One afternoon, Mr. Alford, the superintendent of the mine, was informed that a man wished to see him. There was ushered into his private office an elderly gentleman who appeared as if he might be a prospecting capitalist or one of the owners of the mine. The superintendent was kept in doubt as to the character of the visitor for a few moments while Brandt sought by general remarks and leading questions to learn the disposition of the man who must, from the necessities of the case, become to some extent his ally in securing the ends of justice. Apparently the detective was satisfied, for he asked, suddenly:
“By the way, have you a man in your employ by the name of Bute?”
“No, sir,” replied Mr. Alford, with a little surprise.
“Have you a man, then, who answers to the following description?” He gave a brief word photograph of the criminal.
“You want this man?” Mr. Alford asked in a low voice.
“Well, really, sir, I would like to know your motive, indeed, I may add, your authority, for—”
“There it is,” Brand smilingly remarked, handing the superintendent a paper.
“Oh, certainly, certainly,” said Mr. Alford, after a moment. “This is all right; and I am bound to do nothing to obstruct you in the performance of your duty.” He now carefully closed the door and added, “What do you want this man for?”
“It’s a case of murder.”
“Phew! Apparently he is one of the best men on the force.”
“Only apparently; I know him well.”
Mr. Alford’s brow clouded with anxiety, and after a moment he said, “Mr.—how shall I address you?”
“You had better continue to call me by the name under which I was introduced—Brown.”
“Well, Mr. Brown, you have a very difficult and hazardous task, and you must be careful how you involve me in your actions. I shall not lay a straw in your way, but I cannot openly help you. It is difficult for me to get labor here at best; and it is understood that I ask no questions and deal with men on the basis simply of their relations to me. As long as I act on this understanding, I can keep public sentiment with me and enforce some degree of discipline. If it were known that I was aiding or abetting you in the enterprise you have in hand, my life would not be worth a rush. There are plenty in camp who would shoot me, just as they would you, should they learn of your design. I fear you do not realize what you are attempting. A man like yourself, elderly and alone, has no better chance of taking such a fellow as you describe Bute to be than of carrying a ton of ore on his back down the mountain. In all sincerity, sir, I must advise you to depart quietly and expeditiously, and give no one besides myself a hint of your errand.”