Sunday, March 25, 2012

Out Of The Smash-Up, Top Notch Magazine, Feb 1, 1912

Top-Notch Magazine had a fun illustration style -- which combined the illustration with the title typography. Most of the time, the two elements are not so tightly intertwined, and I simply leave out the title so I can make the illustration bigger. But this week's story had them completely intertwined, so I thought it would be a good opportunity for you to see the whole thing.

Also note that the story says "Complete in this issue" at the beginning, even though the story is only a little over 4000 words. (15 pages or so). They often said such things, perhaps partly to aggrandize a story, but mainly because most magazines had a serial in each issue, and the customers wanted to know what they were getting before they started reading. As for the story:

A chance meeting on a train going west is maybe not quite as coincidental as it seems, as a trainwreck messes up the plans of a thief, two young lovers and a detective....

Out Of the Smash-Up
by Phil. Ashford

A girl, two men, a detective and a railroad disaster.
(Complete in this Issue)

Chapter 1
The Hunter and the Game

The calm white desert was slipping away under the stars. Mr. Cole, detective, smiled, and touched the water in a finger bowl which the waiter had just set before him.

"So you'd like to know," he said to the young man opposite, "how it happens that I've been on this train since we left Denver -- a day and a half ago -- and you haven't seen me until now. Well, I think I'll put the answer up to you," he went on, a bantering light in his eye. "Does it occur to you that you've been owning that observation platform ever since we hit the Royal Gorge? Who is she, Maddern?"

Justin Maddern leaned across the little table, and spoke in a low tone: "I was fortunate enough to do her a favor at the station in Denver, and before we'd been three hours out--well, we have been hogging that observation end, I admit. You'll laugh, Cole, but honestly I never had a girl affect me so seriously before."

The detective's glance was of mingled pity and contempt. The words from a man like Maddern did not ring true.

"She is an attractive girl," Cole admitted, "and I was fortunate enough to see your gallant act at the station. It really astonished me. So I watched you two. I'm interested in developments. That's one of my hobbies."

"We sat out on the platform until two this morning," Maddern went on. "I think the mountains and the moonlight had a lot to do with the affair. Anyway, we arrived at the point of exchanging personal history. She's bound for some place in Arizona."

Cole put a bill on the waiter's tray. "This is on me, Maddern. Now, please don't argue. You were saying---"

"Her name's Neva, and she's bound for Arizona."

"What else?"

"That's all. I mean that's all that could possibly interest you!" Maddern suddenly frowned. "I say, Cole, you didn't by any chance get commissioned by my father to shadow me, did you?"

"You admit you need it?" Cole asked, amused.

"I admit I have needed it," Maddern returned, grinning. "And I guess the governor thinks I need a guardian now, too. It's a wonder he'd trust me so far from home alone, isn't it? Gave me a thousand dollars, and said it had to last three months. Said that was every cent he'd allow me. If I spent it in one month, I'd starve for the next two."

"Maybe you'd work," Cole suggested.

Maddern lifted his eyes. "That's his game. Do you know he even gave me the address of a friend of his out in San Pedro. Said the chap would give me a position on the new breakwater. Think of me holding down a real job."

"I'd advise you to keep the address," the detective said. "You'll have to eat in California, and luck plays us some odd pranks."

"Thanks," returned Maddern dryly. "Let's talk of something pleasant. Where are you bound?"

"I don't know." Cole gazed reflectively from the window.

"You mean you won't tell?"

"I mean I don't know. It all depends."

Maddern fixed his eyes on the tablecloth a moment, then said: "I get you, Cole! You're dogging some one on this train."

"I won't deny it."

"Then it's not me."

The detective shook his head.

"But the governor sent you, didn't he?"

"Yes. The firm of Maddern & Miles is rather interestd in a certain bill clerk of theirs who dropped out of sight six months ago, with some money belonging to them."

"Oh, I understand!"

Glad you do."

"He's on the train, and you'll nab him when he leaves. Is that the program?"

"Patience," was all that Cole Replied.

Chapter II
Difference of Opinion

JUSTIN MADDERN, son of John Maddern, head of the banking firm of Maddern & Miles, of Denver, had been shipped to California by his father. Three eyars at an Eastern college had drained the senior's patience and worried his pocketbook.

"Get out!" the elder Maddern had exploded, when Justin blungly admitted being in several scrapes, and also in debt. "Get out to California. I'm disgusted! Get out there among strangers, and maybe you'll get a little sense knocked into your head. I'll start you with a thousand dollars, and it'll have to last you for three months." He said some other things, which you heard Justin tell the detective.

So the young man departed, bag and baggage. At the station he met the girl, and he played an important role in the little scene enacted there--a case of mis-checked baggage. After that they were friends. Many continuous hours alone, on the observation platform, are conducive to "development," as Cole had expressed it.

After the chat at the table the two left the ar, and walked back to the rear buffet and parlor coach. Here Cole excused himself, and stepped into the buffet for a cigar. Justin continued on to find Neva curled up in a big chair, engrossed in a magazine.

"Can't I bring you something to eat?" he asked, sitting beside her.

"Thank you, but I had the porter get me some tea and toast. It was plenty. I'm not the least hungry. I'm--nerous! I'm not used to traveling, and the thought of seeing my brother in a few hours takes away my appetite!"

"Going to live in Arizona?" Justin asked.

"I--I guess so. You see, there's only my brother and myself, and we're more like pals than anything else. We've been that way ever since we were left orphans." He eyes lighted up at the mention of her brother. "Oh, Dick is a wonderful chap. I'm wild with fear that some girl will come along and marry him!"

Justin laughed with her. "Jove, but a man's lucky to have a sister like you," he observed, in a low voice.

"Dick's working on a ranch. Likes it, too. He was always fond of the outdoors and horses. I'm glad he got out of the city."

They went out on the open platform, sank back in chairs, and for the moment gazed upon the vast expanse of sky and desert.

"To-morrow nignt I'll be traveling alone," he said presently. "I'll mis you a lot."

"You've been considerate to me," she returned. "I appreciate it."

"May I write you?" he asked; "or would your brother object?"

"He wouldn't object--if he knew you."

Justin fumbled for a card and pencil. He wrote her name--Miss Neva Douglass. "And the address?"

"Circle City, Arizona," she told him. "In care of Richard Douglass."

He dropped the card into his coat pocket. "When do we arrive there?"

"In about three hours, I think."

"Your brother will be at the station to meet you, I suppose?"

"Of course. Or he might show up at some town before that. I wired him this morning."

At eleven o'clock, when most of the passengers had left the parlor end of the car for their berths, Justin suggested lemonade, and went to the buffet to get it. While the porter was mixing it, Cole sidled in, and touched Justin's shoulder.

"When does your friend leave us?" he asked.

"You mean Miss Douglass? Oh, it depends upon the time the train gets into---"

Justin cut the remark short. A sudden, gripping suspicion entered his mind.

"Depends upon the time the train gets where?" Cole asked again.

Justin closed his fingers. "Great Scott!" he muttered.

"No such town as that," came from the detective.

"Cole!" Justin began. "The man you are after is named Douglass!"

"Yes, Richard Douglass."

"When did he take money from the firm?"

"Last Christmas."

"And the amount?"

"Nine hundred exactly."

"They know he took it?"

"Almost certain!"

Justin set his lips in a straight, hard line. "Pretty mean trick, Cole," he said evenly. "You're following the sister--letting her lead you to the brother."

Cole's shoulders went up. "Since you've guessed it, yes. My profession has its unpleasant duties; but a thief's a thief, and the law must---"

"Hang the law!" Justin burst out. "What's the use of digging into the past? You merely think that man took the money, and you are going to ruin his whole life becasue of that belief. What's nine hundred dollars to my father? Nine hundred dollars against a man's name and a sister's heart! This Douglass has been living a clean life--why don't you let him continue?"

"Sorry I can't accommodate you, Maddern," Cole observed quietly. "But your father's orders were---"

"Yes, I suppose dad is worried about the money. He always did do that. He'd spend a hundred to get fifty back! But just forget what he said, and listen to reason. This girl's a brick, and she's wrapped up in her brother. I'm sure she doesn't know about this affair he's charged with. If she did, it would kill her, that's all. Hang it all, man, haven't you any heart?"

"Hearts are not trumps in my business," the detective responded. "Now, look here," he said seriously. "When that money was missed from Douglass' department, he quietly dropped from view. We couldn't get the least trace of him. Isn't that pretty strone evidence? Finally I got wind of a sister--that girl you've been sitting out on the platform with--so I kept a watch on her. I knew she was in touch with him. When she left town the other day I was positive she would meet him. So I tagged along. Possibly she doesn't know the truth--and I do feel sorry for her; but you can't mix sentiment with law. When she greets her brother, I'll be right on the job with a warrant."

"Well, at least you don't know where she's to get off this train," snapped Justin, "and I'll take pains to see that you don't learn."

"Really?" The detective shook his head in a pitying manner. "I'm afraid you're about five minutes too late. I lifted a card from your pocket--you had her name and address on it. Oh, I wouldn't flare up. Your lemonade is waiting."

Chapter III.
Not Scheduled

WITH a pounding heart, Justin took the two glasses the porter held out, and made his way very carefully back to the rear platform; still, he spilled some of the lemonade. His mind was working in a strange manner. The last five minutes' conversation with Cole had brought a sudden realization hom to him. How peculiarly the once-forgotten affair had returned! How was it to work out? For the first and only time in his life Justin felt burdened with a vital responsibility.

As he stepped out of the rear door and called to the girl, the lights went out like a snuffed candle. A sickening rush of air tore at his lungs. In the inky darkness the hooded roof sank down; he pitched forward, blindly holding to the two glasses, and realizing, foolishly, that he was spilling the contents.

Steel shrieked on steel; the splintering of wood crashed to his ears; he shouted, but was unable to hear his own voice. He felt, in that flash of time, without in the least losing consciousness, as it a might whirlwind had picked him up, twisted him about, top-fashion, and finally hurled him brutally to the ground.

A vague, measureless interval followed. He found himself doubled up, not uncomfortably, under the hood of the observation car. Cautiously he tested each muscle, prodded himself expectantly. Nothing appeared to be wrong.

"Great guns!" he murmured reverently. "A smash-up, and I'm fit as a fiddle! What do you know about that for luck?"

Then he remembered, and his heart skipped a beat or two. Where was Neva? She had been at least within five feet of him the moment the lights went out. With a groan, he groped about in the limited space. Twisted steel, bits of jagged wood, rods, glass, and parts of chairs--everything, it seemed, sprang up under his touch except what he dreaded to feel. The girl was not there. Either she had been thrown away from the wreck, or---

He shuddered, wiped at his moist forehead, and found a match. This he struck, shielding it with a palm. Then he peered fearfully about. Nothing other htan what his fingers had disclosed met his gaze.

The match went out, burning down to his fingers. He lay for a long time, gazing straight into the gloom that enveloped him. At times he heard the distant murmur of voices, the chopping of what might have been axes; once he heard an explosion that jarred the ground. The timbers creaked and settled about him. In the silence that followed he lifted his voice and called. He received no answer.

A tiny point of light first aroused his curiosity. As it grew larger he sat erect, rubbing at his eyes. When understanding finally regained its sway, he was conscious of a peculiar tremor passing up and down his spine; his body suddenly became moist, his pulses fairly jumped into a race.

With a quick intake of breath, he gripped at the nearest steel rod, and pulled at it. It yielded not the slightest part of an inch. Then he gained his knees, and with both hands worked at the tangled wreckage that held him trapped.

He cried aloud, desperately, as the light became brighter. It flared so high now that his surroundings were bathed in a dull, reddish, pulsating glow. Occasionally a heated wave fanned his wet face like the breath from some infuriated animal.

The wreckage was burning!

A puff of smoke, biting like acid to his eyes and lungs alike, serve as a spur. He attacked the immovable timbers with a fury little short of madness. His fingers became bleeding stumps--yet somehow, such was his fear, he felt no pain from them. The sweat poured into his eyes. The smoke increased. His trap was becoming unbearable.

He sank wearily exhausted against the side. This, then, was the end. The fire was gaining, inch by inch. Soon, very soon, it would reach his body.

Staring death in the face, Justin's mind went back to what has passed only a short time ago. The situation gripped his brain, sweeping, for the moment, al before it.

Subconsciously he fumbled, and found his card case. With a stub of a pencil, and by the aid of the glowing flames, he hurriedly wrote across the back, signing his own name. After a second's indecision he took out his cigar case, slipped the card into it, and then, with all his remaining strength, he hurled it through a small opening in the roof above his head. He saw it disappear.

The smoke thickened like a pall. He coughed. Then he lifted his voice for the last time. His reason left him like the breaking of a string.

Chapter IV
Professional Honor

HE drifted back to the world again with the cold night air on his face, and the white stars twinkling high above him. For the moment he oculd not recollect what had happened; then, with half a frown and an impatient move of his arms, he remembered.

As Justin sat erect, feeling stiff, but otherwise unhurt, he saw the line of wreckage below him, some of it still smoldering. Toward the east the sky was reddening. Dim forms moved back and forth. To the left he saw the glimmer of sickly yellow lights and the outlines of buildings--a station building, a water tank, and the tall, lifted arem of a semaphore. It pounded to his wandering brain that this was a tiny station in the heart of the desert, and that the wreck had taken place just outside the yard limits.

Justin got up and lurched along the embankment. The yellow light beckoned. At the door of the low shed he paused and looked in. It had been hurriedly fitted up as a hospital. Several women, passenters, evidently, flitted back and forth among the makeshifts of beds. A few lanterns offered the only light. As he swayed there, almost drunkenly--for his brain was still dazed, and his limbs weak--some one called his name, and he turned to look into the eager face of Neva Douglass.

"Oh, Mr. Maddern," she cried. "You--and unhurt?"

He wagged his head slowly. "Not the least hurt! Just a trifle dizzy, that's all."

He clung to her arm, conscious and happy for the slender support she made. "I never expected to see you--here," he said again.

"I was flunk clear of the car, and landed in the soft sand. I dind't even lose my senses. I've been helping the others who were not so fortunate."

"Brave girl," Justin said, and pressed her arm.

"There's a friend of yours--on the end cot," she went on. "He's been asking about you--over and over."

The detective, Cole! Justin had forgotten him until this moment.

"Badly hurt?" he asked thickly.

"Not seriously--but his legs are bruised. The doctor has just left him."

Justin swallowed hard. Cole injured. Could it possibly mean that the detective was unable to follow---"

"I'll go to him," he said.

In the faint light of the lantern, he sank down beside the last cot. The girl toptoed away in answer to a cry. Cole, opening his eyes, uttered a sharp exclamation:

"Hello, Maddern! Get out of that hell, did you? Hurt?"

"Not at all."

"Good! I wasn't so lucky. Got my legs bunged up some. Doctor said I'd have to stay in bed for a month. Can you beat that?"

"I'm sorry," Justin replied. But his heard beat just a trifle faster.

"Well, it can't be helped," Cole went on, as if resigned. "Might have been worse. I got bunged up--but I got Douglass!"

Justin jerked himself erect so violently as to jar the cot. He stared dully upon the sufferer for a moment before his lips could frame the two words:

"Got him?"

"Yes; and in a funny way. Part of that buffet car fell across my legs. There I lay like a trussed chicken, watching the fire creep toward me. I was about to give up when a big chap came along, sang out cheerfully, and chopped me free with an ax. When he was lifting me out I happened to get a good look at his face, and under the smut and grease and dirt I saw--Richard Douglass! Guess we both got wise to each other at the same time. He sort of trembled. I said: 'Hello, Douglass! Just been looking for you. Coming back without any fuss?' And he answered: 'Yes, I'll come with you; only let me work here until daylight; there's so much to do. There are dozens under these cars yet. Just let me work until daylight, won't you?'

"So I let him work!" Cole resumed, after a pause. "What else could I do--after the chap begging me with tears in his eyes? He's to come here at dawn and surrender."

"And his sister?" Justin asked. "Does she know?"

"Hardly think so. Thye've been working side by side for hours, I guess. Douglass has brought in a least a dozen men since I've been here. He's been a fiend for work! And the girl--well, I'm not much on sentiment, and I'll always scoff at it, but jingo! she's got the softest hands and the most healing touch Heaven ever gave to a woman!"

"And--and you're going to arrest Douglass--when he comes here?" Maddern exclaimed hoarsely.

Cole nodded. "At dawn!"

"He'll never come," Justin asserted.

"He gave me his word--and I took it," the detective said quietly.

Justin sank back against the wall, but continued to stare straight into the detective's white face. "A man pulls you from certain death--and instead of thinking him you arrest him! I've bene rotten in my time--but---"

"It's the profession, Maddern," Cole interrupted. "Don't forget that!"

Chapter V
A Prisoner Taken

THE dawn broke as swiftly as a stage sunrise. The flat, arid floor of the desert melted into pink and gold, and the skies trembled with their multifarious colors.

"I told you he wouldn't come," Justin said, after the long interval of silence. "Any man would be a fool deliberately to surrender--give up his liberty--especially when he kows you can't get him again."

Cole only looked out of the low door and said: "He's coming now."

The man came in; he seemed fairly to fill the doorway and the very room. He was wide-shouldered, bronzed by the desert su, coatless and hatless. He stood for the moment gazing back toward the wreck, now plainly visible in the dawn; his big hands clenched themselves. He turned and saw the detective.

"I'm here, Cole!" His voice was calm and even. "I said sunrise, didn't I? I'm a minute or two late. There was so much to do--out there."

The detective struggled erect in his cot, and Justin slipped a pillow behind him. "Douglass, shake hands with Mr. Maddern."

Justin gripped the man's hand. "I'm happy to meet you, Mr. Douglass!"

Douglass allowed his eyes to rest upon the other's face for a moment. "I recollect chopping you out of that observation end," he said. "Pretty narrow for you it was, too."

Something choked in Justin's throat. He tried to speak, but before his lips could form the right words, Cole interrupted:

"I guess there are plenty of us who owe our lives to you, Douglass!" The detective bit his lp, then resumed, his voice once more under control: "I guess there's no use in discussing a painful subject any longer. We three at least know the exact situation. Last Christmas a package of currency amounting to nine hundred dollars was missed from your department, Douglass. Evidently you were aware of it before the others, because you suddenly dropped from sight."

Douglass bowed his head. "I've been cowardly. I couldn't help myself. I didn't steal the money, but I knew all the evidence would be against me, and--and I did so want my freedom. So I came here."

"John Maddern put the case into my hands. We located your sister. When she left Denver I followed, confident she was to meet you."

Justin broke into a cry. "Wait--Cole," he stammered. "I want--to say--that---"

"When I've finished you can talk," Cole interrupted. "Meanwhile, it becomes my painful duty to get these bracelets on the guilty man!"

Cole reached for his coat at the head of the cot, and brought out a pair of handcuffs. Douglass paled, but he extended his hands, that the detective might easily adjust the steel loops. Justin in turn started forward. His hands, too, were outstretched, as if to plead for the other.

Cole, with a deft move, reached out and snapped the handcuffs about the nearest wrists--those of Justin Maddern!

Chapter VI
In The Cigar Case

HALF an hour later, when Cole and Justin were alone together, Douglass having left for the ranch with his sister, Maddern turned to the detective.

"When did you first suspect me?" he asked.

"I had my suspicions all along. But I wasn't positive until I found that confession of yours in the cigar case. Douglass picked it up and handed it to me, thinking I had dropped it."

Justin stared across the hot desert. The emergency train had arrived an hour ago, and they were carrying the injured into the special cars. His handcuffs had been removed.

"I've learned a wonderful lesson tonight," he said, after a while. "I think I've been tried by fire--and come out a man. That day I took the package of notes I was desperate--needed the cash to square some pressing debts. I knew my father wouldn't give it to me. I had no idea of any one being accused of the theft--although I might have known had I not been such a fool! And then to-night, when I saw those flames eating toward me, I realized that if I were to die and Douglass still be accused---" He broke off, with a sob.

"I think it best that your father learn nothing of this--he might not understand--the way I do," Cole said quietly. "I shall merely say that Douglass returned the money, and---"

Justin looked into the detective's face. The understanding dawned clear, and he smiled.

"I think it would be the bast way," he answered. He slipped a hand to his inner pocket and drew out an envelope. From it he passed over to Cole nine one-hundred-dollar bills. But on bill remained of the sum his father had given him.

"Sometimes," Cold said, smiling, "sometimes my profession isn't so bad; still, it isn't a game of hearts." He hesitated a moment before resuming. "I--I suppose you'll be returning with me--back to Denver?"

Maddern shook his head. "My ticket is still good--and it reads through to San Pedro. And I still have that card the governor gave me. I think I'm going to have a jolly time working on that new breakwater."


This story is from the February 1, 1912 issue of Top-Notch Magazine. The entire issue is available at the Internet Archive, but only as image files -- that is, a png image of each page. You can find the info page here, and the actual collection of page links here.

* * * * * This story brought to you by * * * * *

Find Have Gun, Will Play at these online ebook stores: (Amazon International Stores: United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Spain), Barnes & Nobel Nook Store, Sony eReader, Apple iBookstore, or get it in all formats at Smashwords.

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