Friday, May 10, 2024

THE LOVERIDGE BURGLARY

By L. Frank Baum
Author of The Lost Princess of Oz, The Boy Fortune Hunters in the Yucatan, Daughters of Destiny, etc.

Originally published in Short Stories magazine, January 1900.


There was no doubt about it; the house had been robbed. Mr. Loveridge knew it the moment he got out of bed and saw a vacancy on his white shirt-front where a handsome solitaire diamond had sparkled when he closed his eyes in sleep.

Mr. Loveridge was not readily excited. He calmly searched his vest pocket and discovered that his valuable time-piece was also missing. From his trousers had been abstracted a well-filled pocketbook.

Mr. Loveridge sighed. Then he reached over and awakened his wife. “Mollie,” he said, “the house has been robbed.”

Mrs. Loveridge rolled over, dug her dimpled fists into her eves and murmured, sleepily. “What did you say, Charlie?”

“We have been robbed.”

Mrs. Loveridge opened wide her eyes and stared at him in astonishment.

“The house has been entered by burglars,” continued her husband.

“Burglars! Good gracious!” cried the little woman, springing from the bed in one bound The word “burglar” was a terrible one to her, as it is, indeed, to every well-constituted woman. “Robbery” does not sound nearly so awe-inspiring.

“Look for your jewels, Mollie,” said her husband, pleased at having aroused her at last.

Mrs. Loveridge rushed to her dressing-table, stooped over it, and held up her hands with a little scream.

“They’re gone!”

“So I supposed,” returned Charlie, complacently, “they’ve probably stripped us of everything they could lay hands on.”

Mrs. Loveridge screamed again.

“Oh, Charlie! My sealskin!” She ran to a closet, gave a little ejaculation of relief, and returned with a smiling face.

“They didn’t find it, dear.”

“But your jewels were much more valuable.”

“I know, but I’ve only had the cape a week. It would have broken my heart had they taken it.”

“H-m!” growled her husband; “suppose you dress yourself. We’ll go downstairs and see if they have stolen the silver.”

Mrs. Loveridge hastily complied, and together they descended to the dining-room. The silver was intact, nor could they find that anything below stairs had been disturbed.

But as they entered the sitting-room Mollie’s sharp eyes made a discovery, and she ran to the window with a cry of surprise.

A round hole had been cut in the plate glass, large enough for a man to have reached through and unfastened the sash. The bit of circular glass, with a piece of putty adhering to its centre, was lying on the sitting-room table. The sash was fastened, as if the intruder, having retired with his booty, had been thoughtful enough to close and secure the window behind him.

“He was a clever fellow,” said Mr. Loveridge, thoughtfully; “I wonder why he didn’t take the silver; but perhaps jewelry is easier to dispose of. I suppose we must investigate this matter?”

“Of course,” returned his wife. “But oh, Charlie! isn’t it lucky we have a detective in the family?”

“Do you think Tom could discover the thief?”

“I know he could, and we’ll put the case in his hands at once. You know the Pinkertons have tried to get him several times, but he prefers to work on his own account. I suppose Tom is the best detective in America.”

“Because he’s your cousin.”

“Nonsense! Because he can find out anything; that’s the reason. He isn’t one of those common, blundering fellows.”

“Well, I’ll see him when I get downtown, and put the case in his hands.”

“Do, dear,” replied Mrs. Loveridge. Then, clapping her hands, she added, “Won’t it be jolly when Tom brings the villain to justice and restores all our jewelry!”

“If the fellow hasn’t pawned it,” remarked her husband; “I’d like to get my watch back again; it was one of your presents to me, you know.”

Mrs. Loveridge threw up the window-sash and leaned out.

“How funny!” she exclaimed, after a moment; “see here, Charlie.”

Mr. Loveridge leaned over the sill and saw a long, narrow indentation in the damp earth beneath the window, running from the path a few yards away directly to the spot below them, where it had made a deep impression. From beneath the window the trail wandered irregularly back to the path again, where it was lost in the gravel.

“What does it mean?” asked Mr. Loveridge.

“It’s a bicycle track,” replied Mollie; “it means that we have been robbed by a man on a bicycle!”

“But there are no tracks where he got off.”

“He didn’t get off, Charlie—that is, upon the ground—he ran the machine up to the window, leaned it against the wall, and stood upon the seat while he broke open the window.”

“Humph!” said her husband, “if he’s as clever a rascal as that, Tom will have a job catching him.”

“Oh, Tom will be a match for him, never fear,” returned the lady, with full confidence in her cousin’s powers; “but let us have breakfast at once, so you can get downtown and let Tom know we have work for him.”

At ten o’clock Mr. Loveridge walked into his office, hung up his coat and glanced over the mail. Then he went to the telephone and rung up Mr. Tom Harkins, detective.

Mr. Harkins was out. “He usually is out when any one wants him,” growled Charlie.

Mr. Loveridge felt that he had important news to communicate to some one. A man is not burglarized every day. He walked across the hall and rapped at the door of his old friend and crony Jenkin Foreman. “Come in!” cried a hearty voice, and Mr. Loveridge entered to find his friend in company with no less a personage than Mr. Tom Harkins.

He gave a sigh of satisfaction.

“Jinks,” he said—Jinks was the familiar name of Mr. Jenkin Foreman—“I have been robbed.”

Jinks was sitting in his office chair, with a big cigar in his mouth and his feet upon the table. He removed the cigar, raised his eyebrows slightly and inquired, calmly, “How?”

Mr. Loveridge was disappointed. Perhaps he had not put the case forcibly enough.

“My house was ransacked by burglars last night, and all of my own and my wife’s jewelry stolen, as well as a large sum of money.”

Jinks cast a curious glance at Tom Harkins and smoked more furiously than ever.

“Any traces of the robbers?”

“None at all; scarcely any, that is.”

Here Mr. Loveridge lit a cigar of his own, put his feet on the table beside the other two pair that were occupying it, and proceeded to relate circumstantially the occurrences of the morning.

“And now,” he said, turning to Mr. Harkins, “I want to put the case in your hands. Mollie is confident you can find the scoundrel and restore our lost property. You’d better go up to the house and examine that bicycle track and see if you can find a clue.”

“I will,” said the famous detective, with a yawn; “Mollie can give me the pointers, I suppose?”

“Certainly. And you’d better stay to lunch and keep the poor girl company, if you think you can spare the time.”

Mr. Harkins slowly drew on his gloves.

“I shall use my best efforts of course, Loveridge; but you must remember that no man is infallible. And besides, a burglar who rides a bicycle is a new ‘genus homo,’ and is likely to prove slippery.”

“I know, I know,” returned Charlie; “but you’ve worked out worse cases than this, and I believe you’ll bag the scoundrel in time.”

“I’ll try,” said Mr. Harkins, and departed upon his errand.

Jinks smoked in silence for a time.

“Charlie,” he then exclaimed, “I’m afraid you’ve made a mistake.”

“A mistake?”

“In giving this case to Tom.”

“Nonsense! Tom is conceded to be a very clever detective, and he’ll take a friendly interest in this affair besides.”

Mr. Foreman looked thoughtfully at the toe of his patent-leather shoe.

“Loveridge,” he remarked, “have you noticed lately that Tom is failing?”

“Failing how?”

“In his mind.”

“No.”

“I have,” said Jinks, with emphasis, “and as a personal friend I advise you to hire another detective; that is, if you want to recover your property.”

“Oh, but I couldn’t do that,” remonstrated Mr. Loveridge; “Mollie would never forgive me, and I’d rather lose the whole thing than show a lack of confidence in a friend,”

Jinks groaned.

“Business is business,” he murmured.

“So it is, but Tom’s head is as right as yours or mine. I believe he’ll catch the burglar within a week.”

“Tell you what I’ll do,” said Jinks; “I’ll bet you fifty I can find a man who will discover the burglar before Tom does.”

“Done!” said Charlie. It was one of his weaknesses not to be able to refuse a bet.

Mr. Foreman arose, rung the bell of his ’phone, and called up the City Detective Bureau. He explained that Mr. Loveridge had been burglarized and directed them to send a man to his residence at once to secure evidence against the thief. They promised to do so.

Mr. Loveridge listened with a smile upon his handsome face.

“It’s no use, Jinks,” he said, as his friend hung up the ’phone, “those blundering fools never discover anything. Your fifty is lost already.”

“Wait,” said Jinks, “I’ll not interfere in any way. If the regular detective doesn’t nail your man before Tom does, the fifty is yours. And now let’s go out and have a drink.”

Tom Harkins was a good deal surprised, as he sat at luncheon with his cousin Mollie, to hear a detective from the city office announced. He saw the man personally, and was assured that Mr. Loveridge had employed him to work upon the case.

“This is some of Jinks’ doing,” muttered the young man, as he gravely regarded his rival. He was a seedy-looking chap, and Tom at once estimated him as no better than the average run of city detectives.

“Look around the place,” he said to him, condescendingly, “and see what you can discover. The fellow rode up on a bicycle, it is certain, but so far as I can determine left no other tracks behind him.”

And then he bid Mollie good day, assuring her of his faithful endeavors to find her jewels in good time, and caught the next car into the city.

The other man looked after him thoughtfully. He was pleased at having met and spoken with the celebrated Detective Harkins. Would he ever be able to acquire so great a reputation himself, he wondered?

Mollie, to whose mercies Tom had commended the man from the city office, stood holding his soiled card rather gingerly in her pretty fingers. She glanced at it now, and asked:

“Would you like to look over the premises, Mr. Briggs?”

“If you please, ma’am,” he replied, with deference.

“I suppose Mr. Loveridge wished you to assist Mr. Harkins on the case,” she continued, doubtfully.

He telephoned the office for a man, ma’am, and they sent me,” he answered, evasively.

Mr. Harkins has been very thorough in his investigations,” continued Mollie; “he has searched every inch of the carpet and looked all through the grounds, but I don’t think he found anything. And he seemed to be disappointed about it.”

But Mr. Briggs wished to investigate on his own account, and he went to work very deliberately. He examined the window with its broken pane minutely, and put in his pocket the piece of putty that adhered to the bit of glass left upon the table. Then he went outside and inspected with care the track of the bicycle.

Mollie, who was watching him from the window, saw him kneel upon the damp ground and put his face close to the track. Creeping along on his hands and knees he examined it inch by inch, and finally paused with a low exclamation of surprise.

Mrs. Loveridge, becoming curious, went out and joined him.

“Have you found anything?” she asked.

“A clue, ma’am!”

“What is it?”

He drew a magnifying glass from his pocket and held it over the indentation made by the wheel. She peered through it a moment and then said, “I don’t see anything.”

“The rear wheel of the bicycle had been punctured,” explained Mr. Briggs, “and was mended by a T-shaped rubber patch.”

“Can you see it?”

“I can see the impression of the patch very easily.”

“Let me look again,” demanded Mollie. “Oh, yes! I can see it quite plainly now. But how do you know it was the rear wheel?”

“Because had it been the forward one the mark of the patch would have been covered by the wheel that followed it.”

“Oh, I see. But is this discovery of any value?”

“Yes, indeed. Find the man who has the T-shaped patch on the rear wheel of his bicycle and you have the burglar.”

Mollie stared at him in surprise.

“There may be a good many T-shaped patches in use,” she suggested.

“Yes; the rubber patch is a common mode of repairing a tire,” he acknowledged; “but this one has its peculiarities. It was not put on neatly. The long arm is bent into a half-circle, and the edge of one of the short arms is cut like a half moon. All of these details are impressed clearly upon the soil, and are reproduced in three separate places.”

He took out his book again and made an accurate drawing of the patch.

“There are a good many hundreds of bicycles in the city,” he said, with a smile; “and many of them doubtless wear patches upon the tires. But a less important clue

than this has often proved successful.”

Mrs. Loveridge could not help regarding the man with admiration. But probably Tom could find the burglar without resorting to such small details.

Mr. Briggs went away promising to keep a sharp watch for the T-shaped patch, and that evening Mrs. Loveridge told Charlie that after all the fellow might prove to be a good detective, and perhaps would help Tom discover the thief.

“These detectives are jealous of each other,” replied her husband, “and if Briggs gets the burglar it will be on his own hook. I’m sure I hope he won’t, for if he gets the thief before Tom does I shall lose another fifty.”

When Mr. Loveridge was starting for town the next morning he was surprised to observe that the bicycle tracks had been obliterated during the night, all traces of them being trampled into the earth.

It was two days afterward that Mr. Briggs, while crossing a boulevard, was almost run down by a bicycle. The rider, observing who he was, sprang from his wheel, with a laughing apology.

“Good morning, Mr. Briggs; how goes the Loveridge case?”

“Slowly, Mr. Harkins,” returned the detective, “but I have hopes, nevertheless.”

“What! Have you a clue?”

“A small one, sir.”

As he spoke, Mr. Briggs looked involuntarily toward Harkins’ bicycle. Then he put his hand on the rear wheel, stooped over and stared at the tire for several moments in silence. When he looked up he found Tom Harkins’ eyes fixed steadily upon him, and the two men remained gazing at each other a full minute.

Suddenly Harkins sprang to the saddle, nodded to his companion, and sped swiftly down the boulevard.

Mr. Briggs drew out his handkerchief, mopped the perspiration from his fore-head, and walked away to the office.

That afternoon Mr. Loveridge was seated in his friend Foreman’s office, engaged in disputing with that gentleman concerning the tariff, when Tom Harkins entered with a gloomy air, lit a cigar, and sinking into an arm-chair rested his feet upon the table.

“What’s up, Tom?” asked Jinks, pausing in his argument. The great detective did not reply.

“Sulky, hey? Well, suit yourself. As I said before, Charlie, nothing but a high tariff will ever—”

A soft rap sounded upon the door.

“Come in!”

Slowly the door opened and admitted Mr. Briggs. He took off his hat, nodded gravely to those present, and addressed himself timidly to Mr. Harkins.

“Can I see you a moment in private, sir?”

“No!” snapped Tom, “you can see me here.”

“But, sir—”

“What do you want? Come—out with it!”

“I have a warrant for your arrest!” said Briggs, desperately.

“What for?”

“The Loveridge burglary.”

Charlie jumped to his feet with a cry of amazement, and stared at the detective in horror. But Jinks kept his seat and chuckled softly to himself.

“This is an outrage!” exclaimed Mr. Loveridge; “what do you mean, sir?” he demanded, turning to Briggs.

“Must do my duty, sir,” returned the man, doggedly; “my instructions were to find the criminal. Well, I have found him.”

Mr. Loveridge looked at Tom Harkins. That gentleman sat smoking furiously and staring at the ceiling, but he said nothing, Jinks was rubbing his hands softly and chuckling in a diabolical fashion that greatly incensed Mr. Loveridge. He turned to Briggs again.

“Do you mean to say you have any evidence against my friend, Mr. Harkins?”

“The best of evidence, sir.”

“What is it?”

“A T-shaped patch on his bicycle tire just fits the impression of a similar patch in the tracks left under your window.”

Mr. Harkins here spoke for the first time, in a low, collected voice.

“The tracks have been obliterated. You have no proof.”

“Pardon me,” replied Briggs, “I have ample proof. I made a drawing of the patch in the presence of Mrs. Loveridge herself, and she saw the impression in the tracks. I can use the lady as a witness, if necessary.”

“It will scarcely convict, however,” said Tom.

“There is other proof,” continued Mr. Briggs. “The diamond used to cut the window pane became loosened from its setting in the operation. You afterward searched the house for it. I found it sticking to the putty, and have identified the stone as one belonging to you.”

“Good!” cried Jinks. Then he stood up and regarded the company complacently.

The equanimity of Mr. Harkins seemed undisturbed; Mr. Loveridge was scowling

angrily at the detective; Mr. Briggs appeared uneasy, and a bit frightened.

“Do you give up, Tom?” asked Mr. Foreman, in a tone of raillery.

“Yes,” said Tom, with a drawl, “I suppose I must.”

“What!” cried Mr. Loveridge, “do you acknowledge the crime?”

Mr. Harkins nodded gravely and blew a great cloud of smoke from his mouth.

“Sit down, Charlie,” commanded Jinks; “take this seat, Mr. Briggs,” he continued, placing a chair for the surprised detective.

Then he walked over to his safe, unlocked it and taking out a tin box, corded and sealed, he came forward and placed it in Mr. Loveridge’s hands.

“There, Charlie, are the jewels,” he said, cheerfully, “just as Tom gave them to me the morning after the burglary. I think you will find them all there, and the money as well. By the way, Tom, have you that hundred about you?”

While Loveridge and the detective were endeavoring to comprehend the scene, Mr. Harkins took out his wallet and counted over a bundle of crisp notes, which he handed to Mr. Foreman.

“Can you spare that fifty now?” continued Jinks, turning smilingly to the bewil-dered Loveridge.

Charlie paid the bet without a word of protest.

“Now,” said Mr. Foreman, pocketing the money, “I’ll endeavor to explain this little mystery. Tom and I were conversing here one day when I made the statement that no burglar was so clever but that he could be caught. Tom contradicted this. ‘Why,’ said he, ‘I could rob a house, say Loveridge’s, for instance, and not leave the slightest clue behind me.’ ‘I’ll bet you a hundred you can’t,’ said I. ‘Done!’ said Tom. “I’ll burglarize Loveridge within a week, and if I am not discovered within three months you are to pay me the hundred, and return the plunder to Loveridge with an explanation and a supper at Kinsley’s. If I am caught, I’ll pay the hundred and stand the consequences.’ That was the agreement, wasn’t it, Tom?”

Mr. Harkins nodded.

“But you see,” continued Jinks, “no man is so smooth but there is some one smoother, and Tom is a better thief-catcher than thief. Mr. Briggs has the honor of having detected the great detective himself!”

“And all,” added Tom, dolefully, “because of that confounded T-shaped patch!”

“Gentlemen,” said Mr. Loveridge, lighting a fresh cigar complacently, “I invite you all to dine with Jinks at Kinsley’s at six o’clock. He seems to be the only one who has come out of this transaction ahead, and I decree that he shall pay the bill. In the meantime I’ll send this jewelry up to Mollie, who will be delighted to recover her property; but I fear her confidence in Tom’s powers will be terribly shaken when she hears the story.”

Tom arose with a bored expression upon his usually calm face.

“I move we have a drink,” he said; “will you join us, Mr. Briggs?”


Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, July 14, 1918


The Complaint Department in Supposyville

Now, in Supposyville, my loves,
They have a sweet facility
For placing each one in the task
For which he shows ability!
No matter who or what you are,
How dull or wise or witty,
How short or high, how stiff or spry,
How homely or how pretty,

They find a way to use you in
Supposyville—sometimes
I wish they’d let me go there and
Indite the Kingdom’s rhymes.
Yes, whether you’ve a wooden leg
Or wooden head, the King
Is sure to find you suited for
Some necessary thing.

And everybody works some part
Of every day—no matter
How rich they are—they’re busy, from
The King’s cook to the hatter.
When each one does his share, you see,
No one need work so long;
And not to work at something’s
Simply altogether wrong.

Sometime the Lords and Dukes drive cars,
And no one thinks it strange.
The Queen in her odd moments runs
The telephone exchange.
But all of this is neither here
Nor there—to show the way
’Tis done, just let me tell you what
Transpired the other day—

The watchman suddenly and in
A manner most perplexing
Mislaid his hearing—lost it—you’ll
Admit ’twas rather vexing;
He didn’t bother though, but went
And told the King about it.
“Pshaw! pshaw!” quoth he. “Well, let us see
What you can do without it!

“I have it—you shall be in charge
Of our complaint division!”
Now, wasn’t that a comical
Yet sensible decision?
The deaf man each day listened to
Complaints of every kind,
And Supposyville was able thus
To relieve its worried mind

Without a fear of consequence,
For dead men tell no tales,
They get the sympathy they want,
A smile that never fails
To cheer them up. I’m glad to say,
Complaints grow less and less each day.

Copyright © 2024 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.