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The Forger
by [?]

We were lunching with Stevenson Williams, a friend of Kennedy’s, at the Insurance Club, one of the many new downtown luncheon clubs, where the noon hour is so conveniently combined with business.

“There isn’t much that you can’t insure against nowadays,” remarked Williams when the luncheon had progressed far enough to warrant a tentative reference to the obvious fact that he had had a purpose in inviting us to the club. “Take my own company, for example, the Continental Surety. We have lately undertaken to write forgery insurance.”

“Forgery insurance?” repeated Kennedy. “Well, I should think you’d be doing a ripping business – putting up the premium rate about every day in this epidemic of forgery that seems to be sweeping over the country.”

Williams, who was one of the officers of the company, smiled somewhat wearily, I thought. “We are,” he replied drily. “That was precisely what I wanted to see you about.”

“What? The premiums or the epidemic?”

“Well – er – both, perhaps. I needn’t say much about the epidemic, as you call it. To you I can admit it; to the newspapers, never. Still, I suppose you know that it is variously estimated that the forgers of the country are getting away with from ten to fifteen million dollars a year. It is just one case that I was thinking about – one on which the regular detective agencies we employ seem to have failed utterly so far. It involves pretty nearly one of those fifteen millions.”

“What? One case? A million dollars?” gasped Kennedy, gazing fixedly at Williams as if he found it difficult to believe.

“Exactly,” replied Williams imperturbably, “though it was not done all at one fell swoop, of course, but gradually, covering a period of some months. You have doubtless heard of the By-Products Company of Chicago?”

Craig nodded.

“Well, it is their case,” pursued Williams, losing his quiet manner and now hurrying ahead almost breathlessly. “You know they own a bank out there also, called the By-Products Bank. That’s how we come to figure in the case, by having insured their bank against forgery. Of course our liability runs up only to $50,000. But the loss to the company as well as to its bank through this affair will reach the figure I have named. They will have to stand the balance beyond our liability and, well, fifty thousand is not a small sum for us to lose, either. We can’t afford to lose it without a fight.”

“Of course not. But you must have some suspicions, some clues. You must have taken some action in tracing the thing out, whatever is back of it.”

“Surely. For instance, only the other day we had the cashier of the bank, Bolton Brown, arrested, though he is out on bail now. We haven’t anything directly against him, but he is suspected of complicity on the inside, and I may say that the thing is so gigantic that there must have been some one on the inside concerned with it. Among other things we have found that Bolton Brown has been leading a rather fast life, quite unknown to his fellow-officials. We know that he has been speculating secretly in the wheat corner that went to pieces, but the most significant thing is that he has been altogether too intimate with an adventuress, Adele DeMott, who has had some success as a woman of high finance in various cities here and in Europe and even in South America. It looks bad for him from the commonsense standpoint, though of course I’m not competent to speak of the legal side of the matter. But, at any rate, we know that the insider must have been some one pretty close to the head of the By-Products Company or the By-Products Bank.”