Saturday, December 8, 2012

"Smart Cons Don't Talk by Ellen Lynn

Smart Cons Don't Talk
Ellen Lynn

Cops are smart. I never used to think so, but sitting here in the death cell, waiting for the chair, I think back and realize that in the end they outsmarted me. But for years I was too clever for them—and I was sitting pretty, too. I bossed a clever gang and with their guns and my brains got to be rich—and I was never caught, until now.

Some might say I shoulda been satisfied with what I had and not run the risk of a snatch. But I was sure I could get away with it. Besides, with the ransom I was sure to collect I could take it easy the rest of my life. Maybe just a coupla small jobs occasionally.

This kid I had in mind—he had a fancy name, Cedric Van Elsom—was the only child of this multimillionaire couple, who were not so young any more, so they were crazy about this "apple of their eye." Cedric was six years old and they had one of these foreign nurses to take care of him. I had cased the set-up myself and I saw her—an elderly little lady, who was mighty spry in getting around and playing with Cedric. In fact, she seemed crazy about him, too. It took me a half year to plan the thing, but I was an artist in my work, if I must say so myself. I had my boys play many parts to get inside the join—different kinds of delivery boy at different times, and I even went myself. There was so many servants on this big estate, no one ever seemed to recognize me in my different roles. Except once, that nurse—her name was Miss Nelson—she stopped me on the grounds.

"Young man," she said, touching my arm, "what are you doing here?" She had sharp blue eyes. I didn't like her.

She was staring at me hard. "Haven't I seen you before?" she asked. "Why, no, ma'am," I said quickly. "I'm just a telephone inspector."

"Well, go along. I thought you were the carpenter who did some work here last month. I guess young men all look alike," she said.

I breathed with relief. What a dame to remember me from a month ago! I had gotten in as a carpenter, but I was there just a few hours. That nurse saw me just in passing, and I was kneeling on the floor. Imagine her remembering! My good luck that she passed it over!

The whole scheme was perfectly planned. It was partly luck, but I was counting on that and figured on holding out till I got a break. And I did.

I learned that Miss Nelson was going on a trip to Scotland for a coupla months. I had left the place right after she had stopped me on the stairs—I didn't want her to know my face—but the upstairs maid, Claire, had taken a quick fancy to me and I made a date with her for that evening. We got to know each other pretty well. She had fallen for me hard—and she wasn't hard to take, a pretty thing, and educated, too—went to high school and all that. I could see she'd be good material to work with, as long as I encouraged her. When she told me about Miss Nelson's going on this trip, I knew I had to act fast.

"Those Van Elsom's—they're a mighty rich family, aren't they?" I prompted Claire.

"Fabulous!" she answered, her arms clinging to my neck.

"Wouldn't mind having some of that dough, would ya?" I went on.

"Who would?" she spoke lightly, her eyes melting on me.

I pushed her away. "I'm serious, now, Claire."

She looked surprised and hurt—because I had never been rough with her before.

"What good is it—even if you are serious?" she answered. "People like us could ever have lots of money."

"You're stupid," I said, but more gently. "I could have some of that dough easily."

That was the beginning. I gradually got Claire around to see the injustice of that middle-aged couple and a six-year-old boy having all those millions—and how easily we could have a small part of it—two hundred thousand. Why, they wouldn't even miss it, and they'd be glad to pay that much to get back their—boy!

Claire balked at that a while. But, as I knew, she finally gave in to the entire scheme and I told her the plan. If she made herself useful and agreeable to little Cedric in the weeks before Miss Nelson left, they'd probably give her the job of temporary nurse until Miss Nelson got back. The rest would be easy—I'd snatch Cedric, and Claire would give out the alarm that he'd been kidnapped.

Well, the plan worked on greased wheels. Claire got the job taking care of Cedric, Miss Nelson left for Scotland and one night, after Claire had put a sleeping pill in the kid's glass of milk, I got him and drove him to Benny at the hideout. Claire proved a good actress and she put on a fine act calling the police, in the middle of the night when I was safely away, and telling how she got up at midnight to check on Cedric, see if he was covered, and discovered he was gone! The parents took it terrible. Mrs. Van Elsom got sick and her husband informed the police he was going to pay the ransom I demanded, he'd take no chances with his child.

Up to this point it was all easy. I got all that wad of dough, without the police on my trail, and I decided to stache it later and leave the country. My terms to the father had been that we would return Cedric two days after I got the money and I was anxious to get rid of the kid—he was always whining and yelling. I think he was sick, too. But then I got fouled up. That nurse—Miss Nelson—came scurrying back from Scotland. Claire told me that the police took the old dame down to look at some photos. So I had to lay low for a while. When the cops picked me up, I still felt safe. The nurse picked out my picture as a suspicious character—but they couldn't prove a thing. I'd covered up my trail A-1. The cops though were really worried that the kid was dead—since I couldn't return him.

Even when they grilled me all night, I kept my head and gave away nothing.

They hammered at me: "Where did you take the boy from his home?"

"I didn't bring the boy anywhere from his home. I didn't have anything to do with the snatch," I said. "You can't pin anything on me."

"Was Benny your accomplice?"

"Listen up, won't you!" I answered. "It wasn't me or Benny."

"Will you leave town after this?"

"Glad to, coppers. I'll go back to the West."

Meanwhile, although I had gotten a ransom worth a fortune, the boy was still in the hideout with the gang. They'd never let him go without orders from me. I grinned to myself when I thought of the dough waiting for me. They'd have to let me go soon. This caper of mine was the work of a genius, I had to admit. The dumb clucks are always getting caught, giving themselves away—but not me. No, sir!

It was no fault of mine when I finally got trapped.

Suddenly, the whole thing broke. I sat waiting to be let out of jail. They handed me the papers. The headlines screamed across the pages: KIDNAPPED BOY FOUND VERY ILL, HEARTLESS GANGSTER ALREADY BEHIND BARS. There was my name: Stony Hammond! I felt my head swim. I couldn't get it. How did they ever trace it to me? Was it Claire? I couldn't believe it.

I got my wits together and read on. The cops played a trick on me. That's when I discovered what a smart maneuver it was. All the time they were grilling me a tape recorder was taking down everything I said. The thought occurred to me that the room might be wired, so I was careful with my answers. Thinking back, I knew I had said nothing to give a clue. But here's where the cops were clever—they had a brilliant engineer cut the tape and paste it together again so that they had a record of my voice saying just what they wanted me to say.

"Bring the boy home, Benny, alive. I got the dough. I'm going west." Then the cops attached the tape to my phone and played it whenever it rang. Benny called and heard the message in my voice. He couldn't understand why I had given such an order but he obeyed my instructions—and delivered the child to a lonely spot. Then the cops got him and Claire, too.

That's why I'm now in the death cell—waiting for the chair. That's the penalty for kidnapping.

Well, I still say it was the perfect scheme—I just didn't count on such trickery with science—the cops sending a message in my own voice, that I never even said! They're not so dumb, are they?

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