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The Box with Broken Seals   By: (1866-1946)

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THE BOX WITH BROKEN SEALS

BY

E. PHILLIPS OPPENHEIM

1919

CHAPTER I

James Crawshay, Englishman of the type usually described in transatlantic circles as "some Britisher," lolled apparently at his ease upon the couch of the too resplendent sitting room in the Hotel Magnificent, Chicago. Hobson, his American fellow traveler, on the other hand, betrayed his anxiety by his nervous pacing up and down the apartment. Both men bore traces in their appearance of the long journey which they had only just completed.

"I think," Crawshay decided, yawning, "that I shall have a bath. I feel gritty, and my collar heavens, what a sight! Your trains, Hobson, may be magnificent, but your coal is filthy. I will have a bath while your friend, the policeman, makes up his mind whether to come and see us or not."

His companion treated the suggestion with scant courtesy.

"You will do nothing of the sort," was his almost fierce objection. "We've got to wait right here until Chief of Police Downs comes along. There's something crooked about this business, something I don't understand, and the sooner we get to the bottom of it, the better."

The Englishman pacified himself with a whisky and soda which a waiter had just brought in. He added several lumps of ice and drained the contents of the tumbler with a little murmur of appreciation.

"It will be confoundedly annoying," he admitted quietly, "if we've had all this journey for nothing."

Hobson moistened his dry lips with his tongue. The whisky and soda and the great bucket of ice stood temptingly at his elbow, but he appeared to ignore their existence. He was a man of ample build, with a big, clean shaven face, a square jaw and deep set eyes, a man devoted to and wholly engrossed by his work.

"See here, Crawshay," he exclaimed, "if that dispatch was a fake, if we've been brought here on a fool's errand, they haven't done it for nothing. If they've brought it off against us, you mark my words, we're left we're bamboozled we're a couple of lost loons! There's nothing left for us but to sell candy to small boys or find a job on a farm."

"You're such a pessimist," the Englishman yawned.

"Pessimist!" was the angry retort. "I'll just ask you one question, my son. Where's Downs?"

"I certainly think," Crawshay admitted, "that under the circumstances he might have been at the station to meet us."

"He wouldn't even talk through the 'phone," Hobson pointed out. "I had to explain who we were to one of his inspectors. No one seemed to know a goldarned thing about us."

"They sent for him right away when you explained who you were," Crawshay reminded his companion.

Hobson found no comfort whatever in the reflection.

"Of course they did," he replied brusquely. "There's scarcely likely to be a chief of police of any city in the United States who wouldn't get a move on when he knew that Sam Hobson was waiting for a word. I haven't been in the Secret Service of this country for fifteen years for nothing. He'll come fast enough as soon as he knows I'm waiting, but all the same, what I want to know is, if that dispatch was on the square, why he wasn't at the station to meet us, and if it wasn't on the square, how the hell do we come out of this?"

Their conversation was interrupted by the tinkle of the telephone which stood upon the table between them, the instrument which both men had been watching anxiously. Hobson snatched up the receiver.

"Police headquarters speaking? Right! Yes, this is Sam Hobson. I'm here with Crawshay, of the English Secret Service. We got your dispatch. What's that? Well? Chief Downs is on the way, eh? Just started? Good! We're waiting for him."

Hobson replaced the receiver upon the instrument.

"Downs is coming right along," he announced. "I tell you what it is, Mr. Crawshay," he went on, recommencing his walk up and down the apartment, "I don't feel happy to be so far away from the coast... Continue reading book >>




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