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The Firebug
by [?]

McCormick pulled a dirty note out of his pocket and laid it on the table. We read it eagerly:

Hello, Chief! Haven’t found the firebug yet, have you? You will know who he is only when I am dead and the fires stop. I don’t suppose you even realise that the firebug talks with you almost every day about catching the firebug. That’s me. I am the real firebug, that is writing this letter. I am going to tell you why I am starting these fires. There’s money in it – an easy living. They never caught me in or anywhere, so you might as well quit looking for me and take your medicine.


“Humph!” ejaculated Kennedy, “he has a sense of humour, anyhow – A. Spark!”

“Queer sense of humour,” growled McCormick, gritting his teeth. “Here’s another I got to-day:

Say, Chief: We are going to get busy again and fire a big department-store next. How does that suit Your Majesty? till the fun begins when the firebug gets to work again.


“Well, sir, when I got that letter,” cried McCormick, “I was almost ready to ring in a double-nine alarm at once – they have me that bluffed out. But I said to myself, ‘There’s only one thing to do – see this man Kennedy.’ So here I am. You see what I am driving at? I believe that firebug is an artist at the thing, does it for the mere fun of it and the ready money in it. But more than that, there must be some one back of him. Who is the man higher up – we must catch him. See?”

“A big department-store,” mused Kennedy.

“That’s definite – there are only a score or so of them, and the Stacey interests control several. Mac, I’ll tell you what I’ll do. Let me sit up with you to-night at headquarters until we get an alarm. By George, I’ll see this case through to a finish!

The fire marshal leaped to his feet and bounded over to where Kennedy was seated. With one hand on Craig’s shoulder and the other grasping Craig’s hand, he started to speak, but his voice choked.

“Thanks,” he blurted out huskily at last. “My reputation in the department is at stake, my promotion, my position itself, my – my family – er – er – “

“Not a word, sir,” said Kennedy, his features working sympathetically. “To-night at eight I will go on watch with you. By the way, leave me those A. Spark notes.”

McCormick had so far regained his composure as to say a hearty farewell. He left the room as if ten years had been lifted off his shoulders. A moment later he stuck his head in the door again. “I’ll have one of the Department machines call for you, gentlemen,” he said.

After the marshal had gone, we sat for several minutes in silence. Kennedy was reading and rereading the notes, scowling to himself as if they presented a particularly perplexing problem. I said nothing, though my mind was teeming with speculations. At length he placed the notes very decisively on the table and snapped out the remark,

“Yes, it must be so.”

“What?” I queried, still drumming away at my typewriter, copying the list of incendiary fires against the moment when the case should be complete and the story released for publication, as it were.

“This note,” he explained, picking up the first one and speaking slowly, “was written by a woman.”

I swung around in my chair quickly. “Get out!” I exclaimed sceptically. “No woman ever used such phrases.

“I didn’t say composed by a woman – I said written by a woman,” he replied.

“Oh,” I said, rather chagrined.