CHAPTER XXVI.

CHAPTER XXVII.

CHAPTER XXVIII.

CHAPTER XXIX.

CHAPTER XXX.

CHAPTER XXXI.

CHAPTER XXXII.

CHAPTER XXXIII.

CHAPTER XXXIV.

CHAPTER XXXV.

CHAPTER XXXVI.

CHAPTER XXXVII.

CHAPTER XXXVIII.

CHAPTER XXXIX.

CHAPTER XL.

CHAPTER XLI.

CHAPTER XLII.

CHAPTER XLIII.

CHAPTER XLIV.

CHAPTER XLV.

CHAPTER XLVI.

CHAPTER XLVII.

CHAPTER XLVIII.

A BROKEN BOND

CHAPTER I.

CHAPTER II.

CHAPTER III.

CHAPTER IV.

CHAPTER V.

CHAPTER VI.

CHAPTER VII.

CHAPTER VIII.

CHAPTER IX.

CHAPTER X.

CHAPTER XI.

CHAPTER XII.

CHAPTER XIII.

CHAPTER XIV.

CHAPTER XV.

CHAPTER XVI.

CHAPTER XVII.

CHAPTER XVIII.

CHAPTER XIX.

CHAPTER XX.

CHAPTER XXI.

CHAPTER XXII.

CHAPTER XXIII.

CHAPTER XXIV.

CHAPTER XXV.

CHAPTER XXVI.

CHAPTER XXVII.

CHAPTER XXVIII.

CHAPTER XXIX.

CHAPTER XXX.

CHAPTER XXXI.

CHAPTER XXXII.

CHAPTER XXXIII.

CHAPTER XXXIV.

CHAPTER XXXV.

CHAPTER XXXVI.

CHAPTER XXXVII.

CHAPTER XXXVIII.

CHAPTER XXXIX.

CHAPTER XL.

CHAPTER XLI.

CHAPTER XLII.

CHAPTER XLIII.

CHAPTER XLIV.

CHAPTER XLV.

CHAPTER XLVI.

Wildside Press’s MEGAPACK® Ebook Series

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION

The Second Nick Carter MEGAPACK® is copyright © 2021 by Wildside Press.

All rights reserved.

Published by Wildside Press LLC

wildsidepress.com | bcmystery.com

* * * *

The MEGAPACK® ebook series name is a trademark of Wildside Press, LLC.

All rights reserved.

A NOTE FROM THE PUBLISHER

Nick Carter is a fictional character that 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.

The novels collected in this MEGAPACK® originally appeared between 1893 and 1917.

Enjoy!

—John Betancourt

Publisher, Wildside Press LLC

wildsidepress.com | bcmystery.com

ABOUT THE SERIES

Over the last few years, our MEGAPACK® ebook series has grown to be our most popular endeavor. (Maybe it helps that we sometimes offer them as premiums to our mailing list!) One question we keep getting asked is, “Who’s the editor?”

The MEGAPACK® ebook series (except where specifically credited) are a group effort. Everyone at Wildside works on them. This includes John Betancourt (me), Carla Coupe, Steve Coupe, Shawn Garrett, Helen McGee, Bonner Menking, Sam Cooper, Helen McGee and many of Wildside’s authors…who often suggest stories to include (and not just their own!)

RECOMMEND A FAVORITE STORY?

Do you know a great classic science fiction story, or have a favorite author whom you believe is perfect for the MEGAPACK® ebook series? We’d love your suggestions! You can email the publisher at [email protected]

Note: we only consider stories that have already been professionally published. This is not a market for new works.

TYPOS

Unfortunately, as hard as we try, a few typos do slip through. We update our ebooks periodically, so make sure you have the current version (or download a fresh copy if it’s been sitting in your ebook reader for months.) It may have already been updated.

If you spot a new typo, please let us know. We’ll fix it for everyone. You can email the publisher at [email protected]

THE MAN WITHOUT A CONSCIENCE

Or, from Rogue to Convict

Originally published in 1906

CHAPTER I.

AN INQUISITIVE CLERK.

“Bureau of Secret Investigation.”

Nick Carter glanced at the above sign over the door, an unpretentious and somewhat faded reminder of better days, while he descended the flight of stone steps leading into the basement offices of the Boston police department.

The sunlight lay warm and bright in Pemberton Square at ten o’clock that May morning, shedding over the magnificent new court-house a golden glory consistent, no doubt, with the wise dispensation of justice, yet in monstrous anomaly with some of the dreadful experiences and grim episodes sometimes enacted within those splendid sunlit walls.

Nick turned to the right in the main corridor and entered the adjoining office, quite a commodious room, in which the general business of this secret service branch of the local police department was conducted.

The enclosure back of the chief clerk’s high desk, which also was topped with a brass grating, happened to be vacant when Nick entered. In one corner of the room, however, a subordinate clerk was busily engaged in attempting to repair a slight leak in the faucet of the ice-water vessel, and to this young man the famous New York detective addressed himself.

“Has the chief been in this morning?” he asked.

The clerk bobbed up from his work as if startled, drying his hands with his handkerchief, and stared sharply at Nick for several moments. But he saw nothing familiar in the stranger’s grave, clean-cut features.

For all that this clerk knew, or surmised, Nick might have been an ordinary or very humble citizen, who had quietly dropped in there for want of something better to do.

“Chief Weston?” he returned inquiringly, still sharply scrutinizing Nick.

“There is no other chief in this department, is there?” was Nick’s reply, with a subtle tinge of irony.

“Well—no.”

“Chief Weston, yes,” bowed Nick. “Is he in his office?”

“I believe so.”

“Busy?”

“I reckon he is, just now.”

“Reckon, eh? Don’t you know?”

“Yes, sir, he’s busy,” the clerk now said, a bit curtly, flushing slightly under the detective’s keen eye and quietly persistent inquiries.

“He’s not too busy to see me, I think,” replied Nick, with dry assurance. “Go in and tell him I’m here.”

“Who are you?”

“Never mind who I am.”

“I’ll take in your card.”

“No card,” said Nick tersely.

“Your name, then?”

“Nor any name.”

“But—”

“Merely tell the chief that his friend from New York is here.”

The expression in the eyes of the irritated clerk lost none of its searching interest, yet they now took on a rather different light, as if he had been suddenly hit with an idea. Yet he still frowned slightly and said:

“If you object to having your name mentioned—”

“I do object, young man,” Nick now interrupted, with ominously quiet determination. “Your chief may possibly have persons in his office before whom I do not care to have my name announced. Now, you go to him and deliver my message just as I gave it to you, neither more nor less, or you’ll very suddenly hear something drop—providing you still retain your senses.”

Now the clerk laughed, as if amused by the cool terms of the quiet threat, and then he turned quickly and vanished into a short passageway between the outer room and Chief Weston’s private office.

Nick gazed after him with a rather quizzical stare—a slender chap of about twenty-five, with reddish hair, thin features, a sallow complexion thickly dotted with freckles, and a countenance lighted by a pair of narrow gray eyes, that greenish-gray sometimes seen in the eyes of a cat.

“I wonder what use they have for him around here?” Nick said to himself, while waiting. “If I were chief in this joint, it’s long odds that that red-headed monkey would get his walking-ticket in short order.”

The subject of these uncomplimentary cogitations returned in less than a minute.

“You are to walk right in, sir—this way,” he glibly announced, with much more deference.

At the same time he opened the way for Nick to pass into the enclosure, and through the passage mentioned.

“Thank you,” said Nick, with half a growl.

“Don’t mention it,” grinned the clerk. “Straight ahead, sir. Chief Weston is at his desk.”

Nick heard, meantime, the tramp of men through a corridor adjoining the opposite side of the outer office, and he knew that Chief Weston had immediately dismissed them, to receive him in private.

“So, so; the business is important,” he rightly conjectured.

The door closed behind Nick of itself, but the snap of the catch-lock hung fire until after the hearty voice of the Boston chief of detectives, as he arose and gripped Nick by the hand, had sounded through the room.

“How are you, Nick?” he cried cordially. “I’m a thousand times more than glad to see you, Carter, on my word.”

“Same to you, Weston,” laughed Nick. “Some time has passed since we met.”

“Too long a time, eh?”

“That’s right, too.”

“Have a chair.”

Now the catch-lock snapped lightly.

A finger between the door and the jamb had been withdrawn.

A reddish head drew away from the panel, a pair of ears ceased their strained attention, a light step retreated through the passage, and two narrow gray eyes like those of a cat indicated that their owner had now satisfied his inquisitive yearning, and learned the name of the visitor who so peremptorily had issued his commands.

As Nick accepted a chair near that taken by Weston at his desk, he carelessly jerked his thumb toward the door by which he had entered.

“Where’d you get him, Weston?” he asked dryly.

“Get whom?” queried the chief, with inquiring eyes.

“The clerk.”

“Hyde—the one who announced you?”

“The same.”

“Oh, he’s been at work on the books out there for about a year. He’s only an assistant clerk.”

“Ah, I see.”

“Why did you ask?”

“For no reason.”

“Nonsense! You must have had some reason, Nick.”

“None of consequence,” smiled Nick. “I asked about him, in fact, only because I had to fairly drive him in here when I declined to send in a card or mention my name.”

Chief Weston threw back his head and laughed.

“That’s easily explained,” said he, still chuckling. “I growl at him roundly at regular intervals, Nick, for annoying me with visitors whom I neither know nor wish to see. I am getting him by degrees, however, so that he requires the whole pedigree of a caller before announcing him, which is about as bad a fault, I imagine. Sandy is all right, though, in his own peculiar way.”

“Sandy, eh? That’s a nickname, I take it, because of his red hair?”

“No, not exactly. His name is Sanderson Hyde.”

“Ah, just so.”

“I took him in to oblige a journalist friend,” added Weston, smiling. “It’s always well to stand ace-high with the press, you know.”

“That’s right, too,” nodded Nick, now willing to digress. “You sent for me to come over here from New York, Weston. What do you want of me?”

“You got my wire?”

“Certainly.”

“Did Chick come with you?”

“No,” replied Nick, at this reference to his chief assistant. “I came over alone.”

“Are you busy in New York just now?”

“I’m always busy, Weston.”

“Too busy to undertake a little work for me?”

“Where?”

“In and about Boston.”

“What’s the nature of it?”

“There is nothing in giving you all of the details, Nick, unless you are in a position to accept an offer and help me out,” Chief Weston gravely rejoined. “First of all, Nick, may I count on you?”

The brows of the celebrated New York detective knit a little closer over his keen gray eyes. He drew up a bit in his chair, remarking gravely:

“Your business is important, Weston, or you would not have sent for me.”

“Very important.”

“A serious matter?”

“Decidedly.”

“Have your own men tackled it?”

“Yes, the very best of them.”

“With no results?”

“None but absolute failure.”

“Are they now at work on the case?”

“Some of them.”

“And you wish me to take a hand in the work?”

“I certainly do.”

“If I consent to do so, Weston, I shall impose one condition,” said Nick decidedly.

“I expect it.”

“You do?”

“Certainly,” nodded the chief. “Am I not familiar with your methods? You will require me to order all of my men off the case and give it entirely to you.”

“That’s the condition,” said Nick bluntly.

“I will accept it.”

“And leave the matter to me alone?”

“Precisely. In no way whatever shall you be interfered with.”

“Very good.”

“You will undertake the work for me?”

“I will hear of what it consists,” replied Nick, with his curiosity stirred. “If it is all that your remarks imply—well, Weston, you may then count on me to give it an argument.”

“Capital.”

“Now, cut loose and give me the facts of the case.”

Chief Weston opened a drawer of his desk and took out a batch of papers and documents, among which was a neatly mounted photograph about five inches square, such as may be taken with a small portable camera, or a kodak.

While he placed the papers on his desk, he handed the photograph to Nick Carter, saying impressively:

“First examine this, Nick, and tell me what you make of it.”

CHAPTER II.

MODERN HIGHWAYMEN.

While the Boston chief sat silently regarding him, Nick Carter studied the photograph attentively for several moments.

“H’m!” he presently grunted. “The picture is quite plain. Two automobiles appear to have met in a lonely woodland road.”

“Precisely.”

“Only part of one of them is visible in the picture,” continued Nick, commenting upon the various details. “The picture was evidently taken by an occupant of one of the cars.”

“Correct.”

“In the road near the other machine stands a very tall woman, closely veiled, who is pointing a revolver, evidently at the occupants of the other car.”

“Exactly.”

“They are not visible in the picture, however, except the extended hand of one of them, obviously the hand of a woman. She is passing a purse, two watches, and what appears to be several pieces of jewelry, to a masked man, who is standing near the woman holding the leveled revolver.”

“Those are the main features of the picture, Nick,” nodded Weston. “Now, what do you make of it?”

Nick glanced up and replied:

“It looks to me like a hold-up.”

“That’s just what it was.”

“When and where?”

“Near the Brookline suburb, about a week ago.”

“Is this the case on which you wish to employ me?”

“One of them.”

“There are others?”

“Fifty, Nick, within the past two months.”

“Whew!” whistled Nick, with brows lifting. “I have read in the newspapers that you have had numerous highway robberies about here, but I did not imagine them to be so frequent as you state.”

“Because only a small part of them have been given publicity,” replied Weston. “I have suppressed many, Nick, in the hope of thereby getting some traceable clue to the crooks.”

“Yet you are all still in the dark?”

“Never more so, Nick,” was the grave rejoinder. “In the past two months there have been, as I have stated, upward of fifty of these highway robberies.”

“Early and often, eh?”

“Decidedly so. These hold-ups have been committed, moreover, with a boldness and daring that invests them with a peculiarly mysterious character. Whether they are the work of two or three professional crooks, or that of a larger organized gang of them, is hard to say. At all events, Nick, we have been absolutely unable to get any traceable clue to the identity, haunts, or headquarters of the rascals.”

“Have two of these hold-ups ever been committed at precisely the same time?”

“Not that have been reported.”

“If that had occurred,” explained Nick, “it would indicate that a considerable gang is at work.”

“Two hold-ups in one evening is the nearest approach to it,” said Weston.

“In the same locality?”

“Within a mile of one another.”

“Were the crooks in an automobile?”

“Yes, in both cases.”

“Then both jobs may have been done by the same persons.”

“I feel quite sure of that, Nick, for the same description of the thieves and their automobile was given me by the victims of both outrages.”

“Do these crooks always work from an automobile?”

“In the majority of the cases reported,” bowed Weston. “Yet at times they have appeared on horseback, and on several occasions afoot. The work, Nick, is that of two or more men and a woman, as nearly as I can judge, and all of them are possessed of extraordinary nerve, boldness, and sagacity. They have committed these crimes at all hours of the day and night, frequently in quite public places, yet they have thus far completely evaded detection and pursuit. They invariably do their rascally job with a decisiveness and despatch that completely awe their victims, who are usually so alarmed—”

“Stop a moment,” said Nick quite abruptly. “I’d like to ask you a few questions, Weston.”

“Very well.”

“If I decide to look into this case, I shall then have some few points already settled, and will need to waste no time in seeking the information myself.”

“Exactly,” nodded the chief. “What do you wish to know?”

“First, about the crooks themselves,” said Nick. “What have you in the way of descriptions of them?”

Chief Weston laughed.

“A variety, Nick, to fit any type of man except a humpback or one dismembered,” he replied.

“The descriptions vary, eh?”

“I should say so.”

“Possibly the robbers use a different disguise for each job.”

“Very likely.”

“Or, as nearly always is the case,” said Nick, “the victims of the robbers were so frightened or excited at the time that they retain only vague and exaggerated impressions of their assailants.”

“Precisely.”

“To illustrate that,” added Nick, “I know of a case of a noted prize-fighter, who was held up and robbed of his watch and money in broad daylight, and within fifty yards of Central Park. He declared that the thief was six feet tall, weighed one hundred and eighty pounds, and was backed by two confederates, whom he could not quite recall. We got the crook next day.”

“Yes?”

“He was under five feet, weighed one hundred and thirty pounds, and did the job entirely alone.”

“Quite a difference!” exclaimed Weston, laughing heartily.

“Rather,” smiled Nick. “As a matter of fact, the prize-fighter was so scared when he saw a revolver thrust under his nose that the crook loomed as big as a house. Probably thinking that such a job would not be attempted single-handed, he afterward got it into his head that he saw the two confederates, and was so thoroughly convinced of the imaginary fact that he really believed it. I could cite numerous similar cases.”

“So could I, Nick.”

“Descriptions are not at all reliable, as you imply, yet they sometimes help one a little.”

“That’s true.”

“In a general way, then, you think there are at least two men and one woman in this gang?”

“The cases reported convince me of that,” bowed Weston. “That picture shows the woman, moreover, though two men are mentioned in the majority of robberies reported.”

“Are the men always masked?”

“No, not always. The woman is invariably veiled, however, and the descriptions of the men indicate a frequent change of disguise.”

“That is to be expected,” said Nick. “Now, about the automobile used by the knaves. Have any attempts been made to follow it or to trace it?”

“Repeated attempts, Nick, all of which have proved futile.”

“Has none of the victims been able to report its registered number?”

“We have had a dozen different numbers reported,” replied Chief Weston; “but investigation showed that all of them were fictitious.”

“Yet the crooks might be located, chief, if the make of the automobile were known,” suggested Nick. “That should have been easily learned by some of these people.”

Chief Weston shook his head.

“That would be true, Nick, providing the scamps always used the same machine,” said he. “Half a score of different automobiles have been reported as having been used by these knaves at the time of the numerous hold-ups.”

“H’m!” grunted Nick, with a shrug of his broad shoulders. “Evidently, then, these crooks have considerable money invested in their rascally enterprise.”

“It certainly appears so.”

“How about the horses ridden by them?” Nick next inquired. “Can the owner of none of them be discovered?”

“In the few cases in which persons have been held up by a horseman,” replied Weston, “the highwayman has usually been alone. According to the description given, moreover, he has as many horses as automobiles, for he has appeared on grays, bays, blacks, and sorrels.”

Nick laughed at the glibness with which the last was said.

“It seems a bit odd to me, Weston, that none of your men have been able to get on the track of these desperadoes,” he presently rejoined. “It is not often that a gang of highwaymen can long escape detection and arrest, when at work in and about a city like Boston.”

“They are not ordinary knaves, Nick,” emphatically declared Chief Weston. “If they were, we should have landed them long ago.”

“Where do these robberies usually occur?”

“Generally in some lonely part of a suburban road, though several have taken place in the evening, right in the heart of Brookline, Cambridge, and Newton,” replied Weston. “It is evident that the crooks select their victims from the more wealthy suburbs, presumably with a view to obtaining the more plunder.”

“How do they usually proceed?”

“In various ways, Nick, according to my reports. At times they block the road with their car and hold up the first automobile-party that appears, which, of course, is obliged to stop. Having relieved the travelers of their property, the crooks then forced them to turn their machine about, under the muzzles of leveled revolvers, and depart at full speed. If the frightened victims return in a few moments, as once or twice has been the case, they reach the scene, only to find that the knaves have fled.”

“Naturally,” said Nick smilingly.

“They have adopted, in fact, innumerable methods for holding up an automobile-party,” added Weston, “and they invariably intimidate their quarry and get away with the goods.”

“Of what does their plunder usually consist?” inquired Nick.

“Money and jewelry. They take all that their victims have, and the most of them give up readily rather than take any chances of being shot in cold blood.”

“Have you been able to locate any of the stolen property in the pawn-shops?”

“Not a piece of it.”

“Judging from your reports, Weston, what is the value of the property thus far secured by these highwaymen?”

“Thousands of dollars, Nick. Close upon fifty thousand, at least.”

“Have there been house burglaries about here of late?”

“Very few.”

“It looks, then, as if these knaves were confining themselves to this road work.”

“I think so,” bowed Weston.

Nick glanced again at the photograph, which he still retained in his hand.

“This was one of these hold-ups, was it?” said he.

“Yes.”

“It occurred in Brookline?”

“In a lonely road leading into Brookline,” replied Weston. “The victims were Brookline people, and were robbed of some five hundred dollars’ worth of diamonds and jewelry, including what money they had with them. The victims were two ladies, taking an afternoon ride in a Stanley machine.”

“Did they have a chauffeur?”

“No.”

“How was that?”

“One of the women, Mrs. Badger, is an expert driver, and frequently rides without a chauffeur.”

Nick glanced again at the photograph—little dreaming at that moment, however, how important a clue he then held in his hand.

CHAPTER III.

NICK CARTER HELD UP.

Despite that he then attached no special significance to the photograph, the fact that Nick Carter was of a peculiarly impressionable nature, and that any unusual circumstance quickly stirred his rare detective instinct, appeared in his next question and the abruptness with which it was asked.

“How did it happen, Weston, that this picture of the scene was taken during the robbery?”

“I’ll tell you,” replied the Boston chief.

“One moment,” interposed Nick. “First, tell me something about the victims of the robbery.”

“The Mrs. Badger mentioned,” replied Weston, “is the wife of one Amos G. Badger, a wealthy Boston stock-broker. He owns a fine old place on one of the most desirable outskirts of Brookline, inherited from his father some years ago, and the couple move in the most exclusive circles of the local fashionable society. Badger’s place is on Laurel Road, and covers several acres.”

“Go on,” nodded Nick; “I follow you.”

“Mrs. Badger’s companion that afternoon was her sister,” continued Weston, “a woman locally famous under the name of Madame Victoria.”

“Famous for what?” inquired Nick.

“Well, she claims to be an astrologer, a spiritual medium, and a sort of fortune-teller, I believe,” explained Chief Weston.

“H’m!”

“At all events, Nick, she does a tremendous business, and has a magnificent suite in an office building on Tremont Street, directly opposite the Common. No end of wealthy and fashionable people consult her, either for advice in business or love-affairs—or to get messages alleged to come from dead friends,” added Weston, laughing a bit derisively.

“I don’t take any stock in that stuff,” said Nick bluntly.

“Nor do I, Nick,” was the reply. “Yet the woman is certainly a character, and, if reports are true, has made very many remarkable predictions, and displays a most mysterious faculty for communicating with the unseen world.”

“Bosh!”

“Like you, Nick, I have no faith in any of that rot!” laughed Weston. “Yet I know half a dozen brokers who consult her regularly as to the course of the stock-market, as well as many other business men, all of whom claim to derive great advantages thereby. Her rooms are always occupied by some patron, either male or female, and her fees are very high. So there may be a little more in it, Nick, than you imagine.”

Nick shook his head incredulously.

“Come back to Hecuba,” he growled. “You say that this woman is sister to Badger’s wife?”

“Yes.”

“What is her right name?”

“Victoria Clayton.”

“A euphonious name, at least.”

“Badger’s wife was a Claudia Clayton, and at one time was on the stage,” continued Weston. “She, too, is a remarkably clever and capable woman, an accomplished linguist, a votary of physical culture, an expert tennis and golf-player, and one of the best cross-country riders among the cultured sporting set who lean to such pastimes. Both women, in fact, are over the average, and out of the ordinary.”

“Did Badger marry his wife from the stage?”

“I think not, Nick. She had retired some time before. They have been married about five years, I believe.”

“Come back to the picture,” said Nick. “It must have been taken just as the hold-up occurred.”

“Yes, it was.”

“Were the crooks aware of it?”

“No, indeed.”

“How was the trick pulled off?” demanded Nick curiously. “It’s not often that such a clever dodge is played upon professional crooks.”

“The woman who did it is clever, just as I tell you.”

“Tell me how it happened.”

“I will give you the facts as they were given to me.”

“By whom?”

“By Amos Badger and his wife,” replied Chief Weston. “He notified me by telephone of the robbery, and called here with his wife the next morning to report the details of the hold-up. Two days later, as soon as it could be finished and mounted, Badger brought me the photograph.”

“What about the hold-up?”

“It was committed about a week ago, at three o’clock in the afternoon,” said Weston. “Mrs. Badger and her sister, Madame Victoria, were returning from Canton to Brookline. When in a lonely section of a road that leads through a considerable belt of woods, they rounded a sharp curve and came suddenly upon a large automobile standing at an angle across the road. A man appeared to be fixing some break in the works, and was crouching beside it, while a woman stood near-by in the road, apparently watching him.”

“Were they the only occupants of that car?”

“Yes, as the picture indicates. They were, too, the only persons in sight in either direction.”

“The machine appears to be a Winton.”

“That’s what it was, Nick, for Mrs. Badger noticed it.”

“Go on,” nodded Nick. “What more?”

“Naturally Mrs. Badger slowed down, nearly stopping, for the road was almost completely blocked by the other car,” continued Weston. “Then the veiled woman seen in the picture suddenly stepped forward, leveled a revolver, and commanded Mrs. Badger not to start her auto without permission.”

“H’m!” exclaimed Nick. “That was bold, indeed.”

“At the same moment the man, who was seen to be masked, sprang up and approached the two startled women, and commanded them to hand over their jewelry and money, and to be very lively about it.”

“Which they did?”

“Yes, Nick, for the women naturally were much alarmed. Both hastened to obey, though Madame Victoria did, I believe, undertake to make some argument or protest. She was cut short, however, with a threat that quickly silenced her.”

“I see.”

“She had on the seat of the car, however, a small camera, which she frequently carries, one of her fads being that of securing pretty views, of which she has several large volumes. Looking down, she observed it, and had the presence of mind to conceal it with her hand, at the same time snapping it and luckily catching the picture you have there. I told her it was a clever piece of work, Nick, yet it is much to be regretted that the faces of the crooks were covered. Otherwise, we should possess a clue well worth having.”

“I believe your story,” assented Nick.

“The crooks, having secured their plunder, ordered the women to drive on, which they were very willing to do,” concluded Weston. “They were too frightened to venture back in pursuit of the rascals, but hurried home, to notify me by telephone.”

For some moments Nick had worn a decidedly thoughtful expression, as if he already had some project in his mind. Before the chief had fairly ceased speaking, moreover, Nick said bluntly:

“I’d like to talk with Mrs. Badger.”

“By telephone?” inquired Weston, wondering at the wish.

“No, personally.”

“You may easily do so by going out to Brookline.”

“I’ll go!” exclaimed Nick, abruptly rising. “I suppose I may keep this photograph for a short time?”

“Certainly.”

“As regards my undertaking to round up the rascals guilty of these robberies—well, I will give you my answer a little later,” Nick went on to say, as he opened the door by which he had entered. “I have no doubt, old friend, that it will be a favorable answer.”

“I hope so, Nick, I’m sure,” declared Weston, as he followed the former into the outer office, where Nick briefly halted.

Sanderson Hyde, perched upon a stool in the enclosure, appeared busy over his books, not so much as looking up at the intruders.

“Are you going out at once?” inquired Weston.

“Yes,” replied Nick, slipping the photograph into his pocket. “There are a few questions I wish to ask Mrs. Amos Badger. If I can find a public automobile, Weston, I think I will go out there in it. It’s the quickest conveyance, and this is a fine morning for a ride.”

“You’ll find what you want at the corner below,” replied Weston. “The machine is all right, and so is the man. Grady is his name. Mention mine, Nick, and there’ll be no charges.”

“Oh, I’ll see that Grady gets his fee, all right,” laughed Nick, as he turned to leave the office. “I’ll see you later, Weston, probably early this afternoon.”

“Do so,” nodded the latter.

Then he turned to the busy clerk and added, a bit sharply:

“What did you say to that man, Hyde, when he came in here this morning?”

Young Sanderson Hyde looked up with raised brows.

“Nothing of consequence, chief,” he respectfully answered. “Only a few words about sending in his card.”

“Do you know the man?”

“No, sir. I don’t recall ever having seen him.”

“Well, the next time you see him take a good look at him, for that man is Nick Carter, the greatest detective that ever stood in leather.”

“The dickens!” gasped Hyde, with manifest astonishment. “You don’t mean it, chief! Not Nick Carter himself?”

“I always say what I mean,” growled Weston. “Hereafter, show him into my office without delay.”

The catlike eyes followed the burly figure of the speaker as he returned through the passage, and presently the snap of the catch-lock sounded through the office.

Then Mr. Hyde laid down his pen and came out of the enclosure. His tread was more light and cautious than ordinary business should have required. He glanced sharply into both of the adjoining corridors, listened intently for a moment, then darted into a telephone-closet near-by and tightly closed the door.

Nick Carter found Grady on the corner mentioned, a shrewd-looking young Irishman, seated in an excellent runabout, reading the morning newspaper.

“Do you know Laurel Road, Brookline, Mr. Grady?” asked Nick, halting beside the machine.

“I know pretty near where it is, sir,” said Grady, alert for business. “I can find it for you, all right.”

“Take me out there,” said Nick, mounting to the seat. “To the house of Mr. Amos Badger.”

“The broker, sir,” nodded Grady. “I know the man, sir. I’ll land you out there in thirty minutes, sir, or less, if you say the word.”

“I’m in no special hurry,” said Nick. “Keep down to the speed limit.”

He did not tell Grady his name, nor that he came from the police headquarters. Neither did he enter into much conversation with the man, for Nick was absorbed in thought about the disclosures made him, and the various possibilities of the work he was invited to undertake.

Grady, on his part, was not quite as good as his word. He ran a mile or two out of the direct course to Laurel Road, and then he had to round the great Chestnut Hill reservoir in order to hit the right track.

There are numerous wooded roads on the outskirts of fashionable Brookline, along which the attractive dwellings are much scattered, or divided by extensive estates; and through one of these roads Grady was sending his machine at a faster clip, to make up for lost time.

Suddenly, from out a little piece of woods some fifty yards away, a drunken fellow came staggering into the road, much as if he had just awakened from a nap in the shrubbery; and Nick Carter, being the first to see him, said quickly to his driver:

“Look out for that chap, Grady.”

“I see him, sir,” nodded Grady.

“He has a load aboard.”

“I should say so.”

The intoxicated man now heard the automobile approaching him from behind. He turned around, halting unsteadily in the middle of the road, where he stood swaying and staring as if too fuddled to know which side of the road to seek to avoid being run over.

Grady naturally slowed down when scarcely twenty feet from the fellow.

“Get out of the road!” he impatiently yelled. “Take one side or the other, blast you!”

The auto had come to a dead stop.

The man in the road reeled a little to one side—and a little nearer.

Then, with movements as quick and decisive as a lightning stroke, he sprang forward, whipped out a brace of revolvers, leveled them straight at the heads of the two men in the auto, and sharply cried:

“Hands up! If you start that machine, driver, I’ll blow your head off!”

The voice was as firm and cold as ice, yet it had a ring as threatening as when blades of steel cross in deadly combat.

Nick Carter fairly caught his breath.

“Held up, by thunder!” was his first thought.

CHAPTER IV.

THE ESCAPE.

How to get the best of the highwayman was Nick Carter’s second thought.

This did not look to be easy, yet Nick’s hand instinctively went toward his hip pocket.

“Stop! Hands up!”

The reiterated command fairly cut the air with its threatening intensity.

Grady’s hands were already reaching after clouds.

Nick Carter’s now followed suit, and went into the air.

In the voice, eyes, and attitude of the ruffian in the road, there was that which convinced Nick that disobedience and defiance would certainly invite a bullet.

He saw, moreover, that the aim of the scoundrel was true to the mark, and that the finger on the trigger of the weapon covering his own breast was already beginning to contract, during the moment that he showed signs of giving fight.

“If one of you move before I command it,” said the highwayman, “I will instantly open fire upon you. And I never miss my aim!”

The threat was as calmly made as if the speaker had merely inquired the time of day, yet the voice did not for a moment lose its terribly convincing ring.

Nick seized the opportunity to look him over, and he felt comparatively sure that he was up against the same man that appeared in the Badger photograph.

The fellow was roughly clad at this time, however, with a soft felt hat drawn over his brows.

He was a well-built, athletic man, apparently somewhere in the forties; yet he was as quick as a cat in his movements, and evidently was endowed with supple muscles and nerves of steel.

The rascal was heavily bearded, yet this did not figure for much with Nick Carter. He rightly judged that the man was carefully disguised, yet the make-up was so cleverly prepared and adjusted that Nick, despite his experience in such artifices, could not detect it.

What Nick chiefly noted, in fact, was that the eyes of the man had in them the piercing gleam of deadly resolution, a fixed and vicious determination to execute the desperate deed that he had undertaken. There was no sign of intoxication now, which plainly had been assumed only for the purpose of holding up the travelers.

Though not lacking in courage, Nick Carter had his share of wisdom and discretion. He saw at a glance that he was entirely helpless for the moment, at least, and he had no idea of deliberately inviting a bullet.

Such stirring episodes occur in a very few moments, and not thirty seconds had passed since the hold-up, when the voice of the highwayman again cut sharply upon the morning air.

“Chauffeur, you do what I command, or worse will be yours,” he cried sternly. “Lower one of your hands and remove your employer’s watch.”

Grady hesitated for the bare fraction of a second.

Nick saw the hand clutching one of the weapons begin to contract.

“Obey him, Grady,” said he, with ominous curtness.

“Bedad, I don’t like—”

“One more second, and I’ll—”

“Obey him!” hissed Nick, with suppressed vehemence. “Obey him, you idiot!”

Nick saw at a glance that that one more second would have ended with Grady’s receiving an ounce of lead.

Grady had the true grit and pugnacious characteristics of an Irishman, but he now dropped one hand and removed Nick’s watch and chain.

The highwayman came a step nearer, until he stood barely six feet away in the dusty road.

“Toss them to the ground at my feet,” he commanded, with his evil eye fixed upon the chauffeur.

“Do so, Grady,” said Nick.

Grady obeyed with an ugly scowl, and the watch and chain landed in the dust at the ruffian’s feet.

“Now, your employer’s purse.”

“In the breast pocket of my vest, Grady.”

“Look lively.”

Grady dove into Nick’s vest and drew out his pocketbook.

Nick still sat with his hands in the air, but not for a moment did his eyes leave those of the highwayman.

Though at first inclined to send Grady into his hip pocket after his revolver, Nick realized that the Irishman might not be quick and accurate in using it, and also that the crook was alert to their every move. The hazard was too great to be taken, and Nick decided to submit to the situation for the time being, and watch for an opportunity to turn the tables on the rascal.

Grady drew out the pocketbook, which contained about a hundred dollars and a few unimportant papers.

“Toss it into the road,” commanded the highwayman.

“Let it go, Grady,” said Nick.

“Your employer has more wisdom than you, Grady,” said the crook, with a threatening sneer. “Obey at once, or I’ll let daylight into you.”

Grady tossed the pocketbook after the watch and chain.

“Now, up with your hands again!”

“Bedad, mister, some day the boot’ll be on the other leg,” snarled Grady, as he obeyed.

“It’ll not be to-day, Grady, take my word for that,” retorted the ruffian.

“The day will come, nevertheless,” Nick Carter now said, with ominous quietude.

“Do you think so?”

“I certainly do.”

“Well, I don’t.”

“That is because you do not know who I am,” said Nick pointedly.

“I don’t care who you are.”

“You don’t, eh?”

“I certainly don’t.”

“You will change your mind later.”

The scene was a curious one, the two men in the runabout seated with their hands high above their heads, while the man in the road stood as coolly intimidating them as if not the slightest danger existed for him, either from them or the sudden approach of some intruders upon the scene.

Nick had begun the conversation with the scamp in the hope of catching him napping for an instant, or that some person or another automobile might appear; but neither of them seemed probable, for the woodland road was deserted, and the highwayman did not for a second relax his vigilance or lower his leveled weapons.

With Nick Carter’s last remark, however, the rascal’s eyes took on an uglier gleam, and he evidently decided that he had better not defer making his escape. That he was clever in so doing, and foresaw that his victims might possibly be armed, appeared in the way he accomplished it.

With both men constantly under his eyes, he said sternly:

“The slightest move by either of you will cost him his life. I warn you that I shall instantly fire, not caution you again; so keep that in mind, and be wise.”

Then he slipped one of his revolvers into his coat pocket.

With the other weapon constantly covering his victims, with his gaze never leaving them, he slowly crouched down and groped over the ground till he had secured the plunder lying there, which he also dropped into his pocket.

Then he rose erect again, and drew his other weapon.

Nick was mentally praying for an opportunity to get just one shot at the knave when he resorted to flight.

The flight of the rascal, however, was as original and unexpected as his every other move had been.

“Now, Grady,” said he, with threatening austerity, “you do just what I tell you, neither more nor less.”

“Begorra! it looks as if I’d have to.”

“You bet you will!”

“What is it?”

“You start that machine of yours slowly, and turn it into the shrubbery at that side of the road.”

“How am I going to start it with me hands in the air,” snarled Grady, who had really seen Nick’s desire to delay matters.

The voice of the highwayman again took on that vicious ring which had warned Nick not to oppose him then and there.

“Don’t you speak again, Grady, or this gun will drown the sound of your voice,” he cried quickly. “You start that machine and turn it into the shrubbery—and don’t forget, either of you, that I shall keep you constantly covered. Start her up, Grady, and turn sharp out of the road!”

With the ugliest kind of a scowl, Grady gripped the steering-bar and slowly started the runabout, turning toward the shrubbery that lined the road in that locality.

Just as the Irishman did so, however, there suddenly sounded from up the road the warning toot of an automobile-horn.

“Steady!—not a move!” yelled the robber warningly. “If you drop your hands, mister, I’ll fire!”

Nick could not then see the scoundrel, for he had darted back of the runabout when Grady turned it from the road.

Glancing quickly in the direction from which the horn had sounded, however, Nick now beheld a large touring-car come sweeping around a sharp curve of the road, some thirty yards away.

It was driven by a man with a beard, who was the one occupant of the car, and whose eyes and features were almost entirely masked with a pair of huge dust-glasses.

Nick now thought he could see a favorable finish to this unexpected hold-up, for the touring-car was approaching at a high rate of speed, and the escape of the thief appeared next to impossible.

Yet the latter, while reiterating his threatening commands, only backed a few paces toward the middle of the road.

The man in the approaching car evidently saw what was going on, and he began to slow down.

The rear of the runabout was now toward the road, with the machine half-hidden in the shrubbery.

“Stop her!” whispered Nick, not yet venturing to turn about on the seat. “Stop her at once!”

He did not wish to go too far in from the road.

Grady felt that he was taking his life in his hand—yet he promptly obeyed.

Instantly two sharp reports of a revolver rang out on the morning air.

The reports were followed by others, nearly as loud, occasioned by the bursting of the two rear tires of the runabout.

The highwayman had sent a bullet through each rubber tire, obviously bent upon partly disabling the runabout and thus preventing pursuit.

Then, just as the huge touring-car arrived upon the scene, the daring rascal darted back through the veil of smoke from his weapons and leaped aboard the car.

“Let her go!” he yelled commandingly.

The driver instantly gave her full speed, and the car swept on down the road with the velocity of an express-train.

Already upon his feet in the runabout, Nick Carter whipped out his revolver and fired twice at the occupants of the departing car. His aim was ruined by Grady, however, who excitedly began backing the runabout into the road, and Nick’s bullets went wide of their mark.

In ten seconds the touring-car was vanishing in a cloud of dust around a distant curve of the road.

“Hold on!” roared Grady, thinking Nick was about to alight in the road. “I’ll follow them divils, sir, tires or no tires!”

“Follow nothing!” growled Nick, thrusting his revolver back into his pocket. “You might as well try to follow a streak of lightning.”

“Will you let that blackguard escape?”

“Let him escape!” exclaimed Nick derisively. “I should say, Grady, that he has already escaped. You could not overtake him with this machine if your life depended upon it.”

“Bedad, that’s right, sir,” Grady now admitted, more calmly. “Yet the man in that car may try to do the rascal—”

“Bosh!” interrupted Nick, with a growl. “The driver of that car was the robber’s confederate.”

“D’ye think so?”

“I know so, Grady,” declared Nick, now plainly seeing how the entire job, which had taken less than five minutes, had been planned and executed.

“I suspected as much when the man slowed down only enough to let the crook aboard,” added Nick. “His approach was timed to a nicety. It’s odds that he was watching the hold-up from beyond the curve of the road, and that he knew just when the other wanted him to approach.”

“Bedad, sir, I reckon you’re right.”

“Oh, we have much the worse of it for the present, Grady, and have been held up by two of the gang of crooks now at work in these parts,” added Nick. “But I will yet break even with them, I give you my word for that.”

“Me tires—”

“I will see that you are paid for them,” interrupted Nick, much to Grady’s satisfaction. “Can you run the machine back to town as it is?”

“Sure, sir, I can.”

“Well, I don’t wish to return quite yet.”

“All right, sir.”

“Keep on, Grady, and take me to Badger’s house,” Nick bruskly commanded. “Look lively, too! This does settle it, Grady, as far as I am concerned.”

“What d’ye mean, sir?”

“I mean that I will land this gang of highway robbers, every man and woman of them, or lose a leg in the attempt,” cried Nick, with Chief Weston’s request then in his mind. “That’s what I mean, Grady. Let her go lively, my man, and head straight for Amos Badger’s house.”

CHAPTER V.

THE HOUSE IN LAUREL ROAD.

The direction taken by Nick Carter and Grady to reach Laurel Road and the house of Amos Badger was the same as that in which the highwayman had fled with his confederate in the touring-car.

Nick felt some little chagrin over thus having been successfully held up and robbed, yet this feeling was somewhat assuaged by the fact that he had obtained a good look at the thief, and had a clear impression of his general features.

Nick felt quite sure, despite the rascal’s disguise, that he could identify him if they again met, or, at least, recognize his peculiarly keen eyes and cutting voice.

Though it then gave him no surprise, the distance to Laurel Road from, the scene of the hold-up was less than a quarter of a mile, and then about the same distance to the place owned and occupied by Mr. Amos Badger.

The surroundings were about as stated by Chief Weston.

The road ran through an extreme outskirt of the town, and was for the most part shut in by woods, cleared only here and there for building.

There were but three dwellings on this secluded road, none of which was within view of Badger’s place, which was less modern and much more extensive than the others, as if it had been a family homestead for several generations.

Nick surveyed the place with some interest as he approached it.

The house was a large, wooden mansion, standing fully fifty yards from the road. It had a broad veranda in front and on one side, the latter terminating with a porte-cochère at the side entrance of the house.

A gravel driveway between a double row of elms and beeches led in from the road, passing the front and one side of the house, then leading out to a large stable well to the rear of the dwelling.

In addition to these there were several wooden outbuildings, one of which was a long carriage-house adjoining the stable.

The features mentioned, together with the broad estate covered with garden plots and shade trees, with a background of woods in the near distance, gave the entire place a rural aspect not often seen so near a large and thickly settled town.

As the runabout sped up the long driveway, Nick saw a man cleaning a large automobile just beyond the porte-cochère; but the vehicle bore no resemblance to the one in which the crooks had fled, and the circumstance did not then appeal to him with any special significance.

“Run round to the side entrance, Grady,” said he. “I’ll ask that workman who’s at home.”

Grady nodded, and presently brought the runabout to a stop under the porte-cochère.

Nick quickly sprang down and approached the man at work near-by. Instead of making any inquiry concerning the inmates of the house, however, Nick abruptly demanded:

“Have you seen an automobile pass along Laurel Road, my man?”

My man was one Jerry Conley, chauffeur, hostler, and all-round workman out of doors for Mr. Amos Badger. He was a short, stocky man, of about thirty years, with a head nearly as round as a bullet. His face was smoothly shaven, and was lighted by a pair of as shifty, crafty eyes as ever lighted a human countenance.

They came round with half a leer to meet those of the detective, while the man arose from his work on the car. Wiping his hands on his overalls, he indulged in a series of jerky nods, steadily eying Nick all the while, then deliberately inquired:

“What’s that you say?”

“I asked if you had seen an automobile pass along Laurel Road,” replied Nick, not half-liking the fellow’s looks.

“Aye, I have,” said Conley.

“Which way did it go?”

“Which one d’ye mean?”

“Which one?” echoed Nick, sharply eying the fellow. “I mean one that may have passed within five or ten minutes.”

It was then less than ten minutes since the robbery.

“Oh, if that’s what you mean, mister, I haven’t seen any,” Conley now vouchsafed, with a less steadfast scrutiny of Nick’s countenance.

“You haven’t, eh?”

“Not to-day.”

“Did you think I meant last week?”

“I didn’t think at all, mister,” said Conley, stooping to pick up a bit of cotton waste from the ground. “I only heard what you asked, and that was whether I’d seen an automobile pass along Laurel Road. I’ve seen hundreds of ’em, mister, but none this morning.”

“You should have known that I meant this morning.”

“So I would, mister, if you’d said this morning,” Conley replied, with a leer. “I never know more’n I’m paid for knowing.”

“See here, my man,” said Nick quite sternly. “If the master you serve carries the same cut of jib as yourself, it’s long odds that he—”

What more Nick would have said was abruptly withheld, however, for his quick ear heard the side door of the house opened, and then the fall of a man’s feet on the veranda, followed by the inquiry:

“What’s the trouble, Jerry?”

“None at all, sir,” replied Conley, turning with a grin to his questioner. “Not unless this gentleman is looking for trouble, which I reckon he isn’t.”

Nick had already turned to survey the first speaker, whom he rightly conjectured might be Mr. Amos Badger, despite that it was then an hour when a stock-broker should have been busy at the market.

He stood near the rail of the veranda, an erect, well-built man of forty, cleanly shaven, with dark hair and eyes, the latter lighting a rather attractive yet noticeably strong and determined face.

He was in slippers, and wore a house-jacket of figured woolen, while his neck was bandaged with several thicknesses of red flannel, as if he was afflicted with a sore throat or with a cold. This was further evinced by his hoarse voice when addressing Conley, yet his gaze all the while was fixed upon the detective.

Nick promptly took up the remark of the chauffeur, saying, with a quiet laugh:

“No, I’m not specially looking for trouble. I have had enough of it for one day.”

“Enough of trouble?” inquired Badger, with an air of wonderment at Nick’s meaning.

“Quite enough, sir, and at considerable expense. I’m out a valuable watch and chain also what money I had on my person.”

“Not robbed?”

“That’s what,” nodded Nick. “Held up by the crooks who are doing such rascally work in these parts. But there’ll come a day of reckoning, sir, you may safely wager your whole fortune on that.”

There stole into Badger’s dark eyes, which were still fixed upon Nick’s face, a momentary gleam of resentment.

“What sent you here so quickly after being robbed?” he asked, with sinister inflection. “Did you expect to find the thieves in my house?”

“Oh, no, not at all.”

“Or did you come to condole with me over a like mishap, since misery likes company? The headquarters of the police is, I should say, the proper place for you to have hurriedly visited.”

“I have just come from there,” replied Nick, a bit dryly.

“Ah, that is different.”

“I merely asked that man if he had seen an automobile pass,” added Nick, now approaching the veranda-steps. “As a matter of fact, sir, I was on my way to this house when I was held up by the crooks. Is Mrs. Badger at home this morning, or her husband?”

“Both are at home.”

“Ah, very good!” exclaimed Nick.

“I am Mr. Badger.”

“I would like a brief interview with you and your wife.”

“Regarding what?”

“The recent robbery of which your wife was a victim.”

“Are you a reporter?”

“I am a detective.”

“From Pemberton Square?”

“From New York,” replied Nick. “Yet I have just come from Chief Weston’s office, in Boston, and at his request I shall undertake to run down the gang of thieves who are at work in this section.”

Though a doubtful smile curled Badger’s thin, firm lips at this confident announcement, he at once displayed more cordiality when Nick stated his vocation.

“I hope that you may succeed, officer,” said he, with the same husky voice. “Come into the house. From New York, did you say?”

“Yes,” replied Nick, entering. “You may wait for me, Grady.”

“All right, sir,” cried Grady, from his seat in the runabout.

“What name, officer?” inquired Badger.

“My name is Carter.”

“Not Nick Carter?”

“The same.”

Badger appeared surprised, Nick observed, and his eyes lighted. He quickly extended his hand, saying heartily, in wheezy tones:

“Well, well, I’m glad to meet you, Detective Carter, and to hear that you think of getting after these highwaymen. I know you by reputation, sir, and I have no doubt that you will accomplish more than is being done by Weston’s pack of mongrels. Forsooth, if you do not, you will accomplish very little.”

The last was said with a covert sneer that fell unpleasantly on Nick’s ears. He decided, however, that Badger was probably nettled by the failure of the Boston detectives to recover the property of which his wife had been robbed, and Nick thought no more of the matter at that time.

As he followed the man into the attractively furnished library, from the windows of which could be seen the stable and driveway, Nick agreeably rejoined:

“I am told that not much progress is being made against these road robbers?”

“None at all, Mr. Carter, that I can discover,” replied Badger, with a scornful shrug of his shoulders. “Here is my wife, sir. Claudia, this is Detective Carter, of New York, sent out here by Chief Weston to inquire about the robbery. My wife, Mr. Carter.”