“You don’t think that Langhorne is really in the inner ring, then?” questioned Craig.
“No, not yet.”
“Well, then,” I put in hastily, “can’t you approach him or someone close to him, and get—–”
“Say,” interrupted Carton, “anything that took place in that private dining-room at Gastron’s would be just as likely to incriminate Langhorne and some of his crowd as not. It is a difference in degree of graft—that is all. They don’t want an open fight. It was just a piece of finesse on Langhorne’s part. You may be sure of that. No, neither of them wants a fight. That’s the last thing. They’re both afraid. What Langhorne wanted was a line on Dorgan. And we should never have known anything about this Black Book, if some of the women, I suppose, hadn’t talked too much. Mrs. Ogleby added two and two and got five. She thought it must be I who put the instrument in.”
Carton was growing more and more excited again, “It’s exasperating,” he continued. “There’s the record—somewhere—if I could only get it. Think of it, Kennedy—an election going on and never so much talk about graft and vice before!”
“What was in the book—mostly, do you imagine?” asked Craig, still imperturbable.
Carton shrugged his shoulders. “Oh, almost anything. For instance, you know, Dorgan has just put through a new scheme of city planning—with the able assistance of some theoretical reformers. That will be a big piece of real estate graft, unless I am mistaken. Langhorne and his crowd know it. They don’t want to be frozen out.”
As they talked, I had been revolving the thing over in my head. Dorgan’s little parties, as reported privately among the men on the Star whom I knew, were notorious. The more I considered, the more possible phases of the problem I thought of. It was not even impossible that in some way it might bear on the Betty Blackwell case.
“Do you think Dorgan and Murtha are hunting the book as anxiously as—some others?” I ventured.
“You have heard of the character of some of those dinners?” answered Carton by asking another question, then went on: “Why, Dorgan has had some of our leading lawyers, financiers, and legislators there. He usually surrounds them with brilliant, clever women, as unscrupulous as himself, and—well—you can imagine the result. Poor little Mrs. Ogleby,” he added sympathetically. “They could twist her any way they chose for their purposes.”
My own impression had been that Mrs. Ogleby was better able to take care of herself than his words gave her credit for, but I said nothing.
Carton paused before the window and gazed out at the Bridge of Sighs that led from his building across to the city prison.
“What a record that Black Book must hold!” he exclaimed meditatively. “Why, if it was only that I could ‘get’ Murtha—I’d be happy,” he added, turning to us.
Murtha, as I have said, was Boss Dorgan’s right bower, a clever and unscrupulous politician and leader in a district where he succeeded somehow or other in absolutely crushing opposition. I had run across him now and then in the course of my newspaper career and, aside from his well-known character in delivering the “goods” to the organization whenever it was necessary, I had found him a most interesting character.