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The San Francisco call. (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, January 26, 1913, Image 2

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The MYSTERY of WILMOT GRAY
from foe Note Book of ALICE ROYCL, GIRL DETECWE
Charles Somerville
No. 6 in the Series of
Extraordinary Exper
iences a Clever
Young Girl.
i.
/{«T rELL, Miss Royce," came over
YV the telephone in the hearty,
jovial voice of T. W. Blaney,
chief of the faincus detective agency,
"I've certainly got a funny one for
you this time. I guess you might call
It 'The Case of the Live Corpse.' If
you please, Miss Royce, meet me at
the office of President Blair of the
Tower Insurance Company—you know,
the building on Broadway, of course—
at 2 o'clock this afternoon. I know It's
a cas6 that will interest you. Queer
is no name for it. It's ghastly and
ghostly-"
Blaney was already there when the
girl detective arrived, and he must
have spoken flatteringly of the pretty
young woman's record for skill and
success In her profession, for Presi
dent Blair, large and florid, arose
pompously and made her a most elab
orate boYt\
"The case is such a strange one that
it has been brought to my personal
attention." said he, after settling down
in his big revolving armchair. "Usually,
of course, I leave all such affairs to
our own Investigating department
But this has proved too baffling a
proposition for even our cleverest men.
So I asked Mr. Blaney*s aid, and he
has told me that, in lieu of his own
inability to take up the case personally
at this time, he would offer your ser
vices as being the equal in every way
to his own."
Miss Royce, having properly ac
knowledged the compliment with a
short little nod and a vivid flush, Blair
continued, consulting a memorandum: j
"Two years ago a man of the namej
of Wilmot Gray, living at No. 1860
Ralmont avenue, in the Bronx, took
out a $25,000 policy with this com
pany. He was unmarried and lived
with his mother. Together they kept
a little stationery and cigar store at
the address I have given you, occupy
ing living rooms in the rear. The
investigators at the time made the
observation in their reports that It
appeared to be a rather large insur
ance for a man in such modest cir
cumstances to take on. However, they
also stated that as he was only thirty
years old, a man of temperate habits
and in excellent health, the risk was
one to be approved and taken on by
the Tower Company.
"Right here, perhaps, It would b*
well for me to give you a description
in detail of Wilmot Gray. He was
about 5 feet 6 inches in height; had
light brown, rather curly hair, wore a
pointed beard and mustache, was slim,
but rather well built and weighed'
about one hundred and thirty-five
pounds. He had a small scar on the
forehead just over his right eye and
another scar on his left foot, which
he told his medical examiner at the I
time had come to him when a boy.
He had been chopping wood and the
axe head, slipping from the handle,
had struck with its edge on his bare
foot.
"Six months after taking out the
$25,000 policy, Miss Royce, Wilmot
Gray died. It was a brief illness —a. j
few days; pneumonia. Such was the j
cause of death given regularly in the
death certificate by Dr. Donald EC
Wagsfaff, a licensed physician, and as
far as we know a perfectly reputable I
one. His offices are in Ralmont ave
nue, in the Bronx —a few doors away
from where Wilmot Gray had his little
shop The regularity of the death cer
tificate convinced us of the fact that
Wilmot Cray was really dead, and
there was further recorded the burial
of his body in Greenwood Cemetery.
Sn the claim was paid at the timr>
without ai'cstion."
EfaKtf paused and leaned
toward the f.lr] detective, his eyes
ng dramatically.
"Now comes tne startling informa
tion to up," he said, "that Wilmot
Cray is aliv«». m a3 excellent health
as the day we insured him! And yet
in the face of other very convincing
facts I strongly doubt if the young man
can be anywhere except In his grave.
"But listen, if you please, to the
written statement of Dr. James Slear,
who was formerly a medical examiner
with this company, but is now in the
employ of the Alps Insurance Corpora
tion. Dr. Slear says:
"'On the 15th of this December
I was detailed to make an exam
ination of an Arthur J. Preston at No.
324 West 18—th street Although, of
course, in the nature of my practice I
make countless examinations, I was
struck with the idea that I had MM j
Preston before and that for some cause j
I had good reason to remember him.
Something had happened, I was sure,
to especially impress me with this man.
But when I asked him if we had ever
met before, he said he was certain
that we had not When requested to
strip, he did so without hesitation.
Then it was that memory startled me,
for I saw the selfsame soar on his left
foot that I now clearly remember as
having seen on the left foot of Wilmoi
Gray. Gray I naturally especially re
membered, as an insurance doctor is
likely to remember a $25,000 risk which
he passes who dies six months after
ward. In the course of my further ex
amination I had naturally a chance
to subject the man to close scrutiny.
I am sure that Wilmot Gray and Ar
thur J. Preston are one and the same, j
Their height, features, even to the
pointed brown beard; weight, and all
other physical characteristics are the
same. I remembered that Gray had a
small scar over his right eye. So also
has Preston. When I asked him his
age he eaid he was thirty-two. Gray
gave his age as thirty when I exam- j
ined him, which was just two years
ago.
" 'In conclusion, I am so firmly and
completely of the belief that Prastou
and Gray are the same man that I
would suggest that the Tower Com
pany make a rigorous investigation,
even to the extent of applying to the
courts for the exhumation of the body
buried In Greenwood Cemetery, pre
sumably as that of Wilmot Gray.'
"You will observe, Miss Royce, that
Dr. Slear writes very positively, and
a further coincidence is the fact
that Preston is seeking Insurance with
the Alps Company in exactly the same
Bum that Gray obtained from us—
$25,000.
"But"—President Blair dubiously \
nodded his head —"on the other hand,
not a fact that could be ascertained !
by a dozen of our most expert investi
gators will show anything other than
that Wilmot Gray fa really in hJa
grave. To be sure, his mother has
absolutely disappeared. After the ffc-j
celpt of the insurance money she told
her neighbors that she meant to re- 1
turn to her old home—a village in
Connecticut—purchase a farm and re
tire there for the rest of her days.
But to Konp of tlifm did she name the
village where she intended to go.
Starch for her has been fruitless.
"Nevertheless, our agents have
rounded up fully a score of perfectly
I respectable and trustworthy person*
j who saw Gray in his coffin —who it-
I tended his funeral and took a farewell
j look nt his countenance before the
i cofin was sealed. And there U the
She passed over the lips and nostrils of
Preston , s 4 face a little mirror. She was sure
this action had not been observed or under
stood by the undertaker standing near, but
it was then that he touched her on the arm
as a signal to pass on.,
c!e r gyman who officiated at funeral
services and declares It was surely a
dead man who lay in the casket over
which he preached, and, finally, there
is Dr. Donald H. Wagstaff—whose as
sertion cannot be controverted —that
he attended Gray in an illness of
pneumonia and that the young man
actually passed away in his presence.
Under such circumstances the Tower
Company naturally hesitates to go be
fore any court and ask permission to
exhume the body of Wilmot Gray."
In token of helplessness, the official
waved his hands.
"Yet when these facts," he said,
"were put before Dr. Slear he never
theless insisted that he could not be
mistaken—that Preston wa3 surely
none other than Gray; that the Tower
Company had in aome supercl-ever fa*h
ion been cheated out o! no less than
$25,000. And there's where the case
stands, Miss Royce. Will you under
take the exposure of Preston as a
swindler or, falling that, guarantee for
ever to lay the ghost of Gray?"
11.
When Alice Royce accepted the
commission to Investigate the curious
and suggestively uncanny case it was
after an agreement made with Presi
dent Blair of the Tower Company
that he would confer with the presi
dent of the Alps Insurance Corpo
ration and arrange that Preston's ap
plication for the $25,000 insurance
policy be accepted.
"For," said the girl detective, "if
all the other facts stand as you have
stated them—the testimony of per
sons present at the funeral, of the offl- i
ciating clergyman and the attending
physician, Wilmot Gray must have
played an amazing trick in success
fully posing as a victim of pneumonia
and then as a corpse, to say nothing
of his escape from his coffin after
ward. If Preston is Gray—he'll try
the same amazing trick over again. I
will watch sharply to see if in the
next few months he 'dies.' If he goes
right on paying his premiums for
years, it would be good proof that Dr.
Slear was mistaken—misled by the
similarity of the two scars—the one
Sauntering into
Preston's shop, she
slowly looked over
current magazines,
under the eye of the
brown- bearded,
rather good looking
man.
on the foot, the other over bis eye.
By the way, did Dr. Slear ask Preston
how he came to get that scar on his
foot?"
"Yes—to be sure. Preston declared
the injury came about in a fall he had
from a motorcycle. He said also, by
way of not damaging his case as a
'risk,' that he had since completely
given up that form of sport."
The first suggestion beyond that of
lying in wait for Preston's possible
"death" that came to the pretty girl
was to seek out some of the old
neighbors of Wilmot Gray and take
them to where they might have a sight
of Arthur Preston. But this, she con
cluded, presented a danger needless
to incur. Preston might obserwe
these watchers and, were he really
Gray, be warned that he was suspected
and under espionage, at which, if he
were a guilty man, he might easily de
camp, for there existed no evidence
whatsoever with which the police au
thorities could be armed to prevent
his disappearance. The thought that
also she might, having identified Pres
ton, walk up quietly behind him and
speak to him in the name of Gray,
watch the effect of such a salutation
and gain information thereby, she also
dismissed. Best was the scheme to
keep Preston in sight and await de
velopments.
Meanwhile, however, there was no
reason why she should not see the
man on some pretext and secure the
opportunity to draw her own conclue
sions regarding his character. There
was an unexpected development when
she arrived at Preston's address in
18—th street. Here was something that
neither Dr. Slear nor the investigators
had reported, or else President Blair
had intentionally left it out. Preston
owned and conducted there a station
ery and cigar store, as Gray had done
in the Bronx! Could it be that also,
like Gray, he w,as unmarried and the
only support of a mother? No; in
this respect there was a difference
From the woman proprietor of a no
tions store in the neighborhood she
learned that Preston was a married
man. He had. however, no children.
"1 thought perhaps," said Alice
Royce to the , shopkeeper, "when I
heard that a Mr. Preston had a store
in \his neighborhood, it might be an
old friend of mine. But it can't be.
He had several children."
In this wise she displayed caution
lest the woman be a friend of Preston
and happen to tell him that inquiry
was being made concerning him.
Sauntering into Preston's shop, she
slowly looked over current magazines,
under the eye of the brown-bearded.
rather good looking man who came out
from the rear living rooms, and she
was rather interested to note that thl*
humble shopkeeper wore a flashing
genuine diamond In his scarf and an
other in a ring on his finger. Beyond
the fact that he was affable and
could intelligently discuss his literary
wares her talk with him brought her
no profit of elucidation of his char
acter. There was no positive expres
sion of roguery in his countenance; in
fact, he seemed only to be that for
which he set up—a small shopkeeper;
all save the glittering, costly jewelry
that he wore.
But in the months that followed,
Alice Royce by careful and nearly
constant watching began to secure
considerable enlightenment, in the
course of whlcn another important
character came under her observation,
bo that in the end she was not in the
least surprised when one morning,
about five months after she had been
called into the case, she read among
the death notices in all the leading
newspapers the following:
"PRESTON, Artnur J., beloved
husband of Ella Preston, in the thirty
second year of his age. Funeral serv
ices at his residence. No. 324 West
18—th street at 2 o'clock Friday
afternoon. Burial at Greenwood."
When she read this solemn announce
ment, its effect on Alice Royce was to
make her smile, but when on Friday
afternoon at i o'clock she presented
herself at the funeral services she
wore a becomingly serious expres
sion; in fact, during the prayers and
the brief funeral sermon, she was of
those in the crowded little parlor who
wept most conspicuously. The widow
was not present beside the bier, it be
ing announced that she was too ut
terly prostrated by her grief. When
finally the line formed to pass the
casket for a farewell glimpse of the
deceased, Alice Royce paused perhaps
longer than any of the others —so
markedly, indeed, that the undertaker
guiding the throng rather brusquely
touched her ou the arm to indicate
that she was holding up the line.
Alice Royce observed that the lid at
the head of the coffin was only partly
lowered in its grooves, so that merely
the face and throat of Preston were
visible. His countenance looked very
placid, and there was a flower in the
lapel of his black coat. And when
Alice Royce leaned far over the bier
as though in devotion and did a rather
horrible thing—jabbed a pin in the
cheek of the placid face—it never
changed expression. There was no
twitch, no grimace of the features or
start of the head. Immediately there
after, concealed in her handkerchief, I
she passed over the lips and nostrils
of Preston's face a little mirror. She
waa sure this action had not been ob
served or understood by the under
taker standing near, but it was then
that he touched her on the arm as a
signal to pass on. Aβ she did so she
lifted her handkerchief as if to stay
her tears. In reality, she stared hard
at the surface of the little mirror.
She waited outside the house Iα a
group of morbidly curious women and
children and watched the casket borne
to a big automobile hearse. A single
carriage followed, into which only
two persons entered. One waa, of
course, the widow, her countenance
completely concealed by her veil. With
knowing eyes Alice Royce regarded
the portly, elderly man in high hat
and frock coat who escorted the
woman. And when the little funeral
procession moved rapidly off Alice
Royce nearly as rapidly made her way
to a taxicab awaiting her at the cor
ner. In this she followed the hearse.
It was as she expected. The proces
sion did not move out directly towaid
the Brooklyn cemetery. It moved due
east, then slanted north and finally
stopped before the undertaking eefftb
lishment of the Resh.var Brothers in
the Bronx.
At 4 o'clock that same afternoon
Alice Royce called up President Blair
In his offices at the Tower Insurance
Company. "Wilmot Gray, Dr. Wag
staff, the woman in the case and the
Reshwar Brothers were all arrested
ten minutes ago and Exhibit A in the
case of fraud will be a casket loaded
with bricks," she announced.
111.
Blaney, the celebrated detective, and
Blair awaited the arrival of Alice |
Royce impatiently, eager to hear her
explanation of the strange case of
Wilmot Gray.
"It was really very simple," said the
girl detective, "the minute I began to
know something of Dr. Wagstaff. It
seems that for years he has devoted
himself to a study of hypnotism and
became really an adept. Gray, who
was in the beginning
shopkeeper, became one of Dr. Wag
staff's best subjects. He could throw
Gray into a perfect state of catalepsy.
Many of the neighbors had witnessed
these exhibitions in the past, when
Gray would, under the suggestion of
the old doctor, remain for hours per
fectly rigid, breathing so slightly that
some of the more ignorant observers
would fear the man was dead or dying
and beg Dr. Wagstaff to restore him
to normal consciousness.
"Then, when Preston died within a
few months of taking out a $25,000 in
surance policy and I found that, like
Gray, he had died of pneumonia, and,
as with Gray, Dr. Wagstaff had been
his attending physician and made out
the death certificate, I was altogether
sure of my ground when I attended
the funeral.
HUNTING TREASURE.
{{REEKING for treasure." The
lJ words are as a magnet in the
power they have, over the minds of
men. Let an explorer come home to
tell of gold mines, of gems, and of
pearls to be found in some region of
utter desolation, amid peril, discom
fort and solitude, and the great and
small, gentle and simple rush in thou
sands overseas in pursuit of the gol
den spoil. Perhaps nowhere has the
romance of seeking treasure bten kept
so actively alive as in the northern
gold-producing regions of North
America.
Even stranger than fiction is the tale
told "by Charles McLeod, an Edmon
ton prospector, who, white leading a
party of gold-seekers through the
wastes of the northwest section of
British Columbia, stumbled over the
bones of his two brothers and hit
upon a location of auriferous quartz
now bringing him in a colossal for- '•
tune.
I One night In 1908, while "making
camp" with hia fellow-prospectorg,
McLeod discovered the traces of an o'd
camp fire in the forest nearby, and
in idle curiosity began to scrape among
the ashes and bits of charred wood,
presently to find on the trunk of a!
pin* near at hand an inscription con-j
sisting of the date, "May, 1905," and;
the initials of his two brothers, who!
had been missing for several years, j
Later on, the discovery was made of i
two skeletons under a tree a little |
distanaa off the trail, and not far!
from the tree McLeod picked up a!
watch, which he at once recognized
as having belonged to his brother
Frank.
On the trees In the vicinity being
i closely examined a "blazed" trunk was
J found with much carving, but very
few of the words in readable. Near j
the foot of the tree McLeod managed I
to make out sufficient to lead him to
believe that a complete deciphering j
would probably mean his fortune.
The words that had remained de
cipherable referred to ti» locating of
a gold "shaft," but the murderers, who i
wore presumed to have been Indians.!
had not only taken the precautions to;
remove from their victims all means j
of Identification, but had also cut the
tree in such a manner as to make the
carving unintelligible. Near at hand,
however. McLeod chanced on a ehaft,
which had apparently been gunk in J
rttffflt years and from which a
eiderable quantity of gold had bsen
extracted. Subsequently some Indians
claimed that they had sunk this shaft, J
but the matter was determined in Me-!
Lcod'a favor.
At the p:nsent day the pro»p?ctors' j
camps in Southwest Oregon are
haunted by a little old man, *-lio sei-J
dom comee in, and who when ap- j
preached threatens with his rifle and j
then slinks off into the tall timbe- and;
scrub at hand. The camp to which he:
attaches hlmffdf he watches most care
fully, following one man after an-1
other as they leave to look for game.
Something like thirty years ago this ,
ghost-like man was a stout, strong,
young German, who came into Oregoa j
U> seek gold. Me did find a very vai-1
uabVi "prospect," and had begun to
work it when the Indians surprised
San Francisco Sunday Call.
"Preston." laughed the girl, "cer
tainly looked 'dead. . His breathing
was indeed imperceptible. I TS \Jt
jabbed a pin in his cheek, satisfying
myself that I was right in believing
that the striking semblance to death
was caused by his having been thrown
into a state of perfect catalepsy, and
then my mirror test gave me positive
evidence by the moisture on it after
I had passed it over the 'dead man's ,
lips that Preston was alive and
breathing. I watched the coffin car
ried out and saw that the head lid was
only half-screwed down. This con
vinced me that Preston was being
taken elsewhere to be released, or
course, it would be dangerous for hin>
to have remained in the house; the
possibility of somebody seeing him
alive after his own funeral was too
grave a menace.
"The coffin hadn't been carried into
the Reshwar undertaking establish
ment half an hour before Preston or
Gray walked out with Dr. Wags:aff and
the woman, who is really, I under
stand, his wife, and were arrested by
the Central Office men who, like my
self, had, on my information, followed
the funeral procession. Preston had
doffed his 'grave clothes' for less sol
emn raiment, and he had also shaved
off his beard and mustache by way of
precaution. But he was,
easily recognizable.
"Indeed, five minutes after his ar<
rest he was in the midst of a full con
fession. Hβ declared that the schema
had originated with the elderly doctor,
and that most of the proceeds of the
first 'haul' he had turned over to hia
mother. Wagstaff had convinced the
undertakers that the scheme was one
not possible of detection, and all the
conspirators had entertained a not al
together improbable vision of securing
vast fortunes through Wagstaff's hyp
notism and Gray's deaths."
mm. His one companion was killefl*
but the young man escaped and mada
his way to Rogue River, still hugging
some pieces of auriferous quartz.
It was years before he can» bacSc
with money enough to reopen his
mine, the knowledge of which had
made him rich during all the weary
timo of hard work and self-denial
when be was laying up the "grab
stake" which was to keep him from
the necessity of sharing his wealth
with a partner.
But he could not find his mine!
The frost and the snow, a landslip
or two, and the overflowing of the cas
cading stream had obliterated hia
landmarks. At last, his monny being
exhausted, he told others of his mine
and showed them the specimens which
ne had kept by him all the years. The
miners of Southwest Oregon are tired
now of looking for the lost mine, biitf
the German still moves about the hills
lv a state of fear lest any one should
find before he does the "Crazy Dutcn
tnar. Mints."
In the early days of the Yukon gold
eeekers much search was made for
an alluvial source from which the In
dians, early in the nineteenth century,
must have obtained the gold dust
which for a time they disposed of to
trappers, the Hudson Bay Company
and others. One morning a prospector,
Joe Carver, when camping with an
Indian hunter, was told by him that
seeing the rising sun gleam on the
rocks, at the base of which ran a
stream, brought to his memory that
the plaor> had been called by his fore
fathers the "Rocks of Gold." Search
revealed the grsat hoard which Nature
had been accumulating in the bed of
the stream there for innumerab cen-
About eight years ago Isaac
Fowler, a Brooklyn man, while hunt
ing in Chihuahua, Mex.. found an old
tunnel, the mouth of which had been
walled up at sonvi remote time. There
was the usual local tradition of a lost
mine in the neighborhood, worked by
the Spaniards of old and abandoned by
them in consequence of the hostility
of the Apaches. The difcoverers of the
wa'V-d-up tunnel decided this was it,
and have found it to be an exceedingly
paying one.
A still richer find wae that of a
prospector on the Mexican side of the
Rio Grande, near Fort Hancock, Ts*A
An old "dump" of worked rock hadr
been there co long that nobody knew
who had taken the rock out. Not even
i tradition was associated with it A
preepector interested capiralists, and
the old workings were reope^d
On the fane of the hill being cleared
f or the tunnel, the miners were sur
prised to find a solid wall of masonry,
aid in cement, and so hard that they
;ad to blow it down by means of dy
lamite. Once through this wall they
iiscovered a tunnel that a few feet
[urther on was closed by a massive
ioor of haxdwood logs fastened by a
iuge lock of antique Spanish work
manship. They broke in and found
hat the tunnel ran about four hun
lred feet to a breast of ore many times
•icher than any found for many years.
\ revolution or Indian rising had
probably caused the mine to be aban
ioned, and the workers with the char
icteristic subtlety of their time txaa
lidden the bonanza, leading exposed
>rly the waete product on tfce sur
face.

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