“But,” objected Kennedy, “Schloss carried so little.”
“Well, there was the Hale Protection. How about that?”
Craig looked up quickly, unruffled by the patronizing air of the professional toward the amateur detective.
“What is your theory?” he asked. “Do you think he robbed himself?”
Winters shrugged his shoulders. “I’ve been interested in Schloss for some time,” he said enigmatically. “He has had some pretty swell customers. I’ll keep you wised up, if anything happens,” he added in a burst of graciousness, walking off.
On the way to the subway, we paused again to see McLear.
“Well,” he asked, “what do you think of it, now?”
“All most extraordinary,” ruminated Craig. “And the queerest feature of all is that the chief loss consists of a diamond necklace that belonged once to Mrs. Antoinette Moulton.”
“Mrs. Lynn Moulton?” repeated McLear.
“The same,” assured Kennedy.
McLear appeared somewhat puzzled. “Her husband is one of our old subscribers,” he pursued. “He is a lawyer on Wall Street and quite a gem collector. Last night his safe was tampered with, but this morning he reports no loss. Not half an hour ago he had us on the wire congratulating us on scaring off the burglars, if there had been any.”
“What is your opinion,” I asked. “Is there a gang operating?”
“My belief is,” he answered, reminiscently of his days on the detective force, “that none of the loot will be recovered until they start to ‘fence’ it. That would be my lay—to look for the fence. Why, think of all the big robberies that have been pulled off lately. Remember,” he went on, “the spoils of a burglary consist generally of precious stones. They are not currency. They must be turned into currency—or what’s the use of robbery?
“But merely to offer them for sale at an ordinary jeweler’s would be suspicious. Even pawnbrokers are on the watch. You see what I am driving at? I think there is a man or a group of men whose business it is to pay cash for stolen property and who have ways of returning gems into the regular trade channels. In all these robberies we get a glimpse of as dark and mysterious a criminal as has ever been recorded. He may be—anybody. About his legitimacy, I believe, no question has ever been raised. And, I tell you, his arrest is going to create a greater sensation than even the remarkable series of robberies that he has planned or made possible. The question is, to my mind, who is this fence?”
McLear’s telephone rang and he handed the instrument to Craig.
“Yes, this is Professor Kennedy,” answered Craig. “Oh, too bad you’ve had to try all over to get me. I’ve been going from one place to another gathering clues and have made good progress, considering I’ve hardly started. Why—what’s the matter? Really?”
An interval followed, during which McLear left to answer a personal call on another wire.