Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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First published in The Green Book Magazine, September 1918

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The Green Book Magazine, September 1918, with "The Specter at Macey's"

A brilliant exploit of Detective Masters is here described in lively fashion by the author of "The Giant Footprints" and "The Miltonvale Nemesis."


The three of us stopped frozen. From
somewhere in the building a wail sounded.

A GHOST at large in Montclair, New Jersey? As soon a matinée of the Folies Bergères in Old Trinity! I never would have believed it for an instant if it hadn't been for Lew Macey.

It did not require a clairvoyant to see that Macey believed it, though. Ordinarily he is a prematurely settled sort of chap, bald at thirty, wearing thick double lenses, getting his lightest recreation out of reading The New Republic, and all that. Just the type of build you'd expect to find in an anchor man in the city bowling league, but refined by education and thought instead of coarsened by beer and exercise.

I liked Macey but usually avoided him, because when I came down to the Century Club I was in search of diversion, not arguments, and my opinions always clashed head-on with his. To see him sitting alone and drinking, though! It was enough to arrest my attention, for to my positive knowledge Lew always had been a quiet but stanch advocate of prohibition.

"Brooding over the Russian collapse?" I questioned, stopping beside his table. It would not have surprised me greatly if he had answered in the affirmative, so seriously does he take all affairs of government and world-import, but he shook his head, motioning with a shaky forefinger at the chair opposite.

"Sit down!" he croaked hoarsely, and astounded at what I perceived from a closer inspection of his face, I obeyed. The calm, heavy expression of judicial gravity had vanished as completely from his face as if it had never been his. Instead, pallor of skin and a widened, strained expression of the blue eyes akin to chronic terror had replaced it.

"I have had to come to it lately, Hoffman," he muttered, indicating the decanter of Scotch at his elbow. "Nerve gone. Can't stand it!"

"Why on earth, man?" I exclaimed. "Are you taking the war—"

"The war?" he interrupted vaguely. "No, not that. Wife's down at Asheville now with Lenore, my daughter. Complete nervous breakdown, both of them. I stayed. Now it's got me!"

"What?" I did not smile, though I had a premonition of something far less terrible than Macey considered it.

"Say, Hoffman!" Macey gained better command of himself for an instant. "Want to buy my place in Montclair? You know it—same estate I had when you were out a year ago Thanksgiving. Cost over a hundred thousand. I'll sell it to you just as it stands now, furnished and all, for fifty thousand!"

EXCEPT for his strange proposition, Macey seemed a trifle saner, and I stared at him. The place would bring much more than fifty thousand even under the hammer, and I knew it. He was gazing at me steadily now, and I thought a glint of hope had crept into his eyes, shielded as they were behind the lenses.

"What is the proposition. Lew?" I asked, trying not to seem in the least excited. "Why don't you want it?"

"Ghosts!" he retorted tersely, clenching one of his heavy fists. "Too many tenants now!"

Macey was sincere in his offer and belief, and I knew it; yet I laughed heartily. It seemed too absurd that the calm, heavy scholar, used to analyzing national symptoms as a physician diagnoses illness from seemingly unrelated signs, should bow to superstition.

"Oh, nonsense, old man!" I concluded. "You've been reading too much."

"Think I'm crazy?"

"No, of course not. Your nerves have become ragged, likely."

"Then how about the rest of us?" Macey leaned forward on the table, grasping his short glass. "Grant that I have imagined all that I have heard. My wife and daughter have been scared out of their wits! They are down recuperating now, as I told you."

I smiled tolerantly. "You probably did the scaring yourself," I suggested, thinking that such might well be the case, as Macey certainly looked the part of temporary insanity.

He shook his head. "No sir, Hoffman. You have no conception of what it means to be converted to a belief in spirits. You know I did not use to take any stock in such things? Yes! Now I do. I cannot reconstruct my scheme of things to jibe with it, either! It is terrible—no, horrible is the word!"

"Have you actually seen any of the—er—tenants?"

"No." Macey seemed reluctant to make the admission. "Ethel has, though. And my dog Pete!"

"You say your dog has seen ghosts?" I asked incredulously.

Macey bowed somberly. "Pete is as crazy as the rest of us. When the noises start, he runs up and down the house with his hair standing up in a ruff around his neck and along the ridge of his back. Now and then he stops and howls at something in the empty room from which the noise is coming! If it were a person, he would bark. No, he howls like a wolf!"

A premonitory shiver of delight tingled its way down my spine. I have a curiously perverse nature; I would sooner credit the evidence of an intelligent dog in certain kinds of cases than I would that of any human being. Macey's problem became real to me the moment the dog entered, and I rose quickly to my feet.

"How much nerve have you left, Lew?" I queried, bending over. He shrugged his heavy shoulders.

"Well, listen to me! I don't want to buy your house. It's too much for my income, yet, and besides, I couldn't ask my patrons to come out as far as Montclair for sittings. I will do something about it, though, if you are willing to make a certain promise."

Macey looked up doubtfully at me over his glasses.

"I have a friend upstairs—I think he's playing billiards now—who will go out with me. The three of us will lay that ghost and have a bully time doing it! Only—I must ask that you do not seem too curious about my friend. He may not tell his name, and if so, you must not ask. You must never refer to him in any way afterward."

Macey nodded dully. "As you say, Hoffman," he replied.

JIGGER MASTERS was crouched morosely on one of the players' chairs when I found him. His opponent, Archie Spalding, was busily engaged in clicking off a continuous chain of points, nursing the object-balls in one corner of the billiard-table.

"This is a beastly game, Bert," growled Masters as I approached. "You have to sit down too long between shots. How many is that now, Spalding?"

"Forty-six," answered the other without looking up.

"How many points are you playing? How soon will you be through?" I asked.

"Two hundred points," returned Masters gloomily. "Spalding's out now. I got just fifty-four. The man's a darned professional!"

"Well, I'm glad the game's over!" I whispered. "Come with me; I think I can show you one in which you won't have to sit down so long between shots!"

Masters' heavy eyebrows lifted quickly at this, and the expression of ennui and disgust vanished. The man had been without a case for several weeks, and I knew how the inaction palled.

"Call it enough, Archie!" he said quickly, replacing his cue in the rack and following me out into the hall.

"I hope you have unearthed something, Bert," he said. "I'm not made to be a club idler." His deep voice rang with unfeigned anticipation.

"Just a ghost-hunt!" I replied. "Do you know Lew Macey?"

"Macey? No, I don't think I have met him. You see, I come down here only about three times a year."

"Well, so much the better," I replied, leading the way to the buffet where Macey still sat staring at his empty glass and the full decanter as if meditating a decisive onslaught.

Jigger Masters held my attention during the moments of introduction, not so much by the fact that he easily transmuted the initials by which I made him known to Macey into his real name, as by the dynamic contrast he offered to the heavy chap at the table.

"Jeffrey Masters," he volunteered suavely, extending one of his long arms clear across the table and gripping the back of Macey's hand—which still clasped the whisky glass loosely. "Known to my clients usually as 'Jigger'—broker, in a small way, you know." He pulled up two chairs from one of the adjoining tables and seated himself at Macey's right hand. I took the place opposite.

MACEY smiled in an embarrassed fashion. "Oh," he muttered, without emphasis, "thought you might be—er—" He stopped. I knew that he meant to say "detective," but Masters broke in.

"I have been in the business so short a time that few know of me as a broker. But let's not drag business into this. Hoffman mentioned something about a delightful mystery—" He glanced questioningly at me.

"Delightful?" echoed Macey, frowning in puzzled irritation.

"I haven't told the story yet," I hastened to say, and then as I saw this placated Macey. I went on to sketch the few details I knew, dwelling particularly on the fact that Macey's dog also had been troubled by the manifestations. "I know the animal," I concluded, "and he's a mighty intelligent dog. Half bull and half collie, isn't he, Lew?"

Macey nodded acquiescence. "Yes. Good watchdog. Crazy, though—just as crazy as the rest of us."

Masters spread his long hands flat on the table, palms down. "Well, Mr. Macey," he began. "Hoffman and I are just hungering for a chance at being entertained by a real spook. Do you think that if we went out to Montclair this evening with you we could be satisfied?"

Macey's mouth twitched, I think with anger. "Yes!" he answered gruffly. "I won't answer for what happens to you, though!"

Masters observed the danger-signals this time. "All right, Mr. Macey," he said. "Now, would it tire you to tell us a little of what we have to expect?"

Macey nodded. Pouring himself a drink, he started to lift it to his lips. "Oh, beg pardon!" he said. "Have some?" Masters and I declined silently, and waited until Macey recovered his voice after the searing draught.

"It's a nightmare—just that," began Macey, coughing a little from the unaccustomed liquor. "Week after we moved in, wife and I heard funny sounds—low moans, like patients in a coma, tearing of paper. Was some kind of a fool story of how an Italian who was killed while house was being built cursed it and said he'd haunt it forever. Didn't believe that kind of stuff—then.

"Daughter came home from Radcliffe. She heard all the noises too. Nothing wrong about her then, either—sensible girl. All the young men who called on her tried to solve the mystery. I tried. Had some of the floors taken up—one of the walls too. Nothing there. No hiding-place for a mouse!"

"And still the noises kept on?" Masters' tone was incredulous.

Macey bowed. "Yes, all the time at night. Not very often in the day. Different noises, different places each time! Shrieks—growls—rattling of chains—blood!"

"Blood?" Masters half rose from his chair in surprise, and my own mouth framed an exclamation.

"Yes, big splotches of it," assented Macey. Then he shuddered at the remembrance. "Oh, it's horrible! It's unreal!"

"No," contradicted Masters. "Not unreal if you actually saw blood. Very serious, though."

"It was right in the middle of the dining-room table," went on Macey, disregarding the implied doubt in Masters' words. "A pool of it on the glass top that dripped and splattered down all over the rug! Martha and Lenore found it. They're down at Asheville."

"But didn't you call in the police, man?" I cried.

"Police?" echoed Macey dully. "Oh, yes. Had them in several times. Found nothing. Nothing came of it except that they suspect me of killing some one. They've followed me. See that chap?" Macey motioned at an inconspicuous idler who was seated at a distance.

Masters chuckled. "Bixby Pickering!" he muttered.

"A club-member?" I asked.

"Lord, no!"

"He's been following me," insisted Macey. "Don't care a hang, but he has."

"He has no right here, then!" I replied firmly. "Let's have him put out. Who is he?"

"Just a simple, earnest soul from the Jersey sticks," laughed Masters. "Don't bother; he'll doubtless follow us out."

AND he did. When Masters, Macey and I took a cab to the tube, Bixby taxied after us. He boarded the same train for Montclair, and even stalked fifty feet in our rear up the staid and respectable streets of the suburb. This was too much for Masters' sense of humor. Taking a letter from his pocket, he handed it to me.

"Tear it up in small pieces and throw it on the sidewalk!" he commanded. "Wait until you get under that next light, so that friend sleuth can't miss seeing it."

I did so, but was unprepared for Masters' next move. He cursed me just loud enough to be heard by Bixby, and then scattered the papers with his foot.

"There! I guess that will give us a few moments," Masters whispered as he joined us. A hundred feet in our rear a dark figure darted out and swooped upon the fragments.

Lew Macey's home looked the part of a haunted house that night. Set back on a hill that was crowned by a grove of oaks, the white stone shone in spectral contrast to the black windows. The many lights Macey had placed in his parklike grounds were unlighted, but a three-quarters moon made other illumination unnecessary.

I am willing to admit, however, that as we reached the deepest shade of the trees I would have been glad of a friendly searchlight. In view of what Macey had been telling us, the white stone castle before us seemed somehow coldly sinister. Without effort of the imagination I could see faces peering out of the jet-black leaded panes.

That second the three of us stopped, frozen. From high up somewhere in the building before us a wail sounded faintly. This rose higher and higher, muffled by the building itself yet thoroughly audible to us outside, until it reached its climax in a raucous shriek of agony! The sound was not unlike the effort of a savage learning to play on a muted cornet; yet it possessed that intangible timbre of a human voice.

"Good Lord!" whispered Masters. "We're too late! That's murder!" He pulled a revolver from his pocket and started forward, but Macey, trembling so he could scarcely stand, detained him.

"There's nobody there," he said between teeth that chattered audibly. "Same every night. The Italian—" He stopped, for from within the house came a throbbing moan painfully distinct in the stillness. It was the cry of some huge, inarticulate animal in distress.

"For heaven's sake, Jigger," I cried, unable to repress the growing horror within me, "let's finish it!" I would gladly have turned and run in the opposite direction, for though I had discounted Macey's tale heavily, the actuality was overpowering. I jumped at every moving shadow in the grove.

Masters nodded jerkily, and the two of us linked arms with Macey and ran up the concrete walk to the front piazza. Macey drew out his key, but his fingers trembled so violently that he failed in fitting it to the lock. Masters, unable to stand the fumbling, opened the door himself.

WITH a nervous bark of gladness a dog flung himself out of the dark hall at Macey. I nearly toppled back over the banister at the apparition, but recovered in time to steady Macey and greet Pete, with whom I had previously been stanch friends.

"Why did you leave him here alone?" I asked reproachfully, for the dog was extravagant in his delight at company.

"Don't know. Just forgot, I guess." Macey stumbled in after Masters, and I followed. Masters and Macey made it their immediate business to snap on every available electric light.

The interior of the house showed marks of the confusion and haste with which Mrs. Macey, her daughter and the maids had left. Directly from the entryway, where we deposited our wraps, we entered the broad living-room. This ran the full width of the house, and ordinarily was kept in a condition of munificent orderliness. Now it was changed. The Oriental rugs were thrown up, pulled aside and rumpled. A piano-bench in the bay-window was overturned. One curtain-rod had slipped from its holder, allowing the lacy folds to hang askew. Altogether it looked as though the ghosts had been busy in Macey's absence.

"Where's the dining-room?" asked Masters immediately.

"Back here, behind the library and den—right through this hall," answered Macey, leading the way.

Masters stopped in the doorway with Macey and me at his side. "Why, you've taken the rug out and cleaned the table!" Masters exclaimed in a disappointed tone.

"Yes," answered Macey. "The police had charge of it for two weeks, and then I didn't think there could be any reason for preserving the horrible mess. I had the rug taken away to be cleaned."

Masters made no comment at this, but turned away. For the next hour he and I explored all the rooms of the house, the attic and the basement. Masters called upon me to hold one end of his tape-measure continually, as he figured room-lengths in respect to walls, partitions and floors. He made dozens of entries in his notebook, but I saw a gradual set expression of disappointment coming on his angular features.

"Wish the ghosts would start something now we're here!" he muttered finally. "So far as I can tell, there isn't any room for a person or animal—"

Clank! Clank! Clank!

THE sentence died in Masters' throat, for from upstairs and somewhere back in the house came the unmistakable noise of a heavy chain rattling!

"There it is! There!" shrilled Lew Macey, starting up from the chair he was occupying in the living-room.

"Come on, Bert!" exclaimed Masters from between clenched teeth. He drew his revolver and ran up the front stairway three steps at a time. I was on his heels.

Before we reached the landing, all was quiet above, but we hurried to the point from which the noise had seemed to come. Pete, the dog, was there, standing in the middle of the upstairs hall, whimpering. His hair stood up all along his back just as Macey had said.

We rushed from one room to another, looking in every conceivable place, but in vain. Pete caught the spirit finally, and while we were poking around in clothes-presses and under beds, he was eager to help.

Lew Macey said nothing now, but he followed us around. The chap was terror-stricken and fearful of being left alone.

"Nothing up here," said Masters briefly, when we had poked in the last corner for the third time.

"Listen!" I cried, but my warning was unnecessary. Masters stopped in the act of pulling a handkerchief from his hip pocket. A buzzing, humming sound came from the attic above us. It was insistent, beelike.

"Just like a bumblebee caught under a glass!" I whispered. Masters nodded without speaking, and I saw a blank look steal into his blue eyes that gave me a sudden flutter of hope. This meant concentrated thought on Masters' part. Ergo he had some new idea!

"Shall we go up—" I began, but at that moment a blood-curdling shriek of terrific pain smote us like a blow. It was the death-wail we had heard before! It came in full agonized volume from the dining-room downstairs! Like madmen we sped down the steps again and burst into the dining-room.


Like madmen we sped down the steps again and burst into the dining-room.

I think that it was not until Lew Macey fainted at my side that the full meaning of the scene before me came to my mind. The six-foot glass top of the dining-room table was one huge pool of blood! The crimson liquid was spattered over everything, and was dripping down in several streams to the floor! Not a soul was in sight!

I took half a step forward and then stopped, conscious of a giddy sensation. "I—I guess I believe in ghosts!" I managed to mutter finally.

MASTERS, who had stepped past, flashed back an inscrutable glance in which I was almost certain I detected a trace of amusement. I could not be sure, though, and I had seen and heard enough for the time being, anyway. Lifting up Lew Macey by the shoulders, I dragged him into the living-room and laid him on the mulberry davenport. Then I obtained a glass of water and sprinkled his face.

When he came to consciousness, he begged me not to leave him, and though I knew that Masters at last had something tangible to work upon, I was willing to rest for a few moments myself.

The only interruption that occurred during the next half-hour was when Masters asked the whereabouts of a ladder. Macey was able to tell this without leaving his couch; so we stayed. Most of the time I had my hand in the side pocket of my jacket, where I carry my revolver, for it would not have surprised me greatly to have had one of the nerve-jarring manifestations start right in the same room.

I knew that Masters would call me the moment he had need of my services, and guessed that in the meantime he would prefer not to be troubled by Macey. So when he quietly stepped out the front door a short time later without asking my company, I made no move to follow.

Less than ten minutes later he was back, his eyes shining with triumph. "Come on!" he cried. "I've got the ghost!"

Macey jumped to his feet and stared about in bewildered fashion. "Got him? Caught him?" he asked.

"No, not yet. I'll probably need the help of you both. But come on!"

I needed no second invitation, and Lew Macey came along, muttering his disbelief, but nevertheless curious.

Masters led us out the front way, but turned immediately toward the back. On past the garage we tiptoed, finding no difficulty in picking a path in the moonlight. Beyond the garage the oak grove began. Straight into its blackest shadow Masters led. I was infinitely relieved when he clicked on his flash.

"HANDS up!" The gruff command cracked out of the darkness. Masters coolly circled his flash-lamp to the side, disclosing a half-dozen policemen standing with leveled revolvers. We all obeyed, albeit Masters carried the flash up with him and used it on the officers.

"Bixby again!" Masters exclaimed disgustedly as the latter approached from behind the blue cordon.

"Yes, and we've got you this time! Look at him!" Bixby Pickering seized the flash and turned its baleful eye on Masters.

I was forced to admit that Masters appeared desperate enough for anything. He was literally drenched in blood! I had not noted this feature previously, but beginning at the top of his right shoulder and continuing to the bottom of his right trouser-leg was a red smear, not yet dry.

"You're just in time, Bixby!" said Masters, regaining his composure.

"You bet I am, you murderer!" growled the other.

"Come here!" Masters' tone was commanding. Bixby gloweringly obeyed. "Fish in my left trousers pocket," continued Masters. "Take out what you find and look at it!" Bixby did so. The find seemed to be a disk of flat metal. As the detective looked at it, his eyes bulged.

"You?" he cried.

"Of course!" said Masters. "Now if you'll bring your herd along here, I'll show you something interesting!" Bixby made a muttered explanation to the policemen, and then all followed Masters. The latter was advancing more carefully now.

He stopped and beckoned, and all of us crowded close.

"Come out of there before I blow you out of the ground!" he yelled suddenly, to my complete mystification.

THERE ensued a three-second wait in which I am sure all of us mentally questioned Masters' sanity. Calling down at the solid ground in a suburban estate is not usually a profitable pursuit.

Imagine our surprise! A faint crack of light showed in the turf at our feet! Instantly Masters bent down and pulled at the crack, throwing up what seemed to be an oblong mat of grass turf!

Below it, framed in the light from a strong electric lamp beneath, a man stood blinking up at us. He was clutching the topmost rung of a ladder which led down into the light.


Below, framed in the light, a man stood blinking up at us.

"Take him, boys!" cried Masters, and the police needed no further directions. They had been cheated out of one quarry, and intended to make sure of this one.

"Put 'cuffs on him and then bring him down here!" directed Masters, and reluctantly Bixby obeyed.

While this maneuver was taking place, Masters, Macey and I climbed down the ladder.

A marvelous cave or dugout greeted our eyes! A table, chairs, a cot with bedding and a book-rack filled with novels and periodicals were ranged against the clay walls. The board floor was partly covered with a grass rug. The affair which caught my eye instantly, however, was a contrivance next the cot, which resembled queerly the keyboard of a church organ! It had two banks of keys, and a row of what looked to be stops.

"Here's where your ghost really walks. Macey," said Masters, pointing at the odd appliance. "This is part of an electrical system that is hooked up to all parts of your house. When the occupant of this cave wants a ghost to shriek, he presses one of these keys."

"Well, how do you like the layout?"

We looked up to see the owner descending the ladder, grinning over his shoulder, while Bixby crouched above, watching his every move.

"Fine!" said Masters cordially. "Think it out yourself?"

"Ye-ah! That is, not the machine. That's part of a 'unit orchestra.' The idea's mine, though. Thomas Seppel's Ghost Company, at your service!"

"I'll trouble you to take off these bracelets," continued Seppel genially. "The game's up, I know, but you can't get me for anything. I'm a practical joker, I am!"

"Make 'em sell out cheap, eh?" Masters was apparently deeply struck with the humorous possibilities of the idea.

"You bet!" chuckled Seppel. "Scare 'em till they want to get rid of the property. Then buy it dirt cheap and sell it again. Nothing illegal in it, either."

"Oh, so you built it in the first place?"

"Sure! How d'you suppose I got the wires in? I build a house about every ten or eleven months. Make about fifteen thousand a year beside my—hm!—salary as ghost, so I can afford to laugh at the loss of this."

Masters snapped around quickly. "Yes, and you can keep on laughing for about ten years, Mr. Seppel!" he announced. "Take him away, Bixby, and hold him for charges."

DESPITE the joker's protestations, he was led away. For my part I think he was lucky, since Lew Macey at that moment was meditating nothing less than homicide.

Macey cooled down somewhat as Masters started speaking. "I didn't tumble in the least when I heard those first shrieks," he said. "I thought there was some one hiding in the walls, or upstairs somewhere. That buzzing first gave me an inkling. It sounded so much like an instrument invented once by a certain Robert Hope-Jones—he was the chap who first perfected the 'unit orchestra.'

"The blood in the dining-room clinched it, though. For a few minutes it scattered my theories galley west, I'll admit, for it seemed a far cry between a 'unit orchestra' and a smudge of blood. When I came to examine the blood, though, I found out several interesting things. First, it was not human blood at all. It wasn't even normal blood from any animal! It had corpuscles, all right, but not a bit of fibrin or platelets in it! In other words, it wouldn't clot at all! It had evidently been run through a centrifuge to remove these clotting elements."

"But why, for goodness sake?" I cried.

"I was just coming to that. Blood that has been treated like this can be kept for some time in a container without losing its liquid form. On a chance I tried the ceiling above the dining-room table. There were four of these cups of blood up there, hidden by the filigree work. Two were empty and two full. The first full one I opened spilled all over me. They were operated by an electric current from here. When Seppel pressed a key, one cup would empty blood all over and then close up again."

"But—but how did he get the shrieks and the clanking of chains?" asked Macey slowly, passing his hand across his forehead vaguely.

"Well, I've worked too fast to be able to describe it all to you. Trace it out at your leisure. It's my guess that many of the beams used in the construction of your house are hollow. Some of them are attached to bellows, and act like organ-pipes when one of these keys is pressed—all electrically driven, you understand."

"And can't I—can't I do something to make him suffer for this?" queried Macey miserably. "Think of my wife and daughter!"

Masters raised his clenched fist. "You bet we'll do something, Macey!" he said solemnly. "We'll have him up at Sing Sing cracking rock until he's a ghost himself!"


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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