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       Quintus Oakes: A Detective Story, p.1

           Charles Ross Jackson
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Quintus Oakes: A Detective Story


  Produced by Robert Cicconetti, Sue Fleming and the OnlineDistributed Proofreading Team at https://www.pgdp.net (Thisfile was produced from images generously made availableby The Internet Archive/American Libraries.)

  Quintus Oakes

  _A Detective Story_

  BY

  CHARLES ROSS JACKSON

  AUTHOR OF "THE THIRD DEGREE"

  G. W. DILLINGHAM COMPANY

  PUBLISHERS NEW YORK

  COPYRIGHT, 1904, BY

  G. W. DILLINGHAM COMPANY

  [_All rights reserved._]

  _Quintus Oakes_ _Issued March, 1904_

  CONTENTS

  CHAPTER PAGE

  I. The Rescue 5

  II. Quintus Oakes at Home 19

  III. Oakes's Experiences 31

  IV. The Departure 41

  V. The Letter 50

  VI. The Murder 56

  VII. The Inquest 69

  VIII. The Mansion 89

  IX. Distrust and Suspicion 100

  X. The Cellar 108

  XI. The Night Walk 123

  XII. The Witness 141

  XIII. The Plan of Campaign 148

  XIV. Clues 159

  XV. The Ruse 171

  XVI. The Negro's Story 191

  XVII. Checkmated 209

  XVIII. Misadventures 221

  XIX. A Faulty Story 240

  XX. A Man's Confession 253

  XXI. The Attack 267

  XXII. The Insane Root 278

  XXIII. The Test 287

  XXIV. Across the Bridge 298

  XXV. The Man of the Hour 311

  QUINTUS OAKES

  _CHAPTER I_

  _The Rescue_

  It was a warm summer evening; the air was stifling and still. I, RodneyStone, attorney-at-law, left my apartment to stroll along Broadway,seeking a roof garden wherein to spend a few hours of change from theatmosphere of the pavements, and to kill the ennui that comes to all ofus whom business compels to accept such circumstances.

  As I walked down a side street, I noticed ahead of me a colored man rushout from an apartment house, shouting something that I did notunderstand. His actions seemed peculiar for a moment, but a curl ofsmoke from one of the third-story windows made known the cause. It wasfire. I found myself among the first to reach the spot. From Broadway acrowd was coming, such as collects readily under these circumstances. Iwas soon mingling with it, watching the police in their endeavors torouse the tenants and to spread the alarm on all the floors. Thenumerous dwellers were soon rushing out, and I saw several deedsdeserving of mention. As the crowd looked up at the apartment in whichthe flames were showing and from which smoke was pouring, a window wasraised--evidently in a separate room--and a young girl appeared standingat the sill. The effort of raising the sash had been a severe one forher, for she was not over ten. Looking back into the room, she saw thesmoke filling it, and quickly scrambled out on the window frame. Theengines had not yet arrived, but I could hear them shrieking in thedistance, and we all knew that help was coming.

  "Don't jump! Don't jump!" was the cry from us all. I advancedinstinctively, as did many, to be nearer, for we saw that fear had takenpossession of the child and that she seemed about to slide outward anddrop--to almost certain disaster.

  A tall, handsome, well-built man in the crowd behind us spoke in a voiceof confidence and assurance.

  "Hold tight, little girl. You're all right!"

  I noticed that he was breathing hard; he had just arrived in haste.

  Even as he spoke, the little one's head moved from one side to theother, and she seemed in distress. Then something like an avalanche camefrom back of me, tearing the crowd asunder. A hand fell upon myshoulder, and I reeled to one side as the tall stranger sprang forward,saying: "She is going to faint." Quick wit and quick eye had detectedwhat none other realized, that nature was being overcome and that thefall was inevitable.

  The limp little body slid a second, then pitched forward. A groan wentup at what seemed sure death. But the stranger's rush was timed to theinstant, and as the child's body curved head downward in its flight, hisstrong figure reached the spot and his arms caught the child. The manbraced as they swung downward to his side, depositing the unconsciousgirl in my hands and those of a policeman. She did not touch thesidewalk, but the young giant came to his knees by the force of theimpact. It was a marvellous piece of work and the crowd cheered andclosed in upon the rescuer and our burden. The child was taken away bythose who had escaped. Then all hands looked at the man, and somebodystarted to speak to him, and to ask him his name.

  He turned to me. "Sorry to have smashed into you that way, sir," hesaid. I answered, saying something about I was glad he did--and uponlooking up, I saw he was gone. We watched him, and saw him turn intoBroadway, bound on avoiding further notice.

  "Who was he?" cried many.

  A thick-set, tough-looking character spoke up: "Oh, he's de gazabo wotdid the turn on de----" At this instant a policeman pushed toward us,and, shoving a club into the fellow's ribs, shouted: "Come, now, get outo' this, or I'll----"

  The fellow was off, and with him our chance of identifying the strangervanished. The police had been too busy with other matters to secure hisname. Another good act to be credited to an unknown!

  The fire was soon under control and I renewed my walk, emerging onBroadway as the shadows of night were coming on, and the street wasawakening to its characteristic summer life.

  Suddenly I saw him--the identical man--walking across the thoroughfare.I quickened my pace, although going rapidly at the time. It was myintention to get closer to him and notice him better, as I wasinterested. He turned up-town, and I saw that, although he was walkingeasily, his pace was quicker than mine. What impressed me more thananything else was his graceful carriage and the fine cut of his clothes.He was dressed in a dark suit without waistcoat, and one of those soft,white summer shirts which have become popular of late years. On his headwas a plain but expensive Panama. As he passed up the street ahead ofme, gaining all the while with his easy stride, he saluted a fewgentlemen, and the policemen seemed to know him. He evidently was astriking figure to other eyes than mine, for I noticed several men stopand half turn to look after him--a thing that one sees on Broadway butseldom. He turned into a side street, and again I lost him. I fancied hedisappeared into one of the bachelor apartment houses of that section.

  During the rest of the evening I regretted not having made strongerefforts to learn his name; then I laughed at myself for being soimpressed by a stranger's appearance. The fact was, that the man'saction and personality had affected me so strongly that for days Ifrequently found myself thinking of the fire and the rescue. I oftenlooked along the street when walking, in a vague hope of seeing thehandsome, clear-cut face of the man who had acted so promptly, but sounostentatiously.

  Little did I then know how great a factor that man was to be in themoulding of my future--how circumstances were shaping, to link hisactive nature with my career, and to lead me into one of the mostpeculiar exp
eriences that ever came to any one.

  Over a month passed, and the first signs of fall were upon us. Thestreets were assuming the appearance of activity, and familiar facesreappeared in the public places, all invigorated and refreshed by thesummer's outings.

  Early in October I found myself with my friend, Dr. Moore, a well-knownphysician, standing in one of the popular theatres. We had dropped infor one act or so, and, like many others, were unable to secure seatsowing to the hour and the popularity of the play. At first, engrossedwith the performance, we paid no attention to the audience; but when theact closed and the lights were turned up, we glanced around as weprepared to leave for a stroll. My attention was called to some ladiesin one of the lower boxes--two fair-haired and strikingly attractiveyoung women, and an older one, evidently a relative, for there was aresemblance in features that was noticeable. The younger ones werecertainly sisters; their similarity of complexion, face and figurerendered such an assumption a certainty.

  My friend noticed them, and a change came over his face; he began tobeam as one does who has seen a friend. We were far off, and in aposition where we could admire, without impoliteness.

  "Those are charming ladies," I said. "You seem to know them, Moore?"

  "Yes, I have not seen them for quite a while; they are old patients ofmine. Do you see any one with them? If I mistake not, he is somewherein the box," continued Moore.

  "He!" "Who?" As I spoke I noticed a gentleman--a tall, clear-cutfellow--lean forward and speak to one of the sisters. As he moved, hisface came full in the light and I recognized him.

  "It's he!" I cried. "I've found him at last!"

  "Found whom?" exclaimed Moore.

  "Him, that man!"

  "Great Scott!" said Moore, "you must be sick. What ails you, anyway?Have you been dining at the Club?"

  I turned to my friend and said: "Doctor, I've found him at last--thatman in the box."

  "Well, did not I tell you he ought to be there?" said Moore. "Becauseyou found him, do you think you have accomplished a wonderful piece ofwork? Of course he was there."

  "What do you mean? Whom are you talking about, anyway?" I asked.

  Doctor Moore looked at me as though wondering if I were in my rightmind, then said: "Stone, I am talking about the gentleman in the box; Isaid he should be there; he usually is with those ladies."

  "Yes," I replied, "it is he!"

  "Stone, what's the matter? Come and take something, old man"--andseizing me by the arm, my companion led me away to the nearest cafe,where he watched me closely as he poured out a bracer.

  I seized it and said: "Here's to the man in the box! I've found him."

  "Of course you found him, old man. I don't see what you are making sucha fuss over that fact for; it's not a question of priority."

  "No," I said, "it's a question of identity."

  "Explain."

  "Well, I want to know who _he_ is. He has worried my mind for a month."

  "Oh, is that all?" and Moore heaved a sigh of relief; he had beengenuinely anxious about me, that was plain.

  "Have you run up against him anywhere?" he asked.

  "No, he ran up against me," I answered.

  "Here, sit down," said Moore. "What, in heaven's name, has got intoyou?"

  "Nothing. Only I desire to know that man's name. I have had anexperience with him."

  "Indeed! You're not the first, then; have you been up to anything shady,Stone?" said Moore, laughingly.

  "No, only smoky--a fire. This man saved a child's life in a magnificentmanner. What's his name?"

  "Oh! I see. His name is Oakes. You should know that. He left collegejust a year or so after you and I entered. Don't you remember the fellowwho saved those boys from drowning in the harbor that day?"

  "You don't tell me! Is that Quintus Oakes? I never met him, but ofcourse I knew him; everybody at college did, after that."

  "Yes, that's the same fellow."

  "Well, I certainly did not recognize his face. Only saw it a moment, butthere was something about him that seemed familiar--that _walk_ ofhis--I remember it now."

  As the memories of youth crowded upon me I recalled him well, andrealized that the years had filled out his figure and face; but it wasthe same man, the same walk and carriage--I had seen them hundreds oftimes. The quick, easy stride, erect figure and commanding bearing thathad marked him so in his youth were as noticeable now, in his fullmanhood, as in those years of the long ago.

  My companion and I did not return for the last act of the play, butstrolled out in the street, where I told him of the episode of the fireand the part that Oakes had played in it.

  "His actions, both at the time and afterwards when he tried to avoidnotice, are characteristic," said Moore. "He is reputed as doing thingsvigorously and opportunely. His presence of mind is marvellous, I amtold. You remember, he had that gift years back in college. Now, itseems to have developed greatly, until everybody who knows him wellspeaks of it."

  "Are you well acquainted with him? You seem to know all about him."

  "Yes, indeed," answered my friend. "I met him one night several yearsback, and I became so attracted to him that I cultivated hisacquaintance wherever possible."

  "Then you will understand how I was glad to identify him," was myrejoinder.

  "Yes, indeed; if you like, you can easily manage to meet him."

  I expressed my earnest desire, and Dr. Moore promised to arrange it sothat we could meet some evening at the Club.

  "By the way," said my companion, "he is probably the best informed,all-round man you have ever met. He did not cease learning at college."

  "Lucky for him," I exclaimed laughingly.

  "Well, don't be surprised if he starts in to discuss law with you, andholds you up at your own profession; he is a surprise party, sometimes."

  "All right, but what is his business?"

  Moore looked at me, and said: "He is one of the most original detectivesin the country."

  "Oh, a detective. Along what lines? He surely is no ordinary one at thatbusiness."

  "No. He used to work alone on unusual occurrences, but his success wasso great that now he has a large number of subordinates who do theordinary details, and he limits his work to the important points onselect cases. He is not heard of much, and is seen very little, but hiswork is in great demand."

  I was interested, and asked if he had ever done any special work ofprominence.

  "Yes," said Moore. "He solved the matter of the 'Red Rose of Trieste.'Do you remember hearing of that?"

  I exclaimed in amazement: "He! Is _he_ the man who solved that affair?You must be mistaken. That occurred, or began, in Europe."

  "Exactly," said Moore. "Quintus Oakes works there, as well as here. Hespeaks German, French, Italian, and perhaps more languages, fluently,and can secure evidence anywhere. He has travelled over the worldseveral times. One year he was away ten months on a case, and securedthe necessary evidence for conviction in Sydney."

  "I see. He is something decidedly out of the ordinary, as his appearancesuggests."

  "He is on a new case just now, and he has promised to let me go, if Iwant to. It's a very short affair, and perhaps I will take a vacationthat way. I have not been away yet this year," continued Moore.

  We now parted for the evening, and as he started to go, I called outafter him: "Say, Moore, get me into it, if it's exciting. I have had novacation yet myself. Introduce me to Mr. Oakes as soon as you can,anyway."

  "All right. I'll arrange for a night at the Club, provided Oakes is nottoo busy."

  I returned to my rooms, little knowing how things were shaping, from anentirely independent direction, to throw me, willingly I confess, for afew brief weeks into a vortex of turmoil, to fight through it side byside with my friend Moore and vigorous, cool, quick-witted QuintusOakes.

 
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