Quintus Oakes: A Detective Story

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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 Rescue5
II.Quintus Oakes at Home19
III.Oakes’s Experiences31
IV.The Departure41
V.The Letter50
VI.The Murder56
VII.The Inquest69
VIII.The Mansion89
IX.Distrust and Suspicion100
X.The Cellar108
XI.The Night Walk123
XII.The Witness141
XIII.The Plan of Campaign148
XIV.Clues159
XV.The Ruse171
XVI.The Negro’s Story191
XVII.Checkmated209
XVIII.Misadventures221
XIX.A Faulty Story240
XX.A Man’s Confession253
XXI.The Attack267
XXII.The Insane Root278
XXIII.The Test287
XXIV.Across the Bridge298
XXV.The Man of the Hour311

QUINTUS OAKES

CHAPTER I

The Rescue

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

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

“Don’t jump! Don’t jump!” was the cry from us all. I advanced instinctively, as did many, to be nearer, for we saw that fear had taken possession of the child and that she seemed about to slide outward and drop—to almost certain disaster.

A tall, handsome, well-built man in the crowd behind us spoke in a voice of 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 the other, and she seemed in distress. Then something like an avalanche came from back of me, tearing the crowd asunder. A hand fell upon my shoulder, and I reeled to one side as the tall stranger sprang forward, saying: “She is going to faint.” Quick wit and quick eye had detected what none other realized, that nature was being overcome and that the fall was inevitable.

The limp little body slid a second, then pitched forward. A groan went up at what seemed sure death. But the stranger’s rush was timed to the instant, and as the child’s body curved head downward in its flight, his strong figure reached the spot and his arms caught the child. The man braced as they swung downward to his side, depositing the unconscious girl in my hands and those of a policeman. She did not touch the sidewalk, but the young giant came to his knees by the force of the impact. It was a marvellous piece of work and the crowd cheered and closed in upon the rescuer and our burden. The child was taken away by those who had escaped. Then all hands looked at the man, and somebody started to speak to him, and to ask him his name.

He turned to me. “Sorry to have smashed into you that way, sir,” he said. I answered, saying something about I was glad he did—and upon looking up, I saw he was gone. We watched him, and saw him turn into Broadway, bound on avoiding further notice.

“Who was he?” cried many.

A thick-set, tough-looking character spoke up: “Oh, he’s de gazabo wot did 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 out o’ this, or I’ll——”

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

The fire was soon under control and I renewed my walk, emerging on Broadway as the shadows of night were coming on, and the street was awakening 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 my intention to get closer to him and notice him better, as I was interested. He turned up-town, and I saw that, although he was walking easily, his pace was quicker than mine. What impressed me more than anything 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 head was a plain but expensive Panama. As he passed up the street ahead of me, gaining all the while with his easy stride, he saluted a few gentlemen, and the policemen seemed to know him. He evidently was a striking figure to other eyes than mine, for I noticed several men stop and half turn to look after him—a thing that one sees on Broadway but seldom. He turned into a side street, and again I lost him. I fancied he disappeared into one of the bachelor apartment houses of that section.

During the rest of the evening I regretted not having made stronger efforts to learn his name; then I laughed at myself for being so impressed by a stranger’s appearance. The fact was, that the man’s action and personality had affected me so strongly that for days I frequently found myself thinking of the fire and the rescue. I often looked along the street when walking, in a vague hope of seeing the handsome, clear-cut face of the man who had acted so promptly, but so unostentatiously.

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