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The Steel Door
by [?]

It was what, in college, we used to call “good football weather”–a crisp, autumn afternoon that sent the blood tingling through brain and muscle. Kennedy and I were enjoying a stroll on the drive, dividing our attention between the glowing red sunset across the Hudson and the string of homeward-bound automobiles on the broad parkway. Suddenly a huge black touring car marked with big letters, “P.D.N.Y.,” shot past.

“Joy-riding again in one of the city’s cars,” I remarked. “I thought the last Police Department shake-up had put a stop to that.”

“Perhaps it has,” returned Kennedy. “Did you see who was in the car?”

“No, but I see it has turned and is coming back.”

“It was Inspector–I mean, First Deputy O’Connor. I thought he recognised us as he whizzed along, and I guess he did, too. Ah, congratulations, O’Connor! I haven’t had a chance to tell you before how pleased I was to learn you had been appointed first deputy. It ought to have been commissioner, though,” added Kennedy.

“Congratulations nothing,” rejoined O’Connor. “Just another new-deal-election coming on, mayor must make a show of getting some reform done, and all that sort of thing. So he began with the Police Department, and here I am, first deputy. But, say, Kennedy,” he added, dropping his voice, “I’ve a little job on my mind that I’d like to pull off in about as spectacular a fashion as I–as you know how. I want to make good, conspicuously good, at the start–understand? Maybe I’ll be ‘broke’ for it and sent to pounding the pavements of Dismissalville, but I don’t care, I’ll take a chance. On the level, Kennedy, it’s a big thing, and it ought to be done. Will you help me put it across?”

“What is it?” asked Kennedy with a twinkle in his eye at O’Connor’s estimate of the security of his tenure of office.

O’Connor drew us away from the automobile toward the stone parapet overlooking the railroad and river far below, and out of earshot of the department chauffeur. “I want to pull off a successful raid on the Vesper Club,” he whispered earnestly, scanning our faces.

“Good heavens, man,” I ejaculated, “don’t you know that Senator Danfield is interested in–“

“Jameson,” interrupted O’Connor reproachfully, “I said ‘on the level’ a few moments ago, and I meant it. Senator Danfield he–well, anyhow, if I don’t do it the district attorney will, with the aid of the Dowling law, and I am going to beat him to it, that’s all. There’s too much money being lost at the Vesper Club, anyhow. It won’t hurt Danfield to be taught a lesson not to run such a phony game. I may like to put up a quiet bet myself on the ponies now and then–I won’t say I don’t, but this thing of Danfield’s has got beyond all reason. It’s the crookedest gambling joint in the city, at least judging by the stories they tell of losses there. And so beastly aristocratic, too. Read that.”

O’Connor shoved a letter into Kennedy’s hand, a dainty perfumed and monogrammed little missive addressed in a feminine hand. It was such a letter as comes by the thousand to the police in the course of a year; though seldom from ladies of the smart set.

“Dear Sir: I notice in the newspapers this morning that you have just been appointed first deputy commissioner of police and that you have been ordered to suppress gambling in New York. For the love that you must still bear toward your own mother, listen to the story of a mother worn with anxiety for her only son, and if there is any justice or righteousness in this great city close up a gambling hell that is sending to ruin scores of our finest young men. No doubt you know or have heard of my family–the DeLongs are not unknown in New York. Perhaps you have also heard of the losses of my son Percival at the Vesper Club. They are fast becoming the common talk of our set. I am not rich, Mr. Commissioner, in spite of our social position, but I am human, as human as a mother in any station of life, and oh, if there is any way, close up that gilded society resort that is dissipating our small fortune, ruining an only son, and slowly bringing to the grave a gray-haired widow, as worthy of protection as any mother of the poor whose plea has closed up a little poolroom or low policy shop.”