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The Dual Personality of Slick Dick Nickerson
by [?]


On a certain morning in the spring of the year, the three men who were known as the Three Black Crows called at the office of “The President of the Pacific and Oriental Flotation Company,” situated in an obscure street near San Francisco’s water-front. They were Strokher, the tall, blond, solemn, silent Englishman; Hardenberg, the American, dry of humour, shrewd, resourceful, who bargained like a Vermonter and sailed a schooner like a Gloucester cod-fisher; and in their company, as ever inseparable from the other two, came the little colonial, nicknamed, for occult reasons, “Ally Bazan,” a small, wiry man, excitable, vociferous, who was without fear, without guile and without money.

When Hardenberg, who was always spokesman for the Three Crows, had sent in their names, they were admitted at once to the inner office of the “President. ” The President was an old man, bearded like a prophet, with a watery blue eye and a forehead wrinkled like an orang’s. He spoke to the Three Crows in the manner of one speaking to friends he has not seen in some time.

“Well, Mr. Ryder,” began Hardenberg. “We called around to see if you had anything fer us this morning. I don’t mind telling you that we’re at liberty jus’ now. Anything doing?”

Ryder fingered his beard distressfully. “Very little, Joe; very little. ”

“Got any wrecks?”

“Not a wreck. ”

Hardenberg turned to a great map that hung on the wall by Ryder’s desk. It was marked in places by red crosses, against which were written certain numbers and letters. Hardenberg put his finger on a small island south of the Marquesas group and demanded: “What might be H. 33, Mr. President?”

“Pearl Island,” answered the President. “Davidson is on that job. ”

“Or H. 125?” Hardenberg indicated a point in the Gilbert group.

“Guano deposits. That’s promised. ”

“Hallo! You’re up in the Aleutians. I make out. 20 A. —what’s that?”

“Old government telegraph wire—line abandoned—finest drawn-copper wire. I’ve had three boys at that for months. ”

“What’s 301? This here, off the Mexican coast?”

The President, unable to remember, turned to his one clerk: “Hyers, what’s 301? Isn’t that Peterson?”

The clerk ran his finger down a column: “No, sir; 301 is the Whisky Ship. ”

“Ah! So it is. I remember. Youremember, too, Joe. Little schooner, theTropic Bird—sixty days out from Callao—five hundred cases of whisky aboard—sunk in squall. It was thirty years ago. Think of five hundred cases of thirty-year-old whisky! There’s money in that if I can lay my hands on the schooner. Suppose you try that, you boys—on a twenty per cent. basis. Come now, what do you say?”

“Not forfiveper cent. ,” declared Hardenberg. “How’d we raise her? How’d we know how deep she lies? Not for Joe. What’s the matter with landing arms down here in Central America for Bocas and his gang?”

“I’m out o’ that, Joe. Too much competition. ”

“What’s doing here in Tahiti—No. 88? It ain’t lettered. ”

Once more the President consulted his books.

“Ah!—88. Here we are. Cache o’ illicit pearls. I had it looked up. Nothing in it. ”

“Say, Cap’n!”—Hardenberg’s eye had traveled to the upper edge of the map—“whatever did you strike up here in Alaska? At Point Barrow, s’elp me Bob! It’s 48 B. ”

The President stirred uneasily in his place. “Well, I ain’t quite worked that scheme out, Joe. But I smell the deal. There’s a Russian post along there some’eres. Where they catch sea-otters. And the skins o’ sea-otters are selling this very day for seventy dollars at any port in China. ”

“I s’y,” piped up Ally Bazan, “I knows a bit about that gyme. They’s a bally kind o’ Lum-tums among them Chinese as sports those syme skins on their bally clothes—as a mark o’ rank, d’ye see. ”