“But I tell you,” said Peter, “what I’ve thought. I’ve got a wife that’s a wonder, and just now while we were talking about it, I thought, if I could only get Edythe in here for a few days, I’d find out everything about all the people in your home, your relatives as well as your servants.”
“Is she a professional detective?” asked the banker.
“Why no, sir,” said Peter. “She was an actress, her name was Edythe Eustace; perhaps you might have heard of her on the stage.”
“No, I’m too busy for the theatre,” said Mr. Ackerman.
“Of course,” said Peter. “Well, I dunno whether she’d be willing to do it; she don’t like having me mix up with these Reds, and she’s been begging me to quit for a long time, and I’d just about promised her I would. But if I tell her about your trouble maybe she might, just as a favor.”
But how could Peter’s wife be introduced into the Ackerman household without attracting suspicion? Peter raised this question, pointing out that his wife was a person of too high a social class to come as a servant. Mr. Ackerman added that he had nothing to do with engaging his servants, any more than with engaging the bookkeepers in his bank. It would look suspicious for him to make a suggestion to his housekeeper. But finally he remarked that he had a niece who sometimes came to visit him, and would come at once if requested, and would bring Edythe Eustace as her maid. Peter was sure that Edythe would be able to learn this part quickly, she had acted it many times on the stage, in fact, it had been her favorite role. Mr. Ackerman promised to get word to his niece, and have her meet Edythe at the Hotel de Soto that same afternoon.
Then the old banker pledged his word most solemnly that he would not whisper a hint about this matter except to his niece. Peter was most urgent and emphatic; he specified that the police were not to be told, that no member of the household was to be told, not even Mr. Ackerman’s private secretary. After Mr. Ackerman had had this duly impressed upon him, he proceeded in turn to impress upon Peter the idea which he considered of most importance in the world: “I don’t want to be killed, Gudge, I tell you I don’t want to be killed!” And Peter solemnly promised to make it his business to listen to all conversations of the Reds in so far as they might bear upon Mr. Ackerman.
When he rose to take his departure, Mr. Ackerman slipped his trembling fingers into the pocket of his jacket, and pulled out a crisp and shiny note. He unfolded it, and Peter saw that it was a five hundred dollar bill, fresh from the First National Bank of American City, of which Mr. Ackerman was chairman of the board of directors. “Here’s a little present for you, Gudge,” he said. “I want you to understand that if you protect me from these villains, I’ll see that you are well taken care of. From now on I want you to be my man.”
“Yes, sir,” said Peter, “I’ll be it, sir. I thank you very much, sir.” And he thrust the bill into his pocket, and bowed himself step by step backwards toward the door. “You’re forgetting your hat,” said the banker.