murder mystery, crime, & detective fiction

Old Search and the Stranglers
PROFESSIONAL SLEUTH

Old Search and the Stranglers

OR, The Thugs of Gotham

by Major A. F. Grant

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First published in March 15, 1995.
Old Cap Collier Library

No. 587

Old Search is up against his most dangerous foe ... the Thugs of Gotham and their ruthless use of the strangler's cord! What dark plot leads to kidnapping and murder? Read more

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TABLE OF CONTENTS
  1. JOE PHENIX'S GHASTLY FIND
  2. OLD SEARCH AND THE NEW MYSTERY
  3. THE MISSING MAN TURNS UP
  4. A BUSINESS BEAUTY
  5. THE THUG ON BOARD THE *SUNSET*
  6. OLD SEARCH AND COPPERS
  7. BETWEEN SATAN AND THE SEA
  8. HEIR OR IMPOSTER --- WHICH?
  9. IN THE SERPENT'S LAIR
  10. MOTHER MASTADON'S NOTE
  11. OLD SEARCH'S NIGHT TRAIL
  12. THE SPOTTED REPTILE AND THE GLOVED ONE
  13. MOTHER MASTADON IS PLUNDERED
  14. JETTIE'S HOME-COMING
  15. VULTURE AND VULTURE
  16. THE TORN CONFESSION
  17. OLD SEARCH ROUSES A TIGER
  18. THE SPY'S LUCK
  19. THE OLD FERRET'S NEW LINK
  20. A SEALED SECRET
  21. THE BEATEN THUG
  22. THE EMERALD LINK
  23. OLD SEARCH AND THE VIPER
  24. THE LAST THROW OF THE CORD

CHAPTER 1

JOE PHENIX’S GHASTLY FIND

That it was past midnight, the roan who stood nearly knee-deep in the thick, slowly-moving current of the sewer well knew.

He held in one hand a bull’s-eye lantern which he had just extinguished, and now he was listening to sounds that seemed to be borne to his ears by a breeze which stole through the disgusting darkness.

Joe Phenix knew the sewers of New York by heart.

He knew how to enter and how to quit them at all hours.

Much of his life was passed underground, and after the valuables that fell into his hands amid the darkness of the subterranean ways of Gotham.

Leaning against the wet wall of the fetid place, and inhaling the foul air that came to his lungs, Joe Phenix, sewer rat, listened.

He knew where he was.

Underneath one of the traveled streets of the great city he stood knee-deep, as we have said, in the murky fluid, that seemed to cling to his legs as it passed.

When the sewers were dry he had rats to fight, and sometimes he saw the creatures swimming about in search of food.

More than once they had attacked him, but he had escaped with a few bites.

He had seen thousands of them in the sewers of New York — had looked at them in the gleam of his bull’s-eye lantern, and had kicked them out of his way.

But how there was water in the sewer and he saw no rats at all.

Joe Phenix was a man of thirty-five.

He had seen a good deal of the world such as was bounded by the limits of New York, but beyond that but little of St.

He lived, or rather had a nest, in Doyer Street.

He had a backroom in Bottle Alley, and thither he would carry what he found in the sewers.

On this occasion Joe had been in the sewers some time.

It had been a poor night, for nothing had come to his net and he was not in the best of humor.

The black eyes of the little sewer rat twinkled when he heard the voices, for he was near a manhole, and In a flash he had “doused the glim,” and stood waiting in the darkness.

Waiting for what?

If Joe had been asked he would have said that he hardly knew.

He had waited many times for something to fall into his net, for now and then fleeing criminals had dropped rich prizes down to him and he had made money by the drop.

Joe hugged the wall of the sewer and tried to catch the words about the manhole.

All at once a match was struck at the opening and this sent the sewer rat forward.

Joe was all eyes now,

“Put it out; there’s water in the old hole,” said a voice.

In another instant the light went out, and all was as dark as before.

“Are you ready?”

“Yes. Wait a moment; it’s caught on my button. There, it’s loose now. Let it go!”

In a moment, “splash,” and some of the disturbed water was dashed into Joe Phenix’s face.

He drew back against the stones again, but made no noise.

“Shut it up now. We’re all right.”

“Caramba! I hope so. Now, come. I’m as dry as a fish.”

The manhole was closed, and the listening man in the sewer heard receding footsteps.

Something had been dropped into the sewer and he wondered what it was.

He did not uncover the light of the bull’s-eye for a few seconds, and then he sent the light over the black water.

At first it revealed nothing, and then it fell upon something lying beneath the manhole — something enveloped in a long bag, puckered at one end.

It was a grotesque-looking object to the sewer rat, and for a few moments he eyed it from his place against the wall.

“The d—l!” said Joe, with a start. “It must be dead whatever it is, and I’ve seen more than one body in the sewers.”

He pushed forward and stopped over the object.

Then he saw what a terribly human shape it had.

It lay at his feet, and the light of his little lantern fell full upon it.

Joe Phenix, for all his courage, had his weak points, and one of these was the touching of a dead body.

More than once he had found babies in the sewers, their little faces half devoured by rats; but this time he had discovered what could not be a child.

It was too large for that.

He listened for some time as he bent over the sack, now and then trying to move it with his foot, but he only disturbed the ripples of the thick tide.

“The waters not so deep at the turn,” said he, and suddenly catching hold of the find, he began to drag it down the sewer like a fisherman drags his net ashore.

Every now and then he stopped and looked back over his shoulder, as if to see whether the ghastly thing was following him, and each time he looked he shuddered.

He reached a turn In the underground river and stopped.

The tide was barely ankle deep there.

Now Joe made his light fast to his belt and began to untie the sack.

It was hard work for it had been tied for keeps, but he made headway at last.

When the last knot was opened he paused and looked up to catch his breath.

Something seemed to tell him not to look in the bag.

Pshaw! why not?

What was in there could not harm him, for he was strong and had the advantage of it.

He would look if the thing in the sack was headless.

The sewer rat pulled the top of the sack open and bent nearer.

He directed the beams of his bull’s-eye lantern into it and saw the top of a head.

“I thought so! Some dark work,” thought Joe. “Mebbe there’s been murder done. Who knows?”

He reached in and caught hold of a shoulder.

The next moment he had pulled the thing inside the sack partly out.

There was a white face with a pair of staring eyes.

Joe dropped bag and ail and fell back with a cry.

It was too ghastly for him after all.

“Why, he’s dead — as dead as a nail!” laughed Joe. “So what’s the use!” and returning to the sack, he gave it another tug and the dead man came half way out.

Then with teeth gritted Joe, the sewer rat, held the light very close to the face, he saw it was the face of a man about fifty.

It was a handsome face, despite its present ghastliness; but the features were contorted as if great pain had attended death, and the hands were tightly clinched.

Joe noticed that the hands were small and well cared for.

The few garments that clung to the body — pantaloons, shirt and waistcoat, were good and almost new.

Surely this man belonged in life to the higher walks of society.

Joe did not know him.

He did not move in high society himself, and men like the dead one never came into Bottle Alley to see him.

There was an impassable gulf between Joe Phenix and men of this stamp.

Joe took pains now to look the dead man over carefully and to note many little things which before had escaped his eyes.

He turned the pockets wrong side out, but they did not reward him.

There were no rings on the fingers, though he saw traces of one at least.

He found a mark around the dead man’s neck — a dark line as if a cord had been tightly drawn there.

This might account for the distortion in the face.

The right hand was very tightly clinched, Joe fell to opening it, a task which seemed greater than he bargained for; but at last it opened, something white dropped out.

It floated away on the water, but the sewer rat pounced upon it and rescued it before it bad time to disappear.

It was a torn card.

At first he thought of throwing it back into the water, but on second thought he held to it and thrust it into his pocket.

“I’ll look at it next,” said he, and then he went back to the body again.

“This ought to go to the morgue,” he went on. “I don’t want to be mixed up in the affair if I can help it. The next thing they’ll be suspectin’ me, and I’ve, been doing pretty well In the sewers of late. Let me see.”

He leaned against the wall and scratched his head while be collected his thoughts.

He did not care to be connected with a midnight mystery of the metropolis, for his name and his mode of life might get him into trouble, especially since he had once been arrested for appropriating to his own use some property found in the sewer.

“Hang it all, I’ll let it stay where it is,” cried Joe at last, “No, I won’t, for that wouldn’t be just right. I’ll tell my old friend, the captain, and let him do the rest. The captain’s all right and he won’t give me away.”

Joe carried the body to a spot which was almost dry and comparatively free from the invasion of rats, after which he skurried down the sewer, and at last drew himself up into the street through a convenient outlet.

“Now for the captain!” cried he. “I guess I’ll find him at home, for I saw by the newspaper the other day that he’s got back from London where he unraveled the mystery of that missing lady. He’ll be surprised to see me and to listen to my story!”

Joe bolted off and was soon knocking at a little door near Broadway.

He was asked to “come In “ by someone inside, and he entered at once.

“Hello, captain,” cried Joe with a grin, as his gaze fell upon the mas already eying him from a chair near a table. “It’s me, Joe, the Sewer Rat, and I’ve something to talk about — a new mystery for you, cap,” and Joe took the other chair as he finished.

END OF SAMPLE

Old Search and the Stranglers

OR, The Thugs of Gotham

by Major A. F. Grant

Old Cap Collier Library
First published in March 15, 1995. No. 587

First Edition by Old Cap Collier Library.

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