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The Scientific Cracksman
by [?]

“I’m willing to wager you a box of cigars that you don’t know the most fascinating story in your own paper to-night,” remarked Kennedy, as I came in one evening with the four or five newspapers I was in the habit of reading to see whether they had beaten the Star in getting any news of importance.

“I’ll bet I do,” I said, “or I was one of about a dozen who worked it up. It’s the Shaw murder trial. There isn’t another that’s even a bad second.”

“I am afraid the cigars will be on you, Walter. Crowded over on the second page by a lot of stale sensation that everyone has read for the fiftieth time, now, you will find what promises to be a real sensation, a curious half-column account of the sudden death of John G. Fletcher.”

I laughed. “Craig,” I said, “when you put up a simple death from apoplexy against a murder trial, and such a murder trial; well, you disappoint me–that’s all.”

“Is it a simple case of apoplexy?” he asked, pacing up and down the room, while I wondered why he should grow excited over what seemed a very ordinary news item, after all. Then he picked up the paper and read the account slowly aloud.



John Graham Fletcher, the aged philanthropist and steelmaker, was found dead in his library this morning at his home at Fletcherwood, Great Neck, Long Island. Strangely, the safe in the library in which he kept his papers and a large sum of cash was found opened, but as far as could be learned nothing is missing.

It had always been Mr. Fletcher’s custom to rise at seven o’clock. This morning his housekeeper became alarmed when he had not appeared by nine o’clock. Listening at the door, she heard no sound. It was not locked, and on entering she found the former steel-magnate lying lifeless on the floor between his bedroom and the library adjoining. His personal physician, Dr. W. C. Bryant, was immediately notified.

Close examination of the body revealed that his face was slightly discoloured, and the cause of death was given by the physician as apoplexy. He had evidently been dead about eight or nine hours when discovered.

Mr. Fletcher is survived by a nephew, John G. Fletcher, II., who is the Blake professor of bacteriology at the University, and by a grandniece, Miss Helen Bond. Professor Fletcher was informed of the sad occurrence shortly after leaving a class this morning and hurried out to Fletcherwood. He would make no statement other than that he was inexpressibly shocked. Miss Bond, who has for several years resided with relatives, Mr. and Mrs. Francis Greene of Little Neck, is prostrated by the shock.

“Walter,” added Kennedy, as he laid down the paper and, without any more sparring, came directly to the point, “there was something missing from that safe.”

I had no need to express the interest I now really felt, and Kennedy hastened to take advantage of it.

“Just before you came in,” he continued, “Jack Fletcher called me up from Great Neck. You probably don’t know it, but it has been privately reported in the inner circle of the University that old Fletcher was to leave the bulk of his fortune to found a great school of preventive medicine, and that the only proviso was that his nephew should be dean of the school. The professor told me over the wire that the will was missing from the safe, and that it was the only thing missing. From his excitement I judge that there is more to the story than he cared to tell over the ‘phone. He said his car was on the way to the city, and he asked if I wouldn’t come and help him–he wouldn’t say how. Now, I know him pretty well, and I’m going to ask you to come along, Walter, for the express purpose of keeping this thing out of the newspapers understand?–until we get to the bottom of it.”