Another substantial volume in Leonaur’s Craig Kennedy series
In Craig Kennedy the American nation might justifiably lay claim to their own Sherlock Holmes, for here is a detective whose activities projected him into the modern age. Where Conan Doyle’s famous character of a more gentle era relied on his superb powers of analysis, Kennedy is able to combine his own intellectual powers with the technological marvels of a new age. Arthur B. Reeve’s classic ‘Craig Kennedy’ stories began appearing in 1910, ensuring him of a place as a dominant crime fighter for the emerging 20th century. Kennedy is perhaps the natural evolution of the ‘great detective’ and the reader cannot but imagine that Holmes would have embraced his newly created techniques with equal enthusiasm. Here the reader will discover the application of lie detectors, gyroscopes, seismographs and an arsenal of other equipment, both real and imagined, to the solving of crimes and the bringing of criminals to justice.
This special Leonaur collection of the ‘scientific’ detective of Columbia University comprises seven substantial volumes, each in a colour coordinated cover. Leonaur hard backs are cloth bound, have fabric head and tail bands and feature gold foil lettering on their spines, so this may be the ideal way to collect and own the marvellous Craig Kennedy detective story series.
In the fourth volume, the reader will find two more complete books of intriguing detective stories to enjoy—The Ear in the Wall and The Romance of Elaine, both originally published in 1916. Within its pages enthusiasts can puzzle over many a dastardly crime and, of course, an equal number of brilliantly deduced solutions.
Meanwhile, I had made my way stealthily, peering into the bushes and careful not even to step on anything that would make a noise and was now, as I have said, crouched behind the big rock to which Craig had directed me. I heard him go along the road and looked about cautiously, but could hear and see nothing else.<br>
I had begun to wonder whether Kennedy might not have made a mistake when, suddenly, from behind the shadow of another rock, ahead of me, but toward Brownlee Avenue, I saw a tall, gaunt figure of a man rise in the moonlight, almost as if it had sprung from the very earth.<br>
My heart gave a leap, as he quickly raised his right arm and hurled something as far as he could in the direction that Kennedy had taken. If it had been a bomb, followed by an explosion, I would not have been surprised. But no sound followed as the figure dropped back as if it had been a wraith.<br>
I stole out from my own hiding-place in the shadow of my rock and darted quickly to the shelter of a bush, nearer the figure.<br>
The figure was no wraith. It turned to steal away. I remembered Kennedy’s parting words. If the man ever gained the darkness of a clump of woods, just beyond us, he was as good as safe. This was the time to act.<br>
I leaped at him and we went down, rolling over and over in the underbrush and stubble. We fought fiercely, but I could not seem to get a glimpse of his face which was muffled.
He was powerful and stronger than I and after a tough tussle he broke loose. But I had succeeded, nevertheless. I had delayed him just long enough. Kennedy heard the sound of the struggle and was now crashing through the hedge at the cross-roads in our direction.
I managed to pick myself up, just as Kennedy reached my side and, together, we followed the retreating figure, as it made its way among the shadows. Across the open space before us we followed him and at last saw him dive into an old barn.<br>
A moment later we followed hot-foot into the barn. As we entered, we could hear a peculiar grating noise, as though a door was swung on its rusty hinges. The front door was open. Evidently the man had gone through and closed the back door.<br>
We threw ourselves against the back door. But it did not yield. There was no time to waste and we turned to rush out again by the way we had come, just as the front door was slammed shut.<br>
The man had trapped us. He had left both doors open, had run through, braced the back door, then had rushed around outside just in time to brace the front door also.<br>
We could hear his feet crunching the dry leaves and twigs as he went around the side of the barn again. Together we threw ourselves against the front door, but, although it yielded a little he had barred it so that it would resist our united strength for some time.
Again and again we threw ourselves against it. It was horribly dark in there, except for an oblong spot where the moonlight streamed in through a window. Suddenly the pale silver of the moonlight on the floor reddened.<br>
The man had struck a match and thrown it into a mass of oil-soaked straw and gunpowder which protruded through one of the weather-beaten boards, near the floor.<br>
It was only a matter of a second or so now when the fire swept into the barn itself. There was no beating it out. Some one had literally soaked the straw and the floor with oil. It seemed as though the whole place burst into a sudden blaze of tinder. Outside, we could hear footsteps rapidly retreating toward the shelter of the clump of woods.<br>
For a second I looked dismayed at the rapidly-mounting flames.<br>
“A very pretty situation,” I forced with a laugh. “But I hope he doesn’t think we’ll stay here and burn, with a perfectly good window in full view.”<br>
I took a step toward the window, but before I could take another, Kennedy yanked me back.
“Don’t think for a moment that he overlooked that,” he shouted.<br>
Craig looked around hastily. In a corner, just back of us was a long pole. He snatched it up and moved cautiously toward the window, keeping the pole as level as possible as he endeavoured to get a leverage on the sash. The flames were mounting faster and higher, licking up everything.<br>
“Keep back, Walter,” he muttered, “just as far as you can.”<br>
He had scarcely raised the window a fraction of an inch when an old rusty, heavy anvil and a bent worn ploughshare crashed down to the floor directly over the spot where I should have been if he had not dragged me away. I started back, aghast. Nothing had been overlooked to finish us off.<br>
“I think you may try it safely now, all right,” smiled Kennedy coolly.<br>
We climbed out of the window, not an instant too soon from the raging inferno about us.<br>
Having gained the clump of woods, the gaunt figure had paused long enough to gloat over his clever scheme. Instead, he saw us making good our escape. With a gesture of intense fury he turned. There was nothing more for him to do but to zigzag his way to safety across country.<br>
The barn was now burning fiercely and it was almost as light as day about us. Kennedy paused only long enough to look down at the ground where the fire had been started.
“See, Walter,” he exclaimed pointing to a square indention in the soft soil. “No white man ever made a footprint like that.”<br>
I bent over. The prints had the squareness of those paper-layered soles of a Chinaman.
“Long Sin,” came the name involuntarily to my lips, for I knew that Wu would delegate just such a job to his faithful slave. <br>
Kennedy did not pause an instant longer, but in the light of the burning barn, as best he could, started to follow the trail in a desperate endeavour either to overtake Long Sin, or at least to find the final direction in which he would go.