THE SOCIAL GANGSTER
"I'm so worried over Gloria, Professor Kennedy, that I hardly know what I'm doing."
Mrs. Bradford Brackett was one of those stunning women of baffling age of whom there seem to be so many nowadays. One would scarcely have believed that she could be old enough to have a daughter who would worry her very much.
Her voice trembled and almost broke as she proceeded with her story, and, looking closer, I saw that, at least now, her face showed marks of anxiety that told on her more than would have been the case some years before.
At the mention of the name of Gloria Brackett, I saw that Craig was extremely interested, though he did not betray it to Mrs. Brackett. Already, with my nose for news I had scented a much bigger story than any that had been printed. For the Bracketts had lately been more or less in the news of the day.
Choking back a little suppressed sob in her throat, Mrs. Brackett took from a delicate gold mesh bag and laid on the desk before Kennedy a small clipping from the "Lost and Found" advertisements in the Star. It read:
"REWARD of $10,000 and absolutely no questions asked for the return of a diamond necklace of seventy-one stones which disappeared from a house at Willys Hills, Long Island, last Saturday or Sunday.
"La Rue & Co., Jewelers,"—— Fifth Avenue."
I recognized the advertisement as one that had occasioned a great deal of comment on the Star, due to its peculiar nature. It had been a great mystery, perhaps much more so than if the advertisement had been worded and signed in the usual way.
I knew also that the advertisement had created a great furore of excitement and gossip at the fashionable North Shore Hunt Club of which Bradford Brackett was Master of Fox Hounds.
"At first," explained Mrs. Brackett nervously, "La Rue & Co. were able to keep the secret. They even refused to let the police take up the case. But as public interest in the advertisement increased at last the secret leaked out—at least that part of it which connected our name with the loss. That, however, seemed only to whet curiosity. It left everybody wondering what was back of it all. That's what we've been trying to avoid—that sort of publicity."
She paused a moment, but Kennedy said nothing, evidently thinking that the best safety valve for her overwrought feelings would be to let her tell her story in her own way.
"Why, you know," she resumed rapidly, to hide her agitation, "the most ridiculous things have been said. Some people have even said that we lost nothing at all, that it was all a clever attempt at notoriety, to get our names in the papers. Some have said it was a plan to collect the burglary insurance. But we are wealthy. They didn't stop to think how inconceivable that was. We have nothing to lose, even if the necklace is never heard of again."
For the moment her indignation had got the better of her worry. Most opinions, I recalled, had been finally that the disappearance was mixed up with some family affairs. At any rate, here was to be the real story at last....