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The Tango Thief
by [?]

“My husband has such a jealous disposition. He will never believe the truth–never!”

Agatha Seabury moved nervously in the deep easy chair beside Kennedy’s desk, leaning forward, uncomfortably, the tense lines marring the beauty of her fine features.

Kennedy tilted his desk chair back in order to study her face.

“You say you have never written a line to the fellow nor he to you?” he asked.

“Not a line, not a scrap,–until I received that typewritten letter about which I just told you,” she repeated vehemently, meeting his penetrating gaze without flinching. “Why, Professor Kennedy, as heaven is my witness, I have never done a wrong thing–except to meet him now and then at afternoon dances.”

I felt that the nerve-racked society woman before us must be either telling the truth or else that she was one of the cleverest actresses I had ever seen.

“Have you the letter here?” asked Craig quickly.

Mrs. Seabury reached into her neat leather party case and pulled out a carefully folded sheet of note paper.

It was all typewritten, down to the very signature itself. Evidently the blackmailer had taken every precaution to protect himself, for even if the typewriting could be studied and identified, it would be next to impossible to get at the writer through it and locate the machine on which it was written among the thousands in the city.

Kennedy studied the letter carefully, then, with a low exclamation, handed it over to me, nodding to Mrs. Seabury that it was all right for me to see it.

“No ordinary fellow, I’m afraid,” he commented musingly, adding, “this thief of reputations.”

I read, beginning with the insolent familiarity of “Dear Agatha.”

“I hope you will pardon me for writing to you,” the letter continued, “but I find that I am in a rather difficult position financially. As you know, in the present disorganized state of the stock market, investments which in normal times are good are now almost valueless. Still, I must protect those I already have without sacrificing them.

“It is therefore necessary that I raise fifty thousand dollars before the end of the week, and I know of no one to appeal to but you–who have shared so many pleasant stolen hours with me.

“Of course, I understand all that you have told me about Mr. Seabury and his violent nature. Still, I feel sure that one of your wealth and standing in the community can find a way to avoid all trouble from that quarter. Naturally, I should prefer to take every precaution to prevent the fact of our intimacy from coming to Mr. Seabury’s knowledge. But I am really desperate and feel that you alone can help me.

“Hoping to hear from you soon, I am,
“Your old tango friend,

I fairly gasped at the thinly veiled threat of exposure at the end of the note from this artistic blackmailer.

She was watching our faces anxiously as we read.

“Oh,” she cried wildly, glancing from one to the other of us, strangers to whom in her despair she had been forced to bare the secrets of her proud heart, “he’s so clever about it, too. I–I didn’t know what to do. I had only my jewels. I thought of all the schemes I had ever read, of pawning them, of having paste replicas made, of trying to collect the burglary insurance, of–“

“But you didn’t do anything like that, did you?” interrupted Craig hastily.

“No, no,” she cried. “I thought if I did, then it wouldn’t be long before this Sherburne would be back again for more. Oh,” she almost wailed, dabbing at the genuine tears with her dainty lace handkerchief while her shoulders trembled with a repressed convulsive sob, “I–I am utterly wretched–crushed.”

“The scoundrel!” I muttered.

Kennedy shook his head at me slowly. “Calling names won’t help matters now,” he remarked tersely. Then in an encouraging tone he added, “You have done just the right thing, Mrs. Seabury, in not starting to pay the blackmail. The secret of the success of these fellows is that their victims prefer losing jewelry and money to going to the police and having a lot of unpleasant notoriety.”