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The Gray Phantom's Return   By:

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E text prepared by Roger Frank, Juliet Sutherland, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team (




Author of "The Gray Phantom"

A. L. Burt Company Publishers New York

Published by arrangement with W. J. Watt & Company Printed in U. S. A.

Copyright, 1922, by W. J. Watt & Company

Printed in the United States of America

To Pal



Patrolman Joshua Pinto, walking his beat at two o'clock in the morning, hummed a joyless tune as he turned off the Bowery and swung into East Houston Street. It was a wet night, with a raw wind sweeping around the street corners, and Pinto walked along with an air of dogged persistence, as if trying to make the best of a disagreeable duty. His heavy and somewhat florid features were expressionless. For all that his face indicated, he might have been thinking that it was a fine night for a murder, or wishing that he was in plain clothes instead of uniform, or picturing himself in his cozy home playing with his baby, whose lusty "da da's" and "goo goo's" he was pleased to interpret as wonderful linguistic achievements.

Perhaps it was nothing but instinct that caused him to slow down his pace as he passed a squatty and rather dilapidated building in the middle of the block. So far as appearances went, it did not differ greatly from its drab and unprepossessing neighbors, yet Pinto cast a sharp glance at the ground floor window, which bore a lettered sign proclaiming that the premises were occupied by Sylvanus Gage, dealer in pipes, tobacco, and cigars. As if the building had cast a spell of gloom upon him, the patrolman ceased his humming, and his lips were set in a tight line as he proceeded down the block.

Being an ambitious and hard working officer, Pinto made it a practice to cultivate the acquaintance of as many as possible of the people living along his beat. He knew Sylvanus Gage, a thin, stoop shouldered man with a flowing beard, a black cap adorning his bald skull, and mild blue eyes that had a habit of gazing lugubriously at the world through thick lenses rimmed with tarnished gold. Despite his patriarchal appearance, he was reputed to be using his tobacco business as a cloak for a flourishing traffic in stolen goods. So deftly did the old man manage his illicit enterprises that the police, though morally certain of their facts, had never been able to produce any evidence against him. Little was known of his housekeeper, a sour and sharp tongued slattern of uncertain age, but there were those who suspected that she was not entirely innocent of complicity in her employer's clandestine activities.

It may have been of this Pinto was thinking as he plodded along with the measured gait of the seasoned patrolman. The soggy sidewalks glistened in the light from the street corner lamps, and here and there along the pavement water was forming in little pools. Most of the windows were dark and, save for an occasional shifty eyed and furtively slinking pedestrian, the streets were deserted. Pinto halted for a moment to look at his watch, then quickened his steps, "pulled" the buff colored box on the corner, and trudged on again.

Once more he was humming a tune. Each of the scattered prowlers he met was subjected to a critical scrutiny out of the corner of his eye. Now and then he dodged into a dark doorway and tried a lock. From time to time he glanced through the window of a store or shop. It was all a matter of habit with Joshua Pinto. For seven years he had pursued the same dull routine, varied only by an occasional transfer to another part of the city, or by a change from night to day duty, or vice versa. He had broken up a few nocturnal street brawls, now and then he had foiled the designs of a second story artisan, and on two or three occasions he had caught a safe blower red handed, but nothing very exciting had ever happened to him.

On this particular night, however, an acute observer might have noticed an air of disquietude about Officer Pinto... Continue reading book >>

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