Great Justice

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To this day, Average Jones maintains that he felt a distinct thrill at first sight of the advertisement. Yet Fate might well have chosen a more appropriate ambush in any one of a hundred of the strange clippings which were grist to the Ad-Visor’s mill. Out of a bulky pile of the day’s paragraphs, however, it was this one that leaped, significant, to his eye. WANTED–Ten thousand loathly black beetles, by A testking review leaseholder who contracted to leave a house in the same condition as he found it. Ackroyd, 100 W. Sixteenth St. New York “Black beetles, eh?” observed Average Jones. “This Ackroyd person seems to be a merry little jester. Well, I’m feeling rather jocular, myself, this morning. How does one collect black beetles, I wonder? When in doubt, inquire of the resourceful Simpson.” He pressed a button and his confidential clerk entered. “Good morning, Simpson,” said Average Jones. “Are you acquainted with that shy but pervasive animal, the domestic black beetle?” “Yes, sir; I board,” said Simpson simply. “I suppose there aren’t ten thousand black beetles in your boarding-house, though?” inquired Average Jones. Simpson took it under advisement. “Hardly,” he decided. “I’ve got to have ’em to fill an order. At least, I’ve got to have an installment of ’em, and to-morrow.” Being wholly without imagination, the confidential clerk was impervious to surprise or shock. This was fortunate, for otherwise, his employment as practical aide to Average Jones would probably have driven him into a madhouse. He now ran his long, thin, clerkly hands through his long, thin, clerkly hair. “Ramson, down on Fulton Street, will have them, if any one has,” he said presently. “He does business under the title of the Insect Nemesis, you know. I’ll go there at once.” Returning to his routine work, Average Jones found himself unable to dislodge the advertisement from his mind. So presently he gave way to temptation, called up Bertram at the Cosmic Club, and asked him to come to the Astor Court Temple office at his convenience. Scenting more adventure, Bertram found it convenient to come promptly. Average Jones handed him the clipping. Bertram read it with ascending eyebrows. “Hoots!” he said. “The man’s mad.” “I didn’t ask you here to diagnose the advertiser’s trouble. That’s plain enough–though you’ve made a bad guess. What I want of you is to tap testking reviews your flow of information about old New York. What’s at One Hundred West Sixteenth Street?” “One hundred West Sixteenth; let me see. Why, of course; it’s the old Feltner mansion. You must know it. It has a walled garden at the side; the only one left in the city, south of Central Park.” “Any one named Ackroyd there?” “That must be Hawley Ackroyd. I remember, now, hearing that he had rented it. Judge Ackroyd, you know, better known as ‘Oily’ Ackroyd. He’s a smooth old rascal.” “Indeed? What particular sort?” “Oh, most sorts, in private. Professionally, he’s a legislative crook; head lobbyist of the Consolidated.” “Ever hear of his collecting insects?” “Never heard of his collecting anything but graft. In fact, he’d have been in jail years ago, but for his family connections. He married a Van Haltern. You remember the famous Van Haltern will case, surely; the million-dollar dog. The papers fairly, reeked of it a year ago. Sylvia Graham had to take the dog and leave the country to escape the notoriety. She’s back now, I believe.” “I’ve heard of Miss Graham,” remarked Average Jones, “through friends of mine whom she visits.” “Well, if you’ve only heard of her and not seen her,” returned Bertram, with something as nearly resembling enthusiasm as his habitual languor permitted, “you’ve got something to look forward to. Sylvia Graham is a distinct asset to the Scheme of Creation.” “An asset with assets of her own, I believe,” said Average Jones. “The million dollars left by her grandmother, old Mrs. Van Haltern, goes to her eventually; doesn’t it?” “Provided she carries out the actualtest review terms of the will, keeps the dog in proper luxury and buries him in the grave on the family estate at Schuylkill designated by the testator. If these terms are not rigidly carried out, the fortune is to be divided, most of it going to Mrs. Hawley Ackroyd, which would mean the judge himself. I should say that the dog was as good as sausage meat if ‘Oily’ ever gets hold of him.” “H’m. What about Mrs. Ackroyd?” “Poor, sickly, frightened lady! She’s very fond of Sylvia Graham, who is her niece. But she’s completely dominated by her husband.” “Information is your long suit, Bert. Now, if you only had intelligence to correspond–” Average Jones broke off and grinned mildly, first at his friend, then at the advertisement. Bertram caught up the paper and studied it. “Well, what does it mean?” he demanded. “It means that Ackroyd, being about to give up his rented house, intends to saddle it with a bad name. Probably he’s had a row with the agent or owner, and is getting even by making the place difficult to rent again. Nobody wants to take a house with the reputation of an entomological resort.” “It would be just like Oily Ackroyd,” remarked Bertram. “He’s a vindictive scoundrel. Only a few days ago, he nearly killed a poor devil of a drug clerk, over some trifling dispute. He managed to keep it out of the newspapers but he had to pay a stiff fine.”


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