It was due to such men as Murtha that the organization kept its grip, though one wave of reform after another lashed its fury on it. For Murtha understood his people. He worked at politics every hour—whether it was patting the babies of the district on the head, or bailing their fathers out of jail, handing out shoes to the shiftless or judiciously distributing coal and ice to the deserving.
Yet I had seen enough to know the inherent viciousness of the circle—of how the organization took dollars from the people with one concealed hand and distributed pennies from the other hand, held aloft and in the spotlight. Again and again, Kennedy and I in our excursions into scientific warfare on crime in the underworld had run squarely up against the refined as well as the debased creatures of the “System.” Pyramided on what looked like open-handed charity and good-fellowship we had seen vice and crime of all degrees.
And yet, somehow or other, I must confess to a sort of admiration for Murtha and his stamp—if for nothing else than because of the frankness with which he did what he sought to do. Neither Kennedy nor I could be accused of undue sympathy with the System, yet, like many who had been brought in close contact with it, it had earned our respect in many ways.
And so, I contemplated the situation with more than ordinary interest. Carton wanted the Black Book to use in order to win his political fight for a clean city and to prosecute the grafters. Dorgan wanted it in order to suppress and thus protect himself and Murtha. Mrs. Ogleby wanted it to save her good name and prevent even the appearance of scandal. Langhorne wanted it in order to coerce Dorgan to share in the graft, yet was afraid of Carton also.
Was ever a situation of such peculiar, mixed motives?
“I would move heaven and earth for that Black Book!” exclaimed Carton finally, turning from the window and facing us.
Kennedy, too, had risen.
“You can count on me, then, Carton,” he said simply, as the recollection of the many fights in which we had stood shoulder to shoulder with the young District Attorney came over him.
A moment later Carton had us each by the hand.
“Thank you,” he cried. “I knew you fellows would be with me.”
THE SAFE ROBBERY
It was late that night that Kennedy and I left Carton after laying out a campaign and setting in motion various forces, official and unofficial, which might serve to keep us in touch with what Dorgan and the organization were doing.
Not until the following morning, however, did anything new develop in such a way that we could work on it.
Kennedy had picked up the morning papers which had been left at the door of our apartment and was hastily running his eye over the headlines on the first page, as was his custom.