One thing, I felt, was fortunate. Murtha had had no family. There had been plenty of scandal about him, but as far as I knew there was no one except his old cronies in the organization to be shocked by his loss, no living tragedy left in the wake of this.
“How do you suppose it happened?” I asked the night keeper.
He shook his head doubtfully. “No one knows, of course,” he replied slowly. “But I think the big fellow got worse up there in that asylum. He wasn’t used to anything but having his own way, you know. They say he must have waited his chance, after the dinner hour, when things were quiet, and then slipped out while no one was looking. He may have been crazy, but you can bet your life Pat Murtha was the smartest crazy man they ever had up there. They couldn’t hold him.”
“I see,” I said, struck by the faith which the man had inspired even in those who held the lowest of city positions. “But I meant how do you suppose he was killed?”
The attendant looked at me thoughtfully a while. “Young man,” he answered, “I ain’t saying nothing and it may have been an accident after all. Have you ever been up in that part of town?”
I had not and said so.
“Well,” he continued, “those electric trains do sneak up on a fellow fast. It may have been an accident, all right. The coroner up there said so, and I guess he ought to know. It must have been late at night—perhaps he was wandering away from the ordinary roads for fear of being recaptured. No one knows—I guess no one will know, ever. But it’s a sad day for many of the boys. He helped a lot of ’em. And Mr. Dorgan—he knows what a loss it is, too. I hear that it’s hit the Chief hard.”
The attendant, rough though he was and hardened by the daily succession of tragedies, could not restrain an honest catch in his voice over the passing of the “big fellow,” as some of them called the “Smiling Boss.” It was a pretty good object lesson on the power of the system which the organization had built up, how Murtha, and even the more distant Dorgan himself, had endeared himself to his followers and henchmen. Perhaps it was corrupt, but it was at least human, and that was a great deal in a world full of inhumanities. In the face of what had happened, one felt that much might be forgiven Murtha for his shortcomings, especially as the era of the Murthas and Dorgans was plainly passing.
“Here at least,” whispered Carton, as we withdrew to a corner to escape the palling atmosphere, “is one who won’t worry about what happens to that Black Book any more. I wonder what he really knew about it—what secrets he carried away with him?”
“I can’t say,” I returned. “But, one thing it does. It must relieve Mrs. Ogleby’s fears a bit. With Murtha out of the way there is one less to gossip about what went on at Gastron’s that night of the dinner.”
He said nothing and just then Kennedy straightened up, as though he had finished his examination. We hurried over to him. I thought the look on Craig’s face was peculiar.