Neither Carton nor I could say a word as we thought of this voice from the dead, as it almost seemed.
“I hadn’t found him,” continued Craig, “but I knew he had used a pay station on the West Side. I began shadowing everyone who might have helped him, Dorgan, Kahn, Langhorne, all. I didn’t find him. They were too clever. He was hiding somewhere in the city, a changed personality, waiting for the thing to blow over. He knew that of all places a city is the best to hide in, and of all cities New York is safest.
“But, though I didn’t actually find his hiding place, I had enough on some of his friends so that I could get word to him that his secret was known to me, at least. I made him an offer of safety. He need not come out of his hiding place and I would agree to let him go where and when he pleased without further pursuit from me, if he would let me install a telautograph in a neutral place which he could select and the other end in this laboratory. I myself do not know where the other place is. Only a mechanic sworn to secrecy knows and neither Murtha nor myself know him. If Murtha comes across, I have given my word of honour that before the world he shall remain a dead man, free to go where he pleases and enjoy such of his fortune as he was able to fix so that he could carry it with him into his new life.”
Carton and I were entranced by the romance of the thing.
Murtha was alive!
The commitment to the asylum, the escape, the search, the finding of a substitute body, mutilated beyond ordinary recognition, the mysterious transfers, and finally the identification in the Morgue—all had been part of an elaborately staged play!
We saw it all, now. Carton had got too close to him in the conviction of Dopey Jack and the proceedings against Kahn. He had seen the handwriting on the wall for himself. In Carton’s gradual climbing, step by step, for the man higher up, he would have been the next to go.
Murtha had decided that it was time to get out, to save himself.
Suddenly, I saw another aspect of it. By dropping out as though dead, he destroyed a link in the chain that would reach Dorgan. There was no way of repairing that link if he were dead. It was missing and missing for good.
Dorgan had known it. Had it been a hint as to that which had finally clinched whatever it was that Kennedy had whispered to the Silent Boss that morning when we had seen him in his office?
All these thoughts and more flashed through my head with lightning-like rapidity.
The telautograph was writing again, obedient to Kennedy’s signal that he was satisfied with the signature.
“... in consideration of Craig Kennedy’s agreement to destroy even this record, agree to give him such information as he has asked for, after which no further demands are to be made and the facts as already publicly recorded are to stand.”