**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

The Confidence King
by [?]

“Shake hands with Mr. Burke of the secret service, Professor Kennedy.”

It was our old friend First Deputy O’Connor who thus in his bluff way introduced a well-groomed and prosperous-looking man whom he brought up to our apartment one evening.

The formalities were quickly over. “Mr. Burke and I are old friends,” explained O’Connor. “We try to work together when we can, and very often the city department can give the government service a lift, and then again it’s the other way – as it was in the trunk-murder mystery. Show Professor Kennedy the ‘queer,’ Tom.”

Burke drew a wallet out of his pocket, and from it slowly and deliberately selected a crisp, yellow-backed hundred-dollar bill. He laid it flat on the table before us. Diagonally across its face from the upper left- to the lower right-hand corner extended two parallel scorings in indelible ink.

Not being initiated into the secrets of the gentle art of “shoving the queer,” otherwise known as passing counterfeit money, I suppose my questioning look betrayed me.

“A counterfeit, Walter,” explained Kennedy. “That’s what they do with bills when they wish to preserve them as records in the secret service and yet render them valueless.”

Without a word Burke handed Kennedy a pocket magnifying-glass, and Kennedy carefully studied the bill. He was about to say something when Burke opened his capacious wallet again and laid down a Bank of England five-pound note which had been similarly treated.

Again Kennedy looked through the glass with growing amazement written on his face, but before he could say anything, Burke laid down an express money-order on the International Express Company.

“I say,” exclaimed Kennedy, putting down the glass, “stop! How many more of these are there?”

Burke smiled. “That’s all,” he replied, “but it’s not the worst.”

“Not the worst? Good heavens, man, next you’ll tell me that the government is counterfeiting its own notes! How much of this stuff do you suppose has been put into circulation?”

Burke chewed a pencil thoughtfully, jotted down some figures on a piece of paper, and thought some more. “Of course I can’t say exactly, but from hints I have received here and there I should think that a safe bet would be that some one has cashed in upward of half a million dollars already.”

“Whew,” whistled Kennedy, “that’s going some. And I suppose it is all salted away in some portable form. What an inventory if must be – good bills, gold, diamonds, and jewellery. This is a stake worth playing for.”

“Yes,” broke in O’Connor, “but from my standpoint, professionally, I mean, the case is even worse than that. It’s not the counterfeits that bother us. We understand that, all right. But,” and he leaned forward earnestly and brought his fist down hard on the table with a resounding Irish oath, “the finger-print system, the infallible finger-print system, has gone to pieces. We’ve just imported this new ‘portrait parle’ fresh from Paris and London, invented by Bertillon and all that sort of thing – it has gone to pieces, too. It’s a fine case, this is, with nothing left of either scientific or unscientific criminal-catching to rely on. There – what do you know about that?”

“You’ll have to tell me the facts first,” said Kennedy. “I can’t diagnose your disease until I know the symptoms.”

“It’s like this,” explained Burke, the detective in him showing now with no effort at concealment. “A man, an Englishman, apparently, went into a downtown banker’s office about three months ago and asked to have some English bank-notes exchanged for American money. After he had gone away, the cashier began to get suspicious. He thought there was something phoney in the feel of the notes. Under the glass he noticed that the little curl on the ‘e’ of the ‘Five’ was missing. It’s the protective mark. The water-mark was quite equal to that of the genuine – maybe better. Hold that note up to the light and see for yourself.