Theodore Dreiser >> The Financier (page 39)

"Mr. Pinkerton is in Chicago at present," replied Mr. Martinson. "I don't expect him back for a week or ten days. You can talk to me, though, with the same confidence that you could to him. I'm the responsible head here. However, you're the best judge of that."

Butler debated with himself in silence for a few moments, estimating the man before him. "Are you a family man yourself?" he asked, oddly.

"Yes, sir, I'm married," replied Martinson, solemnly. "I have a wife and two children."

Martinson, from long experience conceived that this must be a matter of family misconduct-a son, daughter, wife. Such cases were not infrequent.

"I thought I would like to talk to Mr. Pinkerton himself, but if you're the responsible head-" Butler paused.

"I am," replied Martinson. "You can talk to me with the same freedom that you could to Mr. Pinkerton. Won't you come into my private office? We can talk more at ease in there."

He led the way into an adjoining room which had two windows looking down into Broadway; an oblong table, heavy, brown, smoothly polished; four leather-backed chairs; and some pictures of the Civil War battles in which the North had been victorious. Butler followed doubtfully. He hated very much to take any one into his confidence in regard to Aileen. He was not sure that he would, even now. He wanted to "look these fellys over," as he said in his mind. He would decide then what he wanted to do. He went to one of the windows and looked down into the street, where there was a perfect swirl of omnibuses and vehicles of all sorts. Mr. Martinson quietly closed the door.

"Now then, if there's anything I can do for you," Mr. Martinson paused. He thought by this little trick to elicit Buder's real name-it often "worked" but in this instance the name was not forthcoming. Butler was too shrewd.

"I'm not so sure that I want to go into this," said the old man solemnly. "Certainly not if there's any risk of the thing not being handled in the right way. There's somethin' I want to find out about-somethin' that I ought to know; but it's a very private matter with me, and-" He paused to think and conjecture, looking at Mr. Martinson the while. The latter understood his peculiar state of mind. He had seen many such cases.

"Let me say right here, to begin with, Mr.-"

"Scanlon," interpolated Butler, easily; "that's as good a name as any if you want to use one. I'm keepin' me own to meself for the present."

"Scanlon," continued Martinson, easily. "I really don't care whether it's your right name or not. I was just going to say that it might not be necessary to have your right name under any circumstances it all depends upon what you want to know. But, so far as your private affairs are concerned, they are as safe with us, as if you had never told them to any one. Our business is built upon confidence, and we never betray it. We wouldn't dare. We have men and women who have been in our employ for over thirty years, and we never retire any one except for cause, and we don't pick people who are likely to need to be retired for cause. Mr. Pinkerton is a good judge of men. There are others here who consider that they are. We handle over ten thousand separate cases in all parts of the United States every year. We work on a case only so long as we are wanted. We try to find out only such things as our customers want. We do not pry unnecessarily into anybody's affairs. If we decide that we cannot find out what you want to know, we are the first to say so. Many cases are rejected right here in this office before we ever begin. Yours might be such a one. We don't want cases merely for the sake of having them, and we are frank to say so. Some matters that involve public policy, or some form of small persecution, we don't touch at all-we won't be a party to them. You can see how that is. You look to me to be a man of the world. I hope I am one. Does it strike you that an organization like ours would be likely to betray any one's confidence?" He paused and looked at Butler for confirmation of what he had just said.

"It wouldn't seem likely," said the latter; "that's the truth. It's not aisy to bring your private affairs into the light of day, though," added the old man, sadly.

They both rested.

"Well," said Butler, finally, "you look to me to be all right, and I'd like some advice. Mind ye, I'm willing to pay for it well enough; and it isn't anything that'll be very hard to find out. I want to know whether a certain man where I live is goin' with a certain woman, and where. You could find that out aisy enough, I belave-couldn't you?"

"Nothing easier," replied Martinson. "We are doing it all the time. Let me see if I can help you just a moment, Mr. Scanlon, in order to make it easier for you. It is very plain to me that you don't care to tell any more than you can help, and we don't care to have you tell any more than we absolutely need. We will have to have the name of the city, of course, and the name of either the man or the woman; but not necessarily both of them, unless you want to help us in that way. Sometimes if you give us the name of one party-say the man, for illustration-and the description of the woman-an accurate one-or a photograph, we can tell you after a little while exactly what you want to know. Of course, it's always better if we have full information. You suit yourself about that. Tell me as much or as little as you please, and I'll guarantee that we will do our best to serve you, and that you will be satisfied afterward."

He smiled genially.

"Well, that bein' the case," said Butler, finally taking the leap, with many mental reservations, however, "I'll be plain with you. My name's not Scanlon. It's Butler. I live in Philadelphy. There's a man there, a banker by the name of Cowperwood-Frank A. Cowperwood-"

"Wait a moment," said Martinson, drawing an ample pad out of his pocket and producing a lead-pencil; "I want to get that. How do you spell it?"

Butler told him.

"Yes; now go on."

"He has a place in Third Street-Frank A. Cowperwood-any one can show you where it is. He's just failed there recently."

"Oh, that's the man," interpolated Martinson. "I've heard of him. He's mixed up in some city embezzlement case over there. I suppose the reason you didn't go to our Philadelphia office is because you didn't want our local men over there to know anything about it. Isn't that it?"

"That's the man, and that's the reason," said Butler. "I don't care to have anything of this known in Philadelphy. That's why I'm here. This man has a house on Girard Avenue-Nineteen-thirty-seven. You can find that out, too, when you get over there."

"Yes," agreed Mr. Martinson.

"Well, it's him that I want to know about-him-and a certain woman, or girl, rather." The old man paused and winced at this necessity of introducing Aileen into the case. He could scarcely think of it-he was so fond of her. He had been so proud of Aileen. A dark, smoldering rage burned in his heart against Cowperwood.

"A relative of yours-possibly, I suppose," remarked Martinson, tactfully. "You needn't tell me any more-just give me a description if you wish. We may be able to work from that." He saw quite clearly what a fine old citizen in his way he was dealing with here, and also that the man was greatly troubled. Butler's heavy, meditative face showed it. "You can be quite frank with me, Mr. Butler," he added; "I think I understand. We only want such information as we must have to help you, nothing more."

"Yes," said the old man, dourly. "She is a relative. She's me daughter, in fact. You look to me like a sensible, honest man. I'm her father, and I wouldn't do anything for the world to harm her. It's tryin' to save her I am. It's him I want." He suddenly closed one big fist forcefully.

Martinson, who had two daughters of his own, observed the suggestive movement.

"I understand how you feel, Mr. Butler," he observed. "I am a father myself. We'll do all we can for you. If you can give me an accurate description of her, or let one of my men see her at your house or office, accidentally, of course, I think we can tell you in no time at all if they are meeting with any regularity. That's all you want to know, is it-just that?"

"That's all," said Butler, solemnly.

"Well, that oughtn't to take any time at all, Mr. Butler-three or four days possibly, if we have any luck-a week, ten days, two weeks. It depends on how long you want us to shadow him in case there is no evidence the first few days."

"I want to know, however long it takes," replied Butler, bitterly. "I want to know, if it takes a month or two months or three to find out. I want to know." The old man got up as he said this, very positive, very rugged. "And don't send me men that haven't sinse lots of it, plase. I want men that are fathers, if you've got 'em-and that have sinse enough to hold their tongues-not b'ys."

"I understand, Mr. Butler," Martinson replied. "Depend on it, you'll have the best we have, and you can trust them. They'll be discreet. You can depend on that. The way I'll do will be to assign just one man to the case at first, some one you can see for yourself whether you like or not. I'll not tell him anything. You can talk to him. If you like him, tell him, and he'll do the rest. Then, if he needs any more help, he can get it. What is your address?"

Butler gave it to him.

"And there'll be no talk about this?"

"None whatever-I assure you."

"And when'll he be comin' along?"

"To-morrow, if you wish. I have a man I could send to-night. He isn't here now or I'd have him talk with you. I'll talk to him, though, and make everything clear. You needn't worry about anything. Your daughter's reputation will be safe in his hands."

"Thank you kindly," commented Butler, softening the least bit in a gingerly way. "I'm much obliged to you. I'll take it as a great favor, and pay you well."

"Never mind about that, Mr. Butler," replied Martinson. "You're welcome to anything this concern can do for you at its ordinary rates."

He showed Butler to the door, and the old man went out. He was feeling very depressed over this-very shabby. To think he should have to put detectives on the track of his Aileen, his daughter!Chapter XXXVI
The very next day there called at Butler's office a long, preternaturally solemn man of noticeable height and angularity, dark-haired, dark-eyed, sallow, with a face that was long and leathery, and particularly hawk-like, who talked with Butler for over an hour and then departed. That evening he came to the Butler house around dinner-time, and, being shown into Butler's room, was given a look at Aileen by a ruse. Butler sent for her, standing in the doorway just far enough to one side to yield a good view of her. The detective stood behind one of the heavy curtains which had already been put up for the winter, pretending to look out into the street.

"Did any one drive Sissy this mornin'?" asked Butler of Aileen, inquiring after a favorite family horse. Butler's plan, in case the detective was seen, was to give the impression that he was a horseman who had come either to buy or to sell. His name was Jonas Alderson, and be looked sufficiently like a horsetrader to be one.

"I don't think so, father," replied Aileen. "I didn't. I'll find out."

"Never mind. What I want to know is did you intend using her to-morrow?"

"No, not if you want her. Jerry suits me just as well."

"Very well, then. Leave her in the stable." Butler quietly closed the door. Aileen concluded at once that it was a horse conference. She knew he would not dispose of any horse in which she was interested without first consulting her, and so she thought no more about it.

After she was gone Alderson stepped out and declared that he was satisfied. "That's all I need to know," he said. "I'll let you know in a few days if I find out anything."

He departed, and within thirty-six hours the house and office of Cowperwood, the house of Butler, the office of Harper Steger, Cowperwood's lawyer, and Cowperwood and Aileen separately and personally were under complete surveillance. It took six men to do it at first, and eventually a seventh, when the second meeting-place, which was located in South Sixth Street, was discovered. All the detectives were from New York. In a week all was known to Alderson. It bad been agreed between him and Butler that if Aileen and Cowperwood were discovered to have any particular rendezvous Butler was to be notified some time when she was there, so that he might go immediately and confront her in person, if he wished. He did not intend to kill Cowperwood-and Alderson would have seen to it that he did not in his presence at least, but he would give him a good tongue-lashing, fell him to the floor, in all likelihood, and march Aileen away. There would be no more lying on her part as to whether she was or was not going with Cowperwood. She would not be able to say after that what she would or would not do. Butler would lay down the law to her. She would reform, or he would send her to a reformatory. Think of her influence on her sister, or on any good girl-knowing what she knew, or doing what she was doing! She would go to Europe after this, or any place he chose to send her.

In working out his plan of action it was necessary for Butler to take Alderson into his confidence and the detective made plain his determination to safeguard Cowperwood's person.

"We couldn't allow you to strike any blows or do any violence," Alderson told Butler, when they first talked about it. "It's against the rules. You can go in there on a search-warrant, if we have to have one. I can get that for you without anybody's knowing anything about your connection with the case. We can say it's for a girl from New York. But you'll have to go in in the presence of my men. They won't permit any trouble. You can get your daughter all right-we'll bring her away, and him, too, if you say so; but you'll have to make some charge against him, if we do. Then there's the danger of the neighbors seeing. You can't always guarantee you won't collect a crowd that way." Butler had many misgivings about the matter. It was fraught with great danger of publicity. Still he wanted to know. He wanted to terrify Aileen if he could-to reform her drastically.

Within a week Alderson learned that Aileen and Cowperwood were visiting an apparently private residence, which was anything but that. The house on South Sixth Street was one of assignation purely; but in its way it was superior to the average establishment of its kind-of red brick, white-stone trimmings, four stories high, and all the rooms, some eighteen in number, furnished in a showy but cleanly way. It's patronage was highly exclusive, only those being admitted who were known to the mistress, having been introduced by others. This guaranteed that privacy which the illicit affairs of this world so greatly required. The mere phrase, "I have an appointment," was sufficient, where either of the parties was known, to cause them to be shown to a private suite. Cowperwood had known of the place from previous experiences, and when it became necessary to abandon the North Tenth Street house, he had directed Aileen to meet him here.

Title: The Financier
Author: Theodore Dreiser
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