Also Peter was surprised to find how “easy” Mr. Ackerman was. He made no lofty pretence of being indifferent to the Reds. He put himself at Peter’s mercy, to be milked at Peter’s convenience. And Peter would make the most of this opportunity.
“Now, Mr. Ackerman,” he began, “You can see it wouldn’t be any use to tell things like that to the police. They dunno how to handle such a situation; the honest truth is, they don’t take these Reds serious. They’ll spend ten times as much money to catch a plain burglar as they will to watch a whole gang like this.”
“How can they have got into my home?” cried the old man.
“They get in by ways you’d never dream of, Mr. Ackerman. They have people who agree with them. Why, you got no idea, there’s some preachers that are Reds, and some college teachers, and some rich men like yourself.”
“I know, I know,” said Ackerman. “But surely—”
“How can you tell? You may have a traitor right in your own family.”
So Peter went on, spreading the Red Terror in the soul of this old millionaire who did not want to be killed. He said again that he did not want to be killed, and explained his reluctance in some detail. So many people were dependent upon him for their livings, Peter could have no conception of it! There were probably a hundred thousand men with their families right here in American City, whose jobs depended upon plans which Ackerman was carrying, and which nobody but Ackerman could possibly carry. Widows and orphans looked to him for protection of their funds; a vast net-work of responsibilities required his daily, even his hourly decisions. And sure enough, the telephone rang, and Peter heard Nelse Ackerman declare that the Amalgamated Securities Company would have to put off a decision about its dividends until tomorrow, because he was too busy to sign certain papers just then. He hung up the receiver and said: “You see, you see! I tell you, Gudge, we must not let them get me!”
They came down to the question of practical plans, and Peter was ready with suggestions. In the first place, Mr. Ackerman must give no hint either to the police authorities or to Guffey that he was dissatisfied with their efforts. He must simply provide for an interview with Peter now and then, and he and Peter, quite privately, must take certain steps to get Mr. Ackerman that protection which his importance to the community made necessary. The first thing was to find out whether or not there was a traitor in Mr. Ackerman’s home, and for that purpose there must be a spy, a first-class detective working in some capacity or other. The only trouble was, there were so few detectives you could trust; they were nearly all scoundrels, and if they weren’t scoundrels, it was because they didn’t have sense enough to be—they were boobs, and any Red could see thru them in five minutes.