murder mystery, crime, & detective fiction

Adventures of the Diamond Scarfpin



by Jack Stradling

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Real Detective Tales | June/July 1927

Est. Read Time: 13 mins

This is a plain, unvarnished tale of Detective Tom Silver, grafting plain-clothes man. Here we see the other side of the picture — and behold another reason why "Crime Doesn't Pay." … Tho wise Silver always gets his man — and something else besides. His policy is to play both ends against the middle, thus fattening his bankroll and flattening the crook's. ... In the present story he neatly traps a smooth dip, of international notoriety, and what he does to him is sufficient. — E. B.




"It's a pinch. A pinch!"

Newsboys and bootblacks were running excitedly toward the train gates of the X Polk Street depot. Travelers turned to see what it was all about, and then, casually, began to stroll toward the gates.

A crowd was gathering.

Through the gates came two well-dressed, middle-aged men escorted by an officer. Across the waiting-room they were hurried and toward the door. One of the men, prosperous and dependable-looking, was angrily accusing. The other, equally prosperous-looking, even elegant-appearing in high silk hat, formal tailored clothes, and flowing Dundrury whiskers, was protesting vigorously against his arrest.

Stolidly the officer listened to both and continued marching them toward the door and the waiting patrol wagon outside. The crowd gaped in amazement as the two genteel, affluent-looking individuals were loaded into the vehicle; then it broke up in disappointment as the wagon rattled away.

Tom Silver, veteran detective of the Chicago Police, had been watching unobtrusively from across the waiting-room. Now he smiled a bit to himself and nodded his head in satisfaction. He had just turned to leave the depot and hurry down to the old Harrison Street lock-up, two blocks away, whither the men were being conducted, when he was suddenly accosted by an officer.

He turned to find Rawlings, the "kid copper" as he was called — a greenhorn on the Force, still in the first blush of great enthusiasm and wanting to learn all the details of the great criminal-catching game — at his elbow.

"Say, Silver," exclaimed Rawlings eagerly, "I heard the desk Sarge say this morning that John Howells, the international diamond thief, was expected in town. I didn't look up his description, but you know all of them in the Squeal Book; do you think this fellow could be Howells?"

Silver frowned. This kid copper had a most annoying way of turning up just at the wrong time.

"No, certainly not," he responded crisply, and hurried away, leaving Rawlings much disappointed.

He arrived at the station just as the two men were being arraigned before a patrol sergeant on duty at the desk. Each of the two men, accuser and accused, told his story in detail.

Cyrus W. Armstrong, wealthy clothing merchant of Detroit, had been getting on the train when he had been unnecessarily jostled by two men. A suspicious examination had disclosed the fact that a valuable two-carat diamond scarfpin had been torn from his person. He had taken a good look at one of the men who had jostled him and had hurried out to call the police.

The man accused, giving the name of Robert Warren, drew himself up indignantly and protested volubly against such treatment being accorded an English gentleman who was traveling in this country for his health.



Silver listened quietly. From the description, the incident had all the earmarks of a professional job. Despite the warm weather, the Englishman was carrying a light overcoat, beneath which the hands of the experienced crook work out of sight from the crowd. And as Rawlings had said. Silver knew his Squeal Book — that dictionary of wanted men — by heart.

The whiskers of the accused were considerably disguising, and his person had been altered in various other ways, but Silver was practically certain of his man.

Armstrong insisted that a search be made, and so the Englishman was led into an adjoining room. Silver slipped in also and watched. They would probably find nothing, he decided, and he was right. The accused first took out his watch and laid it down in plain sight on the table; then he emptied his pockets to the last article, and, lastly, began to divest himself of his clothing with many caustic remarks.

But nothing was found resembling the merchant's diamond scarfpin.

The accused dressed himself again, carefully, and returned to the outer room where he received the apologies of the sergeant and the discomfited Armstrong. Then he walked out, a free man.

Silver followed until they were clear of the building and fell into step alongside.

"An outrage, sir," he remarked sympathetically. The man looked him over sharply, remembered him, but as Silver was in plain clothes and well-dressed, probably did not connect him with the police.

"It certainly is," he retorted. And he added much more in the same vein. His air of injured innocence was impressive. Silver was sympathetic and condolent. He remarked that he possessed some influence politically and might be able to obtain redress.

In the same block with the station was Dan Cavanaugh's place, famous for its toddies, and Silver suggested that they go in and have a drink. Pleased with such a sympathetic listener, the man agreed, and they entered. Under the influence of the liquor with which the detective plied him, he expanded upon his woes until soon they were as thick as only thieves can be.

Then Silver suggested a walk, and they left the saloon. Silver deftly steered his quarry around three sides of the block and arrived at the rear of the station and the entrance to the lock-up. Then he paused.

"Now then, John Howells," he said sternly, "you're under arrest and you're going to be searched by me unless you want to talk business first."

The Englishman, taken by surprise, began to splutter again all sorts of protestations and threats. Silver displayed the little five-pointed star of the detective bureau, and marched his captive into the building.

Down in the lock-up room, Silver inquired of the keeper for an empty cell. He was assigned one to his liking at the far end of Criminals' Row where they would be safe from interruption. In the cell, the crook assumed an air of bravado and began to take off his clothes readily, first taking off his watch and laying it down carefully, on the bench.

But Silver motioned him to wait. He knew that the search in the room above had been most thorough and that there was no use repeating the performance. He picked up the man's watch, opened the back of it, and glanced at the crook in triumph. The watch was hollow, and inside was crowded Armstrong's diamond scarfpin.

"Now will you talk business?" he queried.



And John Howells, cleverest international diamond thief of his time, nodded.

"I've got about five hundred on me," he suggested. "Will that be enough?"

Silver laughed in his face.

"Who was your pal in the crush act?" he demanded. "I want him, too."

"That's not business," replied the crook wrathfully.

"It is business," replied Silver coolly. "I know you had a pal to work the jam on Armstrong and I know he'll be down here first thing in the morning with a lawyer to get you out so you might as well tell me now and save time. I'll fix it up."

Finally Howells admitted that his co-worker had been Isaac Posen, a Polish Jew, also internationally known to the police. Like all successful criminals, they had made arrangements beforehand with the best criminal lawyer in town and so had everything fixed for their defense in case they were caught.

"Who is the mouthpiece?" queried Silver.

The crook mentioned the name of one of the city's foremost criminal lawyers. Silver nodded in satisfaction.

Then, leaving Howells to meditate on the professional error in his ways, the detective locked the cell door. He noted the arrest at the desk of the lock-up keeper and told the keeper to hang the slip on the hook pending further investigation. Instead of turning in his duplicate slip at the desk upstairs, he tucked it into his pocket and walked out. There was now no record of John Howells', alias Robert Warren's, second arrest.

Not knowing the description of Isaac Posen sufficiently well to run the risk of missing his man in disguise. Silver hailed a cab and went down to Central Station where he got down the Squeal Book and studied the face of the hook-nosed Jew that looked out at him until he had memorized it in all its details.

In satisfaction he noted that there were "squeals" up for the pair in London, Paris, and New York — a total of fifteen thousand dollars altogether being offered for their apprehension. In addition, it was well known that the lawyer the crooks had retained never touched a case under twenty-five thousand dollars.

"Big fish in the net today," he chuckled as he closed the book and started away.

But just outside the station he bumped into Rawlings.

"I'm going up and look in the Squeal Book, Silver," the latter said enthusiastically. "I'm going to post myself on this John Howells, and if he ever comes to town I'll nab him quick."

Silver had hard work to keep back an oath. But it required some quick thinking.

Might as well save your trouble," he said amiably. "We just had word that Howells is arrested in Toledo. He'll be sent to New York directly, and so you'll probably never see him around here. You come along with me and I'll tell you anything you want to know about the rest of them."

Rawlings jumped at the chance and plied the veteran with questions for several blocks; then, when Silver had finally taken his departure on the plea of an urgent case, Rawlings looked after him with some suspicion.

"Silver is up to something again," he muttered. "I'd like to know what it is. Perhaps if I told him what I'd found out about the Dunning pearls, he might come around. The necklace was stolen, Silver recovered it, although he swears he didn't, a lot of money changed hands somehow, he one was ever arrested, and neither Silver nor Dunning will say a word about it. That's funny. I think I'll just run up and take a look at the Squeal Book, anyhow."



And, down in one of the corridors of the Woman's Temple Building, near the door of the spacious offices occupied by the criminal lawyer, Silver was lounging, smoking a good cigar and scrutinizing the faces of those who entered.

Finally a furtive, hook-nosed individual, dressed in the height of fashion but with a worried frown upon his brow, got out of the elevator and sidled to the lawyer's door. Silver entered close on his heels, but found the crook already closeted with the attorney. Without heeding the efforts of several clerks to deter him. Silver pushed open the door of the private office and stepped in.

The great criminal lawyer rose with an exclamation of wrath at the interruption, but calmed down when he saw who it was. Posen had just been explaining that Howells had been arrested, searched, and turned free, but that he had again fallen into the hands of the law for some reason. The Jew had hung around the station and seen his pal taken in the back way by a man who was unquestionably a detective.

"That's the man, now!" exclaimed the Jew in alarm as he scrutinized Silver thoroughly.

"Sure," replied Silver genially, "and just consider yourself under arrest for the present."

He explained matters to the lawyer, who was known as a man always ready to listen to reason. The lawyer heard him out calmly, while the Jew twisted his hands in agitation. When Silver had finished the lawyer broke into a quizzical smile.

"What would you suggest?" he asked.

Silver considered. "Best to get them on the train tonight and ride them out of town," he returned.

"And your share?" asked the attorney.

"Five thousand cash."

At that the lawyer demurred. He said it was much too high a figure.

"We'll have to work fast," replied Silver evenly. "The twenty-four hours I can hold Howells on suspicion will not last long. I'll have to turn in the slip and book him on charges pretty soon. And remember, I've got the goods."

He extracted Howells' false watch from his pocket and held it up. He opened it and blue-white gleams flashed from its interior.

The Jew broke down at that and commanded the lawyer to do anything that was asked to get them off. The lawyer shrugged his shoulders and acquiesced.

But hardly had they gone into a consultation on ways and means than the private telephone at the lawyer's elbow jingled. The voice of a clerk in the outer office came over the wire. The lawyer exclaimed in annoyance.

"There's an officer out there by the name of Rawlings," he said to Silver, "who says he's trailed you here and wants to see you immediately. Says he's found Howells in the Squeal Book and knows it was the man arrested this morning."

"My God!" exclaimed Silver. "Is there a side door we can get out?"

"Yes." The lawyer indicated the way.

"All right. See you at the station tonight, the 8:40 New York Central. Come along, Posen; you'll be my guest for the rest of the afternoon."

And, grasping the frightened Jew by the arm, Silver hurried him out the back way.



A few minutes later he was at the Harrison Street lock-up. He paused to speak to the keeper as he went in.

"Tear up the slip," he requested. "Made a mistake in my man and am turning him loose. Wasn't the bird I thought it was."

The lock-up keeper took down the slip and tore it up so that now there was no evidence that one Robert Warren had been detained. Silver had already done the same to his duplicate. He hurried Howells out of the station and accompanied both crooks to the luxurious suite of rooms they had engaged at one of the leading hotels. He remained with them for the remainder of the day.

At 8:30, they met the lawyer in the station and all four of them boarded the train. The crooks had a great amount of baggage, and Silver, always helpful to a client, had picked up a small brown bag which he carried for them.

The quartet occupied adjoining seats facing each other during the run down to Michigan City, first stop on the line, and Silver sat with the bag between his feet. The crooks eyed him nervously and had little to say. The lawyer sat back, regarding Silver and the crooks, with a twinkle in his eye.

Finally the whistle blew for the stop, and Silver and the lawyer rose.

"Well," remarked the detective easily, "I'm glad to have met you gentlemen. Hope that we meet again sometime."

"Hope not," they both responded in unison, and laughed a little nervously. They seized upon the brown bag at the first opportunity and thrust it under a seat.

In the station at Michigan City the lawyer turned to Silver and handed over a long manila envelope containing something that crackled crisply. Silver pocketed it with a smile of satisfaction.

There was some time to wait until a train back to the city could be obtained, and they sat down to wait. The lawyer turned to Silver with a grin.

"You had them pretty well worried," he said, chuckling. "Do you know what was in that grip?"

"Must have been swag," replied Silver. "It was pretty light."

"You bet it was swag," said his companion. "There was thirty thousand dollars worth of diamonds in that! You missed a big haul."

Silver shrugged.

"I suspected it," he returned, "but I had made a bargain, and I always keep my word. My honor is impregnable."

And both of them laughed.

Not long afterward Finks, the pawnbroker, purchased a diamond scarf pin, entering a bogus description of the seller, and the triumphant Rawlings returned it to its owner in Detroit.

But detective Silver made sure to keep out of the way of the "kid copper" for some time.


Watch for further "Adventures in Graft". Observe how Rawlings, the "boy detective," becomes the Nemesis of the crafty Silver, and how Silver frames him and gets him bounced. Rawlings then pulls a hot one on Silver, who, much surprised, decides the kid is too clever for an enemy; so he convinces Rawlings they should enter into partnership, and together they start out to crook the crooks. But the crooks are ready for them.