THE SHADOW OF THE BAT
“You’ve got to get him, boys—get him or bust!” said a tired police chief, pounding a heavy fist on a table. The detectives he bellowed the words at looked at the floor. They had done their best and failed. Failure meant “resignation” for the police chief, return to the hated work of pounding the pavements for them—they knew it, and, knowing it, could summon no gesture of bravado to answer their chief’s. Gunmen, thugs, hi-jackers, loft-robbers, murderers, they could get them all in time—but they could not get the man he wanted.
“Get him—to hell with expense—I’ll give you carte blanche—but get him!” said a haggard millionaire in the sedate inner offices of the best private detective firm in the country. The man on the other side of the desk, man hunter extraordinary, old servant of Government and State, sleuthhound without a peer, threw up his hands in a gesture of odd hopelessness. “It isn’t the money, Mr. De Courcy —I’d give every cent I’ve made to get the man you want—but I can’t promise you results—for the first time in my life.” The conversation was ended.
“Get him? Huh! I’ll get him, watch my smoke!” It was young ambition speaking in a certain set of rooms in Washington. Three days later young ambition lay in a New York gutter with a bullet in his heart and a look of such horror and surprise on his dead face that even the ambulance-Doctor who found him felt shaken. “We’ve lost the most promising man I’ve had in ten years,” said his chief when the news came in. He swore helplessly, “Damn the luck!”
“Get him—get him—get him—get him!” From a thousand sources now the clamor arose—press, police, and public alike crying out for the capture of the master criminal of a century—lost voices hounding a specter down the alleyways of the wind. And still the meshes broke and the quarry slipped away before the hounds were well on the scent—leaving behind a trail of shattered safes and rifled jewel cases—while ever the clamor rose higher to “Get him —get him—get—”
Get whom, in God’s name—get what? Beast, man, or devil? A specter—a flying shadow—the shadow of a Bat.
From thieves’ hangout to thieves’ hangout the word passed along stirring the underworld like the passage of an electric spark. “There’s a bigger guy than Pete Flynn shooting the works, a guy that could have Jim Gunderson for breakfast and not notice he’d et.” The underworld heard and waited to be shown; after a little while the underworld began to whisper to itself in tones of awed respect. There were bright stars and flashing comets in the sky of the world of crime—but this new planet rose with the portent of an evil moon.
The Bat—they called him the Bat. Like a bat he chose the night hours for his work of rapine; like a bat he struck and vanished, pouncingly, noiselessly; like a bat he never showed himself to the face of the day. He’d never been in stir, the bulls had never mugged him, he didn’t run with a mob, he played a lone hand, and fenced his stuff so that even the fence couldn’t swear he knew his face. Most lone wolves had a moll at any rate—women were their ruin—but if the Bat had a moll, not even the grapevine telegraph could locate her.