THE WRONG HOUSE
-- by James N. Young
The night was dark. And the house was dark. Dark -- and silent. The two men ran toward it quietly. They slipped quickly through the dark bushes, which surrounded the house. They reached the porch, ran quickly up the steps, kneeled-down, breathing heavily, in the dark shadows. They waited -- listening.
Silence. Perfect silence. Then – out of the blackness – a whisper: “we can’t stay out here….Take this suitcase….Let me try those keys. We’ve got to get in!”
Ten – twenty – thirty seconds. With one of the keys the one man opened the door. Silently, the two men entered the house, closed the door behind them, locked it.
Whispering, they discussed the situation. They wondered if they had awakened anyone in the house.
“Let’s have a look at this place.” “Careful, Hasty!” “Oh, there is not anybody awake!” And the soft rays of a flashlight swept the room.
It was a large room. A living room. Rugs, carefully rolled, lay piled on one side. The furniture –chairs, tables, couches-was covered by sheets. Dust lay like a light snow over everything.
The man who held the flashlight spoke first. ”Well, Blackie,” he said, “We’re in luck. Looks as if the family’s away.”
“Yeah, Gone for the summer, I guess. We better make sure, though. Huh.” Together they searched the house. They went on tiptoe through every room. There could be no doubt about it. The family was away. Had been away for weeks.
Yes, Hasty Hogan and Blackie Burns were in luck. Only once in the past ten days had their luck failed them. It had been with them when they made their big robbery – their truly magnificent robbery-on the Coast. It had been with them during their thousand-mile trip eastward, by automobile. It had been with them every moment – but one.
That moment had come just one hour before. It came when Blackie, driving the car, ran over a policeman. And Blackie, thinking of the suitcase at Hasty’s feet, had driven away. Swiftly.
There had been a chase, of course. A wild crazy chase. And when a bullet had punctured the gasoline tank, they had had to abandon the car. But luck or no luck, here they were. Alone, and without a car, in a completely strange town. But safe and sound – with the suitcase.
The suitcase lay in the centre of the table, in the centre of the room. In the suitcase, neat little package on neat little package, lay nearly three hundred thousand dollars!
“Listen,” said Mr. Hogan. “We have to get a car. Quick, too. And we can not steal one – and use it. It’s too dangerous. We have to buy one. That means that we have to wait until the stores open. That will be about eight o’clock in this town.”
“But what are we going to do with that?” And Mr. Burns pointed to the suitcase.
“Hide it right here. Sure! Why not? It’s much safer here than with us – until we get a car.”
And so they hid the suitcase. They carried it down to the cellar. Buried it deep in some coal, which lay in a corner of the cellar. After this, just before dawn, they slipped out.
“Say, Blackie,” Mr. Hogan remarked as they walked down the street, “The name of the gentleman we are visiting is Mr. Samuel W. Rogers.”
“How do you know?”
“Saw with on some of them books. He’s surely got a wonderful library, hasn’t he?”
The automobile salesrooms opened at 8 o’clock, as Mr. Hogan had supposed. Shortly before nine, Mr. Hogan and Mr. Burns had a car. A very nice little car. Very quiet. Very inconspicuous. And very speedy. The dealer lent them his license plates and away they rode.
Three blocks from the house, they stopped. Mr. Hogan got out. Walked toward the house. He had just to go around to the rear, he thought, and slip in.
Fifty yards from the house he stopped. Stared, swore softly. The front door was open. The window shades were up. The family had returned!
Well, what bad luck. And what could they do? Break into the cellar that night, and pick up the suitcase? No -- too dangerous. Mr. Hogan would have to think of something.
“Leave it to me, kid “He told Mr. Burns. “You drive the car. I’ll do the special brainwork. Let’s find a telephone. Quick.”
Ten minutes later, Mr. Hogan was consulting a telephone directory. Yes, there it was – Samuel W. Rogers, Plainview 6329. A moment later he was talking to the surprised Mr. Rogers.
“Hello,” he began, “Is this Mr. Rogers – Mr. Samuel Rogers?”
“Yes, this is Mr. Rogers.”
Mr. Hogan cleared his throat. “Mr. Rogers, “he said — and his tone was sharp, official, impressive — “this is Headquarters, Police Headquarters, talking. I am Simpson. Sergeant Simpson, of the detective division —”
“Yes, yes!” came over the wire.
“The Chief – the Chief of Police, you know,” — here Mr. Hogan lowered his voice a little — “has ordered me to get in touch with you. He’s sending me out with one of our men to see you.”
“Am I in trouble of some kind?” asked Mr. Rogers.
“No, no, no. Nothing like that. But I have something of great importance to talk to you about.”
“Very well,” came the voice of Mr. Rogers. ”I’ll wait for you.”
“And, Mr. Rogers” Mr. Hogan cautioned, “please keep quiet about this. Don’t say anything to anybody. You’ll understand why when I see you.”
On the way back to the house, Mr. Hogan explained his idea to Mr. Burns.
Within ten minutes “Sergeant Simpson” and “Detective Johnson” were conversing with the surprised Mr. Rogers. Mr. Rogers was a small man. Rather insignificant. He had pale blue eyes. Not much of a chin. A funny little face. He was nervous — a badly frightened man.
Mr. Hogan told the whole story. Somewhat changed. Very much changed. And Mr. Rogers was surprised, but delighted.
He accompanied Mr. Hogan to the cellar. And together they dug up to the suitcase. Took it to the living room, opened it, so that it had not been touched-that it really did hold a small fortune. Bills, bills, bills!
Mr. Hogan closed the suitcase.
“And now, Mr. Rogers,” he announced, in this best official manner, “Johnson and I must run along. The chief wants a report – quick. We have to catch the rest of the robbers. I’ll keep in touch with you.”
He picked up the suitcase and rose. Mr. Burns also rose. Mr. Rogers also rose. The trio walked to the door. Mr. Rogers opened in. “Come in boys,” he said pleasantly. And in walked three men. Large men. Strong men. Men in police uniform who without fear, stared at Mr. Hasty Hogan and Mr. Blackie Burns.
“What does this mean Mr. Rogers?” asked Mr. Hogan.
“It’s quiet simple,” said Mr. Rogers. “It just happens that I am the Chief of Police!”