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The Great Security Bank Mystery (1902)

The Great Security Bank Mystery (1902)

“… one of the most determined attempts at bank robbery …”

– The Adventure of the Red-Headed League (REDH)

Security Bank
© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling – MINNESOTA PRAIRIE ROOTS

When the watchman of the Security National Bank wakened from his nap, which he was quite sure had not lasted more than three or four hours, he was astonished to find the door of the great vault lying on the floor. Never before, in the whole six months during which he had faithfully guarded the interests of the bank, had such an unheard of thing happened and something told him that he ought to notify somebody. So he went to the telephone and rang up the president of the bank. The latter though plainly annoyed by being disturbed at such an hour, praised the watchman for his zeal, and said he would give the matter his personal attention as soon as he had made the necessary changes in his attire. Meanwhile, he asked the watchman to notify the police and also to request the cashier to appear at the bank as soon as possible.

The president and the cashier arrived on the scene simultaneously. Entering the bank, they found a sergeant of police and two patrolmen, together with a gentleman in citizen’s clothes, whom the sergeant introduced as Mr. Hoyle, adding, in an impressive stage-whisper: “Sure ye’ve heard ‘uv Showman Hoyle. He’s over here on a visit, an’ th’ old man put him on this case so he wudn’t fale lonesome wid nawthin’ to do.”

The great detective swept the room with a glance of his keen, gray eyes. One felt, instinctively, that nothing could escape this wonderful man. And nothing did. When he had seen enough to satisfy him, he spoke, quietly, but with an air of conviction. “There has been a robbery,” was all he said.

The solution was simple; yet no one had thought of it before. With breathless interest, they waited to hear what he would say next. “The robber,” continued Hoyle, “was evidently unfamiliar with the combination of the vault.” Then, seeing the look of amazement on the faces of those present, he continued, “Otherwise, it would not have been necessary to use explosives.”

After a glance into the open vault, the detective’s face lighted up, with the joy of one who has made an important discovery. It was the first sign of emotion he had shown. “The burglar,” he announced, confidently, “was a man of less than medium height.”

“But how –?” began the president.

“Very simple, indeed,” interrupted the detective. “Do you not see that package of thousand-dollar bills on the top shelf? If the burglar had been tall enough, he would have reached them. Furthermore, he was not a professional cracksman, or he would have carried a step-ladder for use in just such emergencies.”

Paying no attention to the murmur of approval which greeted his wonderful exhibition of deductive analysis, Hoyle picked up his hat and made as if to go. At the door, he paused and turned toward the three policemen who were looking at him in open mouthed astonishment.”Well, sergeant,” he said, sharply, “what are you waiting for? You have heard my description. Why don’t you go out and find the man?”

This pastiche was originally published in the December 1902 issue of The Smart Set – A Magazine of Cleverness (Volume 8, page 96). Isaac Anderson (1868-1961), was a longtime New York journalist and mystery critic for The New York Times Book Review.