The Tracer of Lost Persons

Robert W. Chambers


In the meanwhile, at the other end of the wire, Mr. Keen, the Tracer of Lost Persons, was preparing to trace for Mr. Kerns, against that gentleman's will, the true happiness which Mr. Kerns had never been able to find for himself.
He sat in his easy chair within the four walls of his own office, inspecting a line of people who stood before him on the carpet forming a single and attentive rank. In this rank were five men: a policeman, a cab driver, an agent of the telephone company, an agent of the electric company, and a reformed burglar carrying a kit of his trade tools.
The Tracer of Lost Persons gazed at them, meditatively joining the tips of his thin fingers.
"I want the number on 36 East Eighty-third Street changed to No. 38, and the number 38 replaced by No. 36," he said to the policeman. "I want it done at once. Get a glazier and go up there and have it finished in an hour. Mrs. Kenna, caretaker at No. 36, is in my pay; she will not interfere. There is nobody in No. 38: Mr. Kerns leaves there to-night and the Burglar Alarm Company takes charge to-morrow."
And, turning to the others: "You," nodding at the reformed burglar, "know your duty. Mike!" to the cab driver, "don't miss Mr. Kerns at the Lenox Club. If he calls you before eleven, drive into the park and have an accident. And you," to the agent of the telephone company, "will sever all telephone connection in Mrs. Stanley's house; and you," to the official of the electric company, "will see that the circuit in Mrs. Stanley's house is cut so that no electric light may be lighted and no electric bell sound."
The Tracer of Lost Persons stroked his gray mustache thoughtfully. "And that," he ended, "will do, I think. Good night."
He rose and stood by the door as the policeman headed the solemn file which marched out to their duty; then he looked at his watch, and, as it was already a few minutes after eight, he called up No. 36 East Eighty-third Street, and in a moment more had Mrs. Stanley on the wire.
"Good evening," he said pleasantly. "I suppose you have just arrived from Rosylyn. I may be a little late—I may be very late, in fact, so I called you up to say so. And I wished to say another thing; to ask you whether your servants could recollect ever having seen a young man about the place, a rather attractive young man with excellent address and manners, five feet eleven inches, slim but well built, dark hair, dark eyes, and dark mustache, offering samples of Georgia marble for sale."
"Really, Mr. Keen," replied a silvery voice, "I have heard them say nothing about such an individual. If you will hold the wire I will ask my maid." And, after a pause: "No, Mr. Keen, my maid cannot remember any such person. Do you think he was a confederate of that wretched butler of mine?"
"I am scarcely prepared to say that; in fact," added Mr. Keen, "I haven't the slightest idea that this young man could have been concerned in anything of that sort. Only, if you should ever by any chance see such a man, detain him if possible until you can communicate with me; detain him by any pretext, by ruse, by force if you can, only detain him until I can get there. Will you do this?"
"Certainly, Mr. Keen, if I can. Please describe him again?"
Mr. Keen did so minutely.
"You say he sells Georgia marble by samples, which he carries in a suit case?"
"He says that he has samples of Georgia marble in his suit case," replied the Tracer cautiously. "It might be well, if possible, to see what he has in his suit case."
"I will warn the servants as soon as I return to Rosylyn. When may I expect you this evening, Mr. Keen?"
"It is impossible to say, Mrs. Stanley. If I am not there by midnight I shall try to call next morning."
So they exchanged civil adieus; the Tracer hung up his receiver and leaned back in his chair, smiling to himself.
"Curious," he said, "that chance should have sent that pretty woman to me at such a time. . . . Kerns is a fine fellow, every inch of him. It hit him hard when he crossed with her to Southampton six years ago; it hit him harder when she married that Englishman. I don't wonder he never cared to marry after that brief week of her society; for she is just about the most charming woman I have ever met—red hair and all. . . . And if quick action is what is required, it's well to break the ice between them at once with a dreadful misunderstanding."


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