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CHAPTER XII WHAT THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK CONTAINED
At eleven o'clock next morning a strange taxi-cab appeared in Gibbon Street and drew up before Bickle's grocery. From it stepped a figure so remarkable in that neighborhood that the little boys for the moment were too astonished even to deride it; to wit: Se?or Henry Saunders in full regalia, a red carnation in his buttonhole. He picked his way gingerly into the store and looked about him with an expression of astonished rebuke that the common things of life should dare to approach so close. He inquired of Bessie for "Se?or Greegoree Parr."

Bessie not at all intimidated by his exquisiteness marched him out through the kitchen into the muddy yard where Greg in overalls, a sight for gods and men, was busy greasing and tightening up the flivver.

"Oh, there is a mistake!" said Se?or Saunders elevating his eyebrows. "It is for Se?or Greegoree Parr that I ask."

"That's me," said Greg inelegantly. "I know you of course. How are you?"

The situation was too much for the Castilian youth. He looked about him wildly. The sight of Blossom and Ginger McAfee grinning in the background did not tend to reassure him. "You—you drive dees cab!" he stammered.

"Sure!" said Greg wickedly. "I'm what they call an owl-driver."

"A owl-driver!"

"Sure, you know, a fly-by-night." He opened the door of the flivver. "Get in. We can talk quietly here."

Se?or Henry glanced askance at the overalls. "Thank you, I stand. My taxi waits. I bring you dees note."

"Ah, from Miss Wilmot!" said Greg with a gleaming eye. He wiped his hands preparatory to taking it.

The other young man marked the gleam and stiffened. These two were bound to strike sparks from each other on sight. "Miss Wilmot—I do not understand," he said haughtily.

"Oh, I suppose you call her Se?orita de Socotra," said Greg carelessly. "But she prefers to be known by the other name now."

"Is it so?" queried Se?or Saunders icily. "Did she tell you that?"

"She did," said Greg giving him stare for stare.

Meanwhile he opened his note. There were but four lines.


"I have told Henry everything. He is anxious to help. I hope you're satisfied. F. has not got what we want with him. If I detain him here until after lunch, could you have his room at the hotel searched?

"A. Wilmot."


Meanwhile the dark-skinned youth had been studying the fair one.

"'Ave I not seen you before?" he asked.

"In the bar at the Meriden," said Greg.

"Ah, was that you? Then this is a disguise?"

"If you like."

"You follow me into that bar?"

"Yes. I was trying to get into touch with Miss Wilmot."

"Ah! You think this quite the fair thing?"

"What do you mean?"

"She is so young, so inexperience'——!"

"Do you mean that I'm taking advantage of her?"

Se?or Saunders shrugged. He had command of a most expressive shrug.

"Well, I won't discuss that with you now," said Greg coolly. "More important things to think about. Miss Wilmot says here that you are willing to help us."

The other bowed. "Willing to help her," he amended.

Greg ignored it. He was only anxious to get rid of the man so that he could get to the task that Amy had laid upon him. "Can you tell me the situation in Managuay that has resulted in this crime?"

"I don' know much about Managuayan affairs," was the languid reply. "I am more in Paris and London."

"I see," said Greg. "But what do you think induced de Socotra to kill Antonio Bareda."

"It is incredible!" said Se?or Henry. "There is somewhere a mistake. Why, the de Socotras are the oldest family in Managuay. Se?or Francisco is a man of the world like myself."

"That may be," said Greg dryly, "but he did it just the same, or had it done."

"Should that be so," said the other, "it is not fitting that the Se?orita undertake the duties of a police officer. I do not approve of it."

"Oh, don't you!" thought Greg.

"Hereafter I will act for her in taking whatever measures may be necessary."

"That will be nice," said Greg ironically. "You will excuse me now, I am sure. I have an important job on this morning. Have to get a hustle on. You said your taxi was waiting. You and I can have a nice long talk some other time."

So saying, he wafted Se?or Saunders towards the yard gate. The latter presently found himself out on the sidewalk, a little dazed and wholly disapproving.

Meanwhile Greg rushed up-stairs to dress. As soon as he was ready Hickey took him to the Hotel des Estados Unidos. Greg registered there. He had on his previous visited noted that de Socotra, or Bareda as he called himself here, occupied room 318, and he wished to obtain a room as near to that as possible. He supposed that 318 would be on the third floor.

"Not too high up," he said, as the clerk turned to choose him a room, "say, the third floor."

"Very good, sir. Number 311. Have you any baggage?"

"It will be sent here later."

The clerk looked at him significantly.

"I will pay for a day in advance," said Greg, who had no wish to cheat the hotel out of its just dues.

"Thank you, sir. Two dollars."

Greg was shown to his room. He let the boy go and made a little reconnoissance. His own room looked upon the side street. Number 318 he found was at the end of the same corridor on the other side. It was evidently from its position a corner room with a window on the court and other windows to the west. There was a red light outside the door, indicating that the room possessed a fire escape. Around the corner of the corridor, opposite the elevator, was a window on the court, from which Greg could command the court window of de Socotra's room. The fire escape was outside the court window; moreover the window itself was open. Greg saw that the room might be reached without especial difficulty from five other rooms, i.e. one on the same floor, two above and two below.

He returned to the office. "You haven't a room opening on a fire-escape have you?" he asked the clerk. "I'm a bit nervous about fire in an old building like this."

The clerk consulted his plan. "No," he said. "Those rooms go first. But 316 on your floor is vacant. The fire-escape is adjoining. From the window you could reach out and put your hand on it if there was any need."

"Very well, change me to 316," said Greg, suppressing the desire to thank the amiable clerk who so innocently played into his hand.

Alone in 316 Greg narrowly searched all the windows on the other side of the court. No head was to be seen at any one of them. He reassured himself with the thought that at half-past eleven in the morning in a transient hotel there was not much reason for the guests to be in their rooms. There was a certain risk of course, but that must be taken.

He raised the window of his room to its widest extent and stood back to make sure for the last time that no one was watching him. Then grasping the rail of the fire escape he swung himself over, threw up the window of the adjoining room and slipped in. In all he was not visible above five seconds. Having made the trip he looked sharply behind him, but still no startled face appeared at any window within view. He breathed more freely.

Bolting the door into the hall, he took stock of his surroundings. There was no question but that he was in the right room, for the old suit-case with the collapsible side lay open on the floor, with de Socotra's more elegant valise beside it. The suit-case had been ransacked, but not unpacked. It contained only what an old gentleman of modest tastes might carry on a journey. De Socotra's own things were spread on the bureau and hung in the closet, a bit of stage business for the benefit of the maids, Greg supposed, for it was not likely that the elegant de Socotra troubled this modest room much.

Swiftly and silently Greg made his search. It did not take long, for the room offered but few possible places of concealment; valises, bureau drawers, closet. Greg did not neglect the bed; but no little black book rewarded him. He went over everything twice, taking care to leave all exactly as he had found it. His disappointment was keen. All that thought, not to speak of the risk, deserved a better reward he told himself.

Listening first to make sure there was no one in the corridor, he left the room openly by the door. It locked itself behind him. He went on down-stairs, meaning to return direct to the taxi-yard, for the Hotel des Estados Unidos had served its purpose as far as he was concerned. But a little incident in the lobby changed his plans.

As he stepped from the elevator his attention was attracted by a young man entering the lobby from the street at the same moment, a South American apparently, like the majority of this hotel's patrons. Something in his face appealed instinctively to Greg, his honest, eager gaze perhaps, his sensitive and resolute mouth; anyway there was something about him that caused Greg to think: "He'd make a good friend."

Greg was struck further by an extraordinary look of anxiety on the other's face, a generous anxiety. He came quickly to the desk beside which Greg was standing, and not more than a foot separated them. But the young Spanish-American never noticed Greg; his anxiety filled him. He moistened his lips before he spoke, and asked the clerk a question in Spanish, as if his life depended on the answer.

Greg was almost betrayed into an exclamation of astonishment. The young man asked for "Se?or Antonio Bareda."

The clerk replied in the affirmative, and an extraordinary look of relief passed over the young man's face. For a moment he seemed overcome; he lowered his eyes until he could command himself, and passed his handkerchief over his face. The clerk noticed nothing.

Finding his voice the young man asked another question. Not hard to guess what this was, because the clerk glanced in the box marked 318, and seeing the key there, shook his head. The young man spoke again—was it to ask when Se?or Bareda would return? The clerk shrugged and spread out his hands.

Greg was on fire with curiosity. He lit a cigar, and affected to look idly around like a man with time on his hands. Meanwhile he missed no move of the young man's. The grand question was, was he looking for the real or the false Bareda? Greg wished to believe that he was a friend of the real Bareda's. Certainly he bore no resemblance to others of de Socotra's gang who had all somehow a fishy look. This young fellow's glance was as open as the day. But if it were true that he were on the side of the real Bareda, a dreadful shock awaited him.

After a moment's hesitation the young Spanish-American crossed the lobby and dropped into one of the chairs by the window. He still felt the effects of his late anxiety. He looked exhausted. But a great content had ironed out the harassed lines in his face. Greg's heart was sharp with compassion for him.

"Have I got to deal him a knockout blow?" he thought.

He took a turn up and down the lobby, and finally dropped carelessly into a seat beside the other.

"Do you speak English?" he asked with a friendly grin.

"Why, yes," said the other smiling back.

"Well, I'm glad of that!" said Greg. "I feel like a fish out of water in this joint."

"An American?" said the other. "How did you happen to come here?"

"The hotels are full at this season. I put up at the first where I could get a room." Greg offered him a cigar. "But maybe you won't care for it," he added diffidently. "I expect you Spanish fellows know cigars."

"We know them," the other said accepting it smilingly, "but that's about all. All the best tobacco is shipped to the United States."

"Been in this town long?" asked Greg.

"Just got in from New Orleans."

Greg turned grave. De Socotra had just come from New Orleans. Could he after all be deceived in his man? "Live there?" he asked.

"No, I live in Managuay."

"Ah," said Greg.

"Perhaps you never heard of Managuay?"

"Oh, yes," said Greg feeling his way, as he had once done with another young man from Managuay. "I once met some charming ladies from Managuay. Perhaps you know them. Se?orita de Socotra and her mother."

The young man received the information with polite unconcern. "I know of them of course. They are grand people at home. But I don't move in such circles."

"And there was a Se?orita Guiterrez with them," continued Greg.

"Oh, everybody knows her," was the indifferent comment.

"The father interested me," Greg persisted. "Se?or Francisco de Socotra——" here the young man's eyes gleamed, but Greg could not be sure with what kind of feeling. "Very handsome man," Greg went on, "do you know him?"

"I know him," the young man said curtly.

Greg was still baffled. "What do you think of him?" he asked direct.

The young man's eyes positively blazed. "I prefer not to say," he replied setting his jaw. "It wouldn't be polite."

Greg was delighted. It was true this might be good acting, but the young man's implied scorn of de Socotra had all the effect of a violent denunciation. Greg could conceive of no reason why a follower of de Socotra's should denounce him to a stranger.

Greg went further. "At the desk just now I heard you ask for Se?or Antonio Bareda."

The young man's face seemed to open as with an inner light. He turned eagerly to Greg. "My master and my friend!" he cried impulsively. "The best of men! Do you know him too?"

Greg's heart bled for this generous youth. He shook his head.

"I thought if you are stopping here you might have met him," the other went on. "Perhaps you have seen him about the hotel, a little, plump, smooth-shaven old gentleman, with an old-fashioned courteous air, and a beaming glance that seems to shed kindness all around him. You wouldn't think to see him that he was a fighter, and one of the bravest!"

Greg could no longer doubt his man. "Look here," he said frankly. "I knew we should hit it off, when I first laid eyes on you. My name's Gregory Parr. What's yours?"

"Mario Estuban," was the surprising reply.

Greg's eyes goggled at him. "Good God!" he ejaculated.

"What's the matter?" demanded the other frowning. "What do you know about me?"

"Nothing," said Greg, "only I cabled you yesterday."

"Cabled me?" echoed the other round-eyed. "What about? Who gave you my name? I left Managuay five days ago."

Greg glanced at the hotel clock. It was a few minutes past twelve. If de Socotra stayed to lunch with his family he could scarcely get back to the hotel before two.

"We can't talk here," he said. "I have a room up-stairs. Come up with me."

Estuban followed him wonderingly.

In the hotel bedroom, Greg closed the door behind them and turned a compassionate face towards the other. "I've got bad news for you, old man," he said. His own voice shook.

Estuban guessed what was coming. He fell back with his hands clenched. "Quick! Out with it!" he said hoarsely. "Don't keep me in suspense!"

"Antonio Bareda is dead!"

A low despairing cry escaped from Estuban. "Too late!" He sank into a chair and covered his face with his hands. He did not weep; no further sound escaped him. His silence scared Greg more than any outburst could have done.

"God knows I feel for you," Greg said earnestly. "But just the same you must try to forget your grief for the present. You must get a grip on yourself. There is justice to be done!"

The appeal had the desired effect. Estuban's hands came down. His face was drawn and white, but composed. "How did it happen?" he asked quietly.

"He was murdered by de Socotra's orders."

"Of course! But have you the proof? Can we bring it home to that damned cold villain?"

"With your help I think we can."

"Ah, if that is so," cried Estuban, "if we can smash that devilish ring, my poor master has not died quite in vain! When did it happen?"

"The night he landed; in a cab on his way from the pier."

Estuban looked puzzled. "But if that is so, how is it he is registered here? The hotel clerk told me——"

"It is de Socotra who is registered here under his name."

"What is that for?" murmured Estuban blankly.

"I hoped you could explain," said Greg.

Estuban slowly shook his head. "Has the crime been reported to the police?" he asked.

"No. But we have recovered the body. There are certain difficulties in the way. I will explain as we go on. We are very anxious to learn what Se?or Bareda's note-book contains that makes it of such overwhelming importance."

Estuban sprang up excitedly. "You have it? It is safe?"

Greg shook his head. "De Socotra has it. We are trying to recover it. But what is in it? You see we are still in the dark as to the motives for the crime."

"Oh, I can tell you that. But who are you, an officer? a detective?"

"No."

"Then how did you come to take an interest in this case?"

Greg told him the whole story as briefly as possible. Estuban's expressive Latin face was a study in intense concern, astonishment, even grim humor at certain aspects of the tale. He only interrupted Greg once.

"But that little girl, who was she?"

"Amèlie de Socotra!"

"Amèlie de Socotra! Impossible! Francisco's daughter!"

"His adopted daughter."

"Oh true, I had forgotten that."

"And Bareda's niece."

"But she foreswore my poor master when she went to live with the rich. He grieved over it. He had not spoken to her in ten years."

"You are mistaken there. He sought her out the day before he sailed for New York on the Allianca, and had a long talk with her, a talk that profoundly influenced the girl."

"I was in jail then," said Estuban coolly.

"In jail!" said the astonished Greg.

"Oh, that's nothing disgraceful in Managuay," said Estuban bitterly. "Go on."

When Greg came to the end Estuban said thoughtfully: "The man de Silva arrived in Managuay a few days before I was arrested. He claimed to be the representative of a New York trading house, and was provided with seemingly authentic credentials. He had lived long enough in the United States to imbibe liberal ideas it was thought, and we hoped to secure in him a recruit to our side. No connection between him and the de Socotra gang had appeared. When I was separated from Se?or Bareda I suppose he naturally turned to this man; he had to have an interpreter. Even under the conditions that surrounded us my poor master was always too slow to suspect evil. It was I who was accustomed to protect him from his own innocence of heart."

"And now we know," added Greg, "that de Silva was sent down from New York especially for the purpose of worming himself into Se?or Bareda's confidence."

"Now I'll tell you what was in the little black book," said Estuban.

Greg looked at his watch. "Hold on!" he said. "It's past one. De Socotra might possibly return here. His room is adjoining. We had better go down to my own room where there is no danger of being disturbed. In any case I have to be there at two to receive a report over the telephone."

In the little hall-room at Bessie Bickle's Estuban, white-faced and grim, told his tale. There was no sign of weakness in him now. He referred to his murdered friend calmly. He said:

"First I must try to make you understand the situation in Managuay that produced this crime. It may be difficult for a free American to credit, though it is simple enough. You must bear in mind that Managuay is a very small country, a sort of small-town republic, and quite outside the currents of the world's thought; indeed for Managuayans the outside world hardly exists. In other countries, even the most backward, of late years a social conscience has developed, but in Managuay no! Our overlords are still as rapacious as feudal barons. We have no prosperous middle class to act as a balance wheel. In Managuay there is nothing between the old Spanish aristocracy and the miserable peons.

"Up to a dozen years ago Managuay was a poor country; the old landholders were impoverished, and they had no business acumen; trade passed by our ports. Then American business men began to find us; they had the business ability and the Managuayans had the rich land. Gradually there grew up the infamous association that has almost ruined my country.

"The trouble was, the land was too rich. Under improved methods of cultivation and with the markets made accessible, great fortunes were reaped from rubber, coffee, fruit in a single season. Too easily made money atrophies men's moral sense; they become filled with a lust for more! more! more!

"Our landholders sold their lands to American corporations, taking shares in payment. After that the lazy Managuayans had nothing to do but spend their dividends. The American business men did all the work, and they became the real owners of my country. They never interfered openly in the government; they didn't have to, for their Managuayan stockholders were only too willing tools. The entire country is now run with a single eye to producing dividends for the American corporations. What is the consequence? Our people are wretched beyond description. They are set to work on the plantations and in the factories while they are scarcely out of infancy. This keeps down the price of labor and prevents them from ever learning enough to organize against their pitiless masters. It would wring your heart to see them. The generation now growing up are like little old men and women before they are mature!

"It is characteristic of such a gang that the principals never show themselves in the open. We have a succession of figure-heads as President of Managuay, but the real power never changes: it is lodged in the hands of Se?or Francisco de Socotra. He is the instrument of Big Business. All the reins of power are gathered up into his hands. He directs our poor travesties of courts with a nod,—the judges are his appointees; he is the real commander of our army; he owns our newspapers. What chance has the truth of being spoken?

"I do not mean to blame the United States for the pass we have been brought to; the evil men are the Managuayans who have betrayed their country. The only criticism I would make of your government is that it thoughtlessly backs up its buccaneers of commerce without examining into their methods. And we little helpless people suffer. The ruling gang in Managuay derives its real power from the implied support of the United States which is behind it. I believe that Secretaries of State are honest men, but they may be swayed through devious courses that they know not of. And up to this time there never was anybody to speak for the wretched natives of Managuay.

"You can see how hopeless it was to think of successfully opposing so perfect an organization. I may mention as a significant fact that our army is largely recruited from neighboring states. It is plentifully supplied with machine guns. With the judges and the machine guns on the other side what could a poor man do? Our so-called popular elections were of the nature of a comic opera.

"As a matter of fact there has been little open discontent. The odds were too hopeless. The most dreadful feature of the situation was the people's apathy.

"The one champion who never lost faith in them was Antonio Bareda; patient, great-hearted, and of dauntless courage, he was well fitted to be the friend of the oppressed. For the last eight years or so, or ever since things began to go to the bad, he had been working for them. During that time his life has been a long record of petty persecutions on the part of the authorities. But his very simplicity and candor baffled his enemies. He gave them no handle to use against him. His clear gaze struck a secret terror to their souls. They dared not take extreme measures against him on account of his hold on the affections of the people. They feared that his death might provoke even that wretched race to rebel.

"He lately came to the conclusion that the people must have outside help in order to free themselves. He determined to appeal to the United States through your President. The late elections in Managuay provided his opportunity. As I have said, our elections are no more than a cynical joke. For some years now the gang's candidates have been returned unopposed. This year, however, with the help of a few of us working in absolute secrecy Bareda succeeded in forming at least the skeleton of a political organization and in putting up opposition candidates.

"Of course we did not expect to win. Our candidates (I was one of them) were either bribed, arrested or bludgeoned. Nevertheless we gained our point, which was to put the corruption of the government on record. Antonio Bareda prepared a report of that election, supported by a dozen affidavits attesting to examples of subornation, bribery, assault, intimidation, etc. That is the matter that is bound up in the little black book.

"Secret as we were, our purpose became known of course; they have their spies everywhere. It threw a panic into the enemies' camp. Bareda was on his way to carry it to the President when he was killed. It was Bareda's intention to appeal to your President to withdraw his recognition from the present illegal government of Managuay, and for him to insist on an honest election being held, if necessary under guard of United States marines. He was on his way to Washington when he was killed.

"I helped get the matter together, but I did not see the little book after it was finished. I was to have accompanied him as interpreter, but a few days before we were to sail I was again arrested on a trumped-up charge and thrown into jail. He dared not delay his departure, he had to have somebody to interpret for him, and so he fell into their trap.

"With the help of my friends I managed to break jail in Santiago—one devoted fellow is serving there now in my place. But I was too late to catch the Allianca. I learned that de Socotra had departed secretly in his yacht for an unknown destination, and I did not require to be told that extreme danger threatened my friend and my master. The captain of a small coasting steamer came to my assistance. He smuggled me aboard and carried me to New Orleans, whence I came here by train. But I was too late! They got him."



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