Wednesday, April 3, 2024

"The System Has Fallen Down, Somewhere"

HERE we have an Arthur B. Reeve story that might never have been collected anywhere (we're not sure); regardless, let's watch Craig Kennedy tackle . . .

"The Mystery of the Vault."
By Arthur B. Reeve (1880-1936).
Illustration by W. M. Allison (1880-1964; Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists HERE).
First appearance: Clues Detective Stories, December 25, 1929.
Short story (11 pages).
Online at (HERE; go to text page 387).
(Note: Text very faded but readable.)

   "Kennedy, the impossible has happened; only Houdini come back to life or Einstein turned crook could have done it!"

Bank robbery has a long, disreputable, and largely unsuccessful history, but that hasn't stopped people from giving it a go. No one was more surprised by and no less a victim of it than that befuddled red-headed pawnbroker who sought enlightenment from the Sage of Baker Street. In today's story, the victims of just such a theft also seek enlightenment, this time from Craig Kennedy, scientific detective par excellence, only to have him confess at 
one point: "I suppose I myself was picked out for the role of the boob detective because I happened to be available." For Kennedy, being a cat's-paw like that isn't customary and undoubtedly rankles, so no doubt there's some real job satisfaction when he nails down the perps . . .

Principal characters:
~ Walter Jameson:
  ". . . Kennedy was as usual as great an enigma to me as if I were not his most intimate friend."
~ James Gage:
  "The new vault of the Broad-Wall Trust Company has been entered and robbed—and there is apparently not a clue!"
~ Craig Kennedy:
  "It's surprising how much you learn by studying girls."
~ Ethel Wynne Gage:
  "I knew that beautiful face. It was Ethel Wynne, late of the Follies, now Mrs. Gage."
~ Miss Madeline Croney:
  "Oh, I have quite a philosophy of finger tips."
~ Mr. Ingraham:
  "So, you see why it is that we say that the impossible has happened!"
~ Burton:
  "I hear the four, though, have sometimes made up a week-end party on a fast cruiser . . ."
~ Dave Wharton:
  "Wharton's racket is night clubs."
~ Walker:
  "Rather a clever fellow—always on the job."
~ Schwartz:
  "Let me out, I say! This is an outrage! Let me out!"

The Kennedy Method:
  "It had always been his rule that the fewer people he took into his confidence the fewer weak links there would be in forging his chain of evidence."

References and resources:
- "only Houdini come back to life or Einstein":
  The amazing magician had passed away of peritonitis just three years before our story was published, the brainy scientist of an abdominal aortic aneurysm twenty-six years after. (Wikipedia HERE and HERE.)
- "some relativity thief in the fourth dimension!":
  "Four-dimensional space (4D) is the mathematical extension of the concept of three-dimensional space (3D)." . . . "Science fiction texts often mention the concept of 'dimension' when referring to parallel or alternate universes or other imagined planes of existence. This usage is derived from the idea that to travel to parallel/alternate universes/planes of existence one must travel in a direction/dimension besides the standard ones. In effect, the other universes/planes are just a small distance away from our own, but the distance is in a fourth (or higher) spatial (or non-spatial) dimension, not the standard ones." (Wikipedia HERE and HERE.)
- "The door of a modern vault is a very complex affair":
  "Vault technology developed in a type of arms race with bank robbers. As burglars came up with new ways to break into vaults, vault makers found new ways to foil them. Modern vaults may be armed with a wide array of alarms and anti-theft devices. Some 19th and early 20th century vaults were built so well that today they are difficult to destroy, even with specialized demolition equipment." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "a treasure house to make Croesus look like a cheap skate":
  "In Greek and Persian cultures the name of Croesus became a synonym for a wealthy man . . . Croesus' wealth remained proverbial beyond classical antiquity: in English, expressions such as 'rich as Croesus' or 'richer than Croesus' are used to indicate great wealth to this day." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "a modern Midas had by his magic touch":
  "Midas was the name of a king in Phrygia with whom several myths became associated, as well as two later members of the Phrygian royal house. His father was Zeus, and his mother was Cybele. The most famous King Midas is popularly remem-bered in Greek mythology for his ability to turn everything he touched into pure gold. Midas is the biological son of Zeus and this came to be called the golden touch, or the Midas touch." . . . "Claudian states in his In Rufinum: 'So Midas, king of Lydia, swelled at first with pride when he found he could transform everything he touched to gold; but when he beheld his food grow rigid and his drink harden into golden ice then he understood that this gift was a bane and in his loathing for gold, cursed his prayer'." (Wikipedia HERE and HERE.)
- "The most expert yeggman who ever lived":
  "Movies often depict a safe-cracker determining the combination of a safe lock using his fingers or a sensitive listening device to determine the combination of a rotary combination lock. Other films also depict an elaborate scheme of explosives and other devices to open safes." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "a little rum-running":
  The repeal of Prohibition wouldn't go into effect until four years after our story. (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "it might be just another instance where a motor was one of the efficient criminal instruments":
  Parker and Barrow made extensive use of "motors" during their spectacular but 
mercifully brief career. (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "a selenium cell and a relay . . . a poor conductor of electricity in the darkness, a good conductor in the light":
  "Selenium was used as the photoabsoring layer in the first solid-state solar cell, which was demonstrated by the English physicist William Grylls Adams and his student Richard Evans Day in 1876. Only a few years later, Charles Fritts fabricated the first thin-film solar cell, also using selenium as the photoabsorber. However, with the emergence of silicon solar cells in the 1950's, research on selenium thin-film solar cells declined." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "oxyhydrogen blowpipe":
  "It produced a flame hot enough to melt such refractory materials as platinum, porcelain, fire brick, and corundum, and was a valuable tool in several fields of science." . . . "Oxyhydrogen was once used in working platinum, because at the time, only it could burn hot enough to melt the metal 1,768.3 °C (3,214.9 °F)." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "harveyized":
  Subjected to the Harvey process: "A process for hardening the face of steel, involving the additional carburizing of the face of a piece of low-carbon steel by heaping a solid carbon-rich fuel (such as charcoal) on the face of the steel and then subjecting this to very high heat at high pressure for a prolonged period of time, followed by a violent chilling, as by a spray of cold water. This results in a thick surface of extreme hardness supported by material gradually decreasing in hardness to the unaltered soft steel at the back." (Wiktionary HERE.)
- "out of Dannemore [sic]":
  "Clinton Correctional Facility is a New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision maximum security state prison for men located in the Village of Dannemora, New York. The prison is sometimes colloquially referred to as Dannemora (having once served as a massive insane asylum named Dannemora State Hospital for the Criminally Insane), although its name is derived from its location in Clinton County, New York." . . . "In 1929, Clinton Correctional was the site of a riot. Coupled with riots in other prisons in that year, it led to prison reform in New York. Included was the construction of schools in the prison and the renovation or rebuilding of most of the structures within the prison walls to update the facilities to modern standards." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- "the greatest robbery since the Manhattan Bank affair":
  "On Sunday, October 27, 1878, the Manhattan Savings Institution bank and depository in Manhattan, New York City was robbed of $2,747,700 ($65 million 
in 2017 dollars) in cash and securities by the former gang of serial bank robber 
George Leonidas Leslie. At the time, it was the largest-paying criminal heist 
in history." (Wikipedia HERE.)
- Robbing banks seems to be a popular pastime with criminals (see Wikipedia HERE). Even fiction can inspire it, as happened in 1971 in, of all places, Baker Street (see Wikipedia HERE).
- The easiest thing about robbing a bank is that the vault doesn't move, but how about a theft where the vault doesn't move at less than fifty miles per hour? See Fred M. White's "The Night Express" (HERE), no doubt inspired by real events.
- Michael Grost's megasite contains extensive information about our author (HERE).
- The latest Craig Kennedy adventure that we happened to come across is "Deep Sea Treasure" (HERE).

The bottom line:
  "Anytime four New Yorkers get into a cab together without arguing, a bank robbery has just taken place."
   - Johnny Carson

Unless otherwise noted, all bibliographical data are derived from The FictionMags Index created by William G. Contento & edited by Phil Stephensen-Payne.

No comments:

Post a Comment