THE DETECTIVE AND THE BANKER—A REMARKABLE NARRATIVE—A PECULIAR TRAIL—MILLIONS WITH NO OWNER—A GREAT TASK LOOMING UP FOR JACK—A MOMENT OF EXPECTANCY.
"Your name is John Alvarez?"
"That is my name, sir."
An elderly man was seated at a table and a young man stood opposite to him. The elderly person was a well-known banker who had retired from business, and he had sent for the detective who had just entered his presence.
"You are a detective?"
"I claim to be, sir."
The elderly man meditated a moment and then said:
"A gentleman learning that I desired the services of a detective mentioned your name to me, and gave you a character for qualities which I think are specially needed in the service I may have for you."
"I am glad, sir, that some good friend has spoken well of me."
John Alvarez was a twin brother of Gil Alvarez. They were known among their few friends as Jack and Gil. They were trained athletes; their father had been a circus performer, and under peculiar circumstances the two brothers had been trained for the profession, but owing to reasons satisfactory to themselves, and as recorded in previous records of their exploits, they had decided become detectives, and had so acted upon three occasions as recorded in Nos. 104, 106 and 108 of "Old Sleuth's Own." These brothers had a history and were two very remarkable young men, as proved in their previous exploits as recorded, and as will be proved again in the present narrative.
"The matter I have on hand is a singular one. I do not know that I can give you a single clue to work upon—indeed, it is a very strange story."
"If you have sufficient confidence in me, sir, you may tell me the story and I will be able to judge whether or not there is a clue to work upon."
"I will tell you the story and tell it in perfect confidence, trusting that in case we fail you will never mention the circumstances to a living soul; let the subject pass from your mind forever. And again, you must call in no confidential assistant in the matter. Your failure or success must remain a secret between ourselves—yes, a secret forever."
"Is there a crime involved?"
"I do not think there is unless I am the criminal."
Jack Alvarez gave a start as the old banker by implication accused himself of being a criminal.
"I cannot agree, sir, to hold as a secret a crime which in justice should be exposed."
The banker laughed, and said:
"That is a straight remark and in full accord with the character that was given you as a straightforward, honorable young man. I can say that my crime is not a punishable one, and yet I feel that I am deserving of censure. You may think so also, but I will say this much: I will pay a large sum of money to rectify. What I say as concerns myself is a case of inexcusable negligence."
"That is your only crime?"
"I feel so."
"Then, sir, you can state the case to me and rely upon my maintaining your secret."
The banker meditated a few moments and then said:
"Forty years ago I was a comparatively poor man; I had just started in the banking business and I was having a hard time to make both ends meet, as I had been a clerk and was starting out on my own hook with a very small capital. The business in which I was engaged at that time under the old emigration laws is not possible now—I mean the transactions in which I made the best profits....