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The Unofficial Spy
by [?]

“Craig, do you see that fellow over by the desk, talking to the night clerk?” I asked Kennedy as we lounged into the lobby of the new Hotel Vanderveer one evening after reclaiming our hats from the plutocrat who had acquired the checking privilege. We had dined on the roof garden of the Vanderveer apropos of nothing at all except our desire to become acquainted with a new hotel.

“Yes,” replied Kennedy, “what of him?”

“He’s the house detective, McBride. Would you like to meet him? He’s full of good stories, an interesting chap. I met him at a dinner given to the President not long ago and he told me a great yarn about how the secret service, the police, and the hotel combined to guard the President during the dinner. You know, a big hotel is the stamping ground for all sorts of cranks and crooks.”

The house detective had turned and had caught my eye. Much to my surprise, he advanced to meet me.

“Say, – er – er – Jameson,” he began, at last recalling my name, though he had seen me only once and then for only a short time. “You’re on the Star, I believe?”

“Yes,” I replied, wondering what he could want.

“Well – er – do you suppose you could do the house a little – er -=20 favour?” he asked, hesitating and dropping his voice.

“What is it?” I queried, not feeling certain but that it was a veiled attempt to secure a little free advertising for the Vanderveer. “By the way, let me introduce you to my friend Kennedy, McBride.”

“Craig Kennedy?” he whispered aside, turning quickly to me. I nodded.

“Mr. Kennedy,” exclaimed the house man deferentially, “are you very busy just now?”

“Not especially so,” replied Craig. “My friend Jameson was telling me that you knew some interesting yarns about hotel detective life. I should like to hear you tell some of them, if you are not yourself too – “

“Perhaps you’d rather see one instead?” interrupted the house detective, eagerly scanning Craig’s face.

“Indeed, nothing could please me more. What is it – a ‘con’ man or a hotel ‘beat’?”

McBride looked about to make sure that no one was listening. “Neither,” he whispered. “It’s either a suicide or a murder. Come upstairs with me. There isn’t a man in the world I would rather have met at this very instant, Mr. Kennedy, than yourself.”

We followed McBride into an elevator which he stopped at the fifteenth floor. With a nod to the young woman who was the floor clerk, the house detective led the way down the thickly carpeted hall, stopping at a room which, we could see through the transom, was lighted. He drew a bunch of keys from his pocket and inserted a pass key into the lock.

The door swung open into a sumptuously fitted sitting-room. I looked in, half fearfully, but, although all the lights were turned on, the room was empty. McBride crossed the room quickly, opened a door to a bedroom, and jerked his head back with a quick motion, signifying his desire for us to follow.

Stretched lifeless on the white linen of the immaculate bed lay the form of a woman, a beautiful woman she had been, too, though not with the freshness which makes American women so attractive. There was something artificial about her beauty, the artificiality which hinted at a hidden story of a woman with a past.

She was a foreigner, apparently of one of the Latin races, although at the moment in the horror of the tragedy before us I could not guess her nationality. It was enough for me that here lay this cold, stony, rigid beauty, robed in the latest creations of Paris, alone in an elegantly furnished room of an exclusive hotel where hundreds of gay guests were dining and chatting and laughing without a suspicion of the terrible secret only a few feet distant from them.