It was quite late, but it had been a confining day for Kennedy who had spent the hours while not working on Carton’s case in some of the ceaseless and recondite investigations of his own to which he was always turning his restless mind.
“Suppose we walk a little way downtown with Carton?” he suggested.
I was not averse, and by the time we arrived in the white light belt of Broadway the theatres were letting out.
Above the gaiety of the crowds one could hear the shrill cry of some belated newsboys, calling an “Extra Special”—the only superlative left to one of the more enterprising papers whose every issue was an “Extra.”
Kennedy bought one, with the laughing remark, “Perhaps it’s about your robbery, Carton.”
It was only a second before the smile on his face changed to a look of extreme gravity. We crowded about him. In red ink across the head of the paper were the words:
“Body of Murtha, missing, found in morgue”
Down in a lower corner, in a little box into which late news could be dropped, also in red ink, was the brief account:
This morning the body of an unknown man was found in The Bronx near the Westchester Railroad tracks. He had been run over and badly mutilated. After lying all day in the local morgue, it was transferred, still unidentified, to the city Morgue downtown.
Early this evening one of the night attendants recognized the unidentified body as that of Murtha, “the Smiling Boss,” whose escape day before yesterday from an asylum in Westchester has remained a mystery until now.
“Well—what do you—think of that!” ejaculated Carton. “Murtha— dead—and I thought the whole thing was a job they were putting up on me!”
Kennedy crooked his finger at a cabby who was alertly violating the new ordinance and soliciting fares away from a public cab stand.
“The Morgue—quick!” he ordered, not even noticing the flabbergasted look on the jehu’s face, who was not accustomed to carrying people thither from the primrose path of Broadway quite so rapidly.
There had come a lull in the activities which never entirely cease, night or day, in the dingy building at the foot of East Twenty-sixth Street. Across the street in the municipal lodging-house the city’s homeless were housed for the night. Even ever wakeful Bellevue Hospital nearby was comparatively quiet.
The last “dead boat” which carries the city’s unclaimed corpses away for burial had long ago left, when we arrived. The anxious callers who pass all day through the portals of the mortuary chamber seeking lost friends and relatives had disappeared. Except for the night keeper and one or two assistants, the Morgue was empty save of the overcrowded dead.
Years before, as a cub reporter on the Star, I had had the gruesome assignment once of the Morgue. It was the same old place after all these years and it gave me the same creepy sensations now as it did then. Even the taxicab driver seemed glad to set down his fares and speed away.