THE CRAIG KENNEDY SERIES
THE DREAM DOCTOR
BY ARTHUR B. REEVE
FRONTISPIECE BY WILL FOSTER
I The Dream Doctor
II The Soul Analysis
III The Sybarite
IV The Beauty Shop
V The Phantom Circuit
VI The Detectaphone
VII The Green Curse
VIII The Mummy Case
IX The Elixir of Life
X The Toxin of Death
XI The Opium Joint
XII The "Dope Trust"
XIII The Kleptomaniac
XIV The Crimeometer
XV The Vampire
XVI The Blood Test
XVII The Bomb Maker
XVIII The "Coke" Fiend
XIX The Submarine Mystery
XX The Wireless Detector
XXI The Ghouls
XXII The X-Ray "Movies"
XXIII The Death House
XXIV The Final Day
THE DREAM DOCTOR
THE DREAM DOCTOR
"Jameson, I want you to get the real story about that friend of yours, Professor Kennedy," announced the managing editor of the Star, early one afternoon when I had been summoned into the sanctum.
From a batch of letters that had accumulated in the litter on the top of his desk, he selected one and glanced over it hurriedly.
"For instance," he went on reflectively, "here's a letter from a Constant Reader who asks, 'Is this Professor Craig Kennedy really all that you say he is, and, if so, how can I find out about his new scientific detective method?'"
He paused and tipped back his chair.
"Now, I don't want to file these letters in the waste basket. When people write letters to a newspaper, it means something. I might reply, in this case, that he is as real as science, as real as the fight of society against the criminal. But I want to do more than that."
The editor had risen, as if shaking himself momentarily loose from the ordinary routine of the office.
"You get me?" he went on, enthusiastically, "In other words, your assignment, Jameson, for the next month is to do nothing except follow your friend Kennedy. Start in right now, on the first, and cross-section out of his life just one month, an average month. Take things just as they come, set them down just as they happen, and when you get through give me an intimate picture of the man and his work."
He picked up the schedule for the day and I knew that the interview was at an end. I was to "get" Kennedy.
Often I had written snatches of Craig's adventures, but never before anything as ambitious as this assignment, for a whole month. At first it staggered me. But the more I thought about it, the better I liked it.
I hastened uptown to the apartment on the Heights which Kennedy and I had occupied for some time. I say we occupied it. We did so during those hours when he was not at his laboratory at the Chemistry Building on the University campus, or working on one of those cases which fascinated him. Fortunately, he happened to be there as I burst in upon him.
"Well?" he queried absently, looking up from a book, one of the latest untranslated treatises on the new psychology from the pen of the eminent scientist, Dr. Freud of Vienna, "what brings you uptown so early?"
Briefly as I could, I explained to him what it was that I proposed to do. He listened without comment and I rattled on, determined not to allow him to negative it.
"And," I added, warming up to the subject, "I think I owe a debt of gratitude to the managing editor. He has crystallised in my mind an idea that has long been latent. Why, Craig," I went on, "that is exactly what you want—to show people how they can never hope to beat the modern scientific detective, to show that the crime-hunters have gone ahead faster even than—"
The telephone tinkled insistently.
Without a word, Kennedy motioned to me to "listen in" on the extension on my desk, which he had placed there as a precaution so that I could corroborate any conversation that took place over our wire.
His action was quite enough to indicate to me that, at least, he had no objection to the plan.
"This is Dr. Leslie—the coroner. Can you come to the Municipal Hospital—right away?"
"Right away, Doctor," answered Craig, hanging up the receiver. "Walter, you'll come, too?"
A quarter of an hour later we were in the courtyard of the city's largest hospital. In the balmy sunshine the convalescing patients were sitting on benches or slowly trying their strength, walking over the grass, clad in faded hospital bathrobes.
We entered the office and quickly were conducted by an orderly to a little laboratory in a distant wing.
"What's the matter?" asked Craig, as we hurried along.
"I don't know exactly," replied the man, "except that it seems that Price Maitland, the broker, you know, was picked up on the street and brought here dying. He died before the doctors could relieve him."
Dr. Leslie was waiting impatiently for us. "What do you make of that, Professor Kennedy?"
The coroner spread out on the table before us a folded half-sheet of typewriting and searched Craig's face eagerly to see what impression it made on him.
"We found it stuffed in Maitland's outside coat pocket," he explained.
It was dateless and brief:
May God in his mercy forgive me for what I am about to do. I have just seen Dr. Ross. He has told me the nature of your illness. I cannot bear to think that I am the cause, so I am going simply to drop out of your life. I cannot live with you, and I cannot live without you. Do not blame me. Always think the best you can of me, even if you could not give me all. Good-bye.
Your distracted husband,
At once the idea flashed over me that Maitland had found himself suffering from some incurable disease and had taken the quickest means of settling his dilemma.
Kennedy looked up suddenly from the note.
"Do you think it was a suicide?" asked the coroner.
"Suicide?" Craig repeated. "Suicides don't usually write on typewriters. A hasty note scrawled on a sheet of paper in trembling pen or pencil, that is what they usually leave. No, some one tried to escape the handwriting experts this way."
"Exactly my idea' agreed Dr. Leslie, with evident satisfaction. "Now listen. Maitland was conscious almost up to the last moment, and yet the hospital doctors tell me they could not get a syllable of an ante-mortem statement from him."
"You mean he refused to talk?" I asked.
"No," he replied; "it was more perplexing than that Even if the police had not made the usual blunder of arresting him for intoxication instead of sending him immediately to the hospital, it would have made no difference. The doctors simply could not have saved him, apparently. For the truth is, Professor Kennedy, we don't even know what was the matter with him."
Dr. Leslie seemed much excited by the case, as well he might be.
"Maitland was found reeling and staggering on Broadway this morning," continued the coroner. "Perhaps the policeman was not really at fault at first for arresting him, but before the wagon came Maitland was speechless and absolutely unable to move a muscle."
Dr. Leslie paused as he recited the strange facts, then resumed: "His eyes reacted, all right. He seemed to want to speak, to write, but couldn't. A frothy saliva dribbled from his mouth, but he could not frame a word. He was paralysed, and his breathing was peculiar. They then hurried him to the hospital as soon as they could. But it was of no use."
Kennedy was regarding the doctor keenly as he proceeded. Dr. Leslie paused again to emphasise what he was about to say.
"Here is another strange thing. It may or may not be of importance, but it is strange, nevertheless. Before Maitland died they sent for his wife. He was still conscious when she reached the hospital, could recognise her, seemed to want to speak, but could neither talk nor move. It was pathetic. She was grief- stricken, of course. But she did not faint. She is not of the fainting kind. It was what she said that impressed everyone. 'I knew it—I knew it,' she cried. She had dropped on her knees by the side of the bed. 'I felt it. Only the other night I had the horrible dream. I saw him in a terrific struggle. I could not see what it was—it seemed to be an invisible thing. I ran to him— then the scene shifted. I saw a funeral procession, and in the casket I could see through the wood—his face—oh, it was a warning! It has come true. I feared it, even though I knew it was only a dream. Often I have had the dream of that funeral procession and always I saw the same face, his face. Oh, it is horrible—terrible!'"
It was evident that Dr. Leslie at least was impressed by the dream.
"What have you done since?" asked Craig.
"I have turned loose everyone I could find available," replied Dr. Leslie, handing over a sheaf of reports.
Kennedy glanced keenly over them as they lay spread out on the table. "I should like to see the body," he said, at length.
It was lying in the next room, awaiting Dr. Leslie's permission to be removed.
"At first," explained the doctor, leading the way, "we thought it might be a case of knock-out drops, chloral, you know—or perhaps chloral and whiskey, a combination which might unite to make chloroform in the blood. But no. We have tested for everything we can think of. In fact there seems to be no trace of a drug present. It is inexplicable. If Maitland really committed suicide, he must have taken SOMETHING—and as far as we can find out there is no trace of anything. As far as we have gone we have always been forced back to the original idea that it was a natural death- -perhaps due to shock of some kind, or organic weakness."
Kennedy had thoughtfully raised one of the lifeless hands and was examining it.
"Not that," he corrected. "Even if the autopsy shows nothing, it doesn't prove that it was a natural death. Look!"
On the back of the hand was a tiny, red, swollen mark. Dr. Leslie regarded it with pursed-up lips as though not knowing whether it was significant or not.
"The tissues seemed to be thickly infiltrated with a reddish serum and the blood-vessels congested," he remarked slowly. "There was a frothy mucus in the bronchial tubes. The blood was liquid, dark, and didn't clot. The fact of the matter is that the autopsical research revealed absolutely nothing but a general disorganisation of the blood-corpuscles, a most peculiar thing, but one the significance of which none of us here can fathom. If it was poison that he took or that had been given to him, it was the most subtle, intangible, elusive, that ever came to my knowledge. Why, there is absolutely no trace or clue—"
"Nor any use in looking for one in that way," broke in Kennedy decisively. "If we are to make any progress in this case, we must look elsewhere than to an autopsy. There is no clue beyond what you have found, if I am right. And I think I am right. It was the venom of the cobra."
"Cobra venom?" repeated the coroner, glancing up at a row of technical works.
"Yes. No, it's no use trying to look it up. There is no way of verifying a case of cobra poisoning except by the symptoms. It is not like any other poisoning in the world."
Dr. Leslie and I looked at each other, aghast at the thought of a poison so subtle that it defied detection.
"You think he was bitten by a snake?" I blurted out, half incredulous.
"Oh, Walter, on Broadway? No, of course not. But cobra venom has a medicinal value. It is sent here in small quantities for various medicinal purposes. Then, too, it would be easy to use it. A scratch on the hand in the passing crowd, a quick shoving of the letter into the pocket of the victim—and the murderer would probably think to go undetected."
We stood dismayed at the horror of such a scientific murder and the meagreness of the materials to work on in tracing it out.
"That dream was indeed peculiar," ruminated Craig, before we had really grasped the import of his quick revelation.
"You don't mean to say that you attach any importance to a dream?" I asked hurriedly, trying to follow him.
Kennedy merely shrugged his shoulders, but I could see plainly enough that he did.
"You haven't given this letter out to the press?" he asked.
"Not yet," answered Dr. Leslie.
"Then don't, until I say to do so. I shall need to keep it."
The cab in which we had come to the hospital was still waiting. "We must see Mrs. Maitland first," said Kennedy, as we left the nonplused coroner and his assistants.
The Maitlands lived, we soon found, in a large old-fashioned brownstone house just off Fifth Avenue.
Kennedy's card with the message that it was very urgent brought us in as far as the library, where we sat for a moment looking around at the quiet refinement of a more than well-to-do home.
On a desk at one end of the long room was a typewriter. Kennedy rose. There was not a sound of any one in either the hallway or the adjoining rooms. A moment later he was bending quietly over the typewriter in the corner, running off a series of characters on a sheet of paper. A sound of a closing door upstairs, and he quickly jammed the paper into his pocket, retraced his steps, and was sitting quietly opposite me again.
Mrs. Maitland was a tall, perfectly formed woman of baffling age, but with the impression of both youth and maturity which was very fascinating. She was calmer now, and although she seemed to be of anything but a hysterical nature, it was quite evident that her nervousness was due to much more than the shock of the recent tragic event, great as that must have been. It may have been that I recalled the words of the note, "Dr. Ross has told me the nature of your illness," but I fancied that she had been suffering from some nervous trouble.
"There is no use prolonging our introduction, Mrs. Maitland," began Kennedy. "We have called because the authorities are not yet fully convinced that Mr. Maitland committed suicide."
It was evident that she had seen the note, at least. "Not a suicide?" she repeated, looking from one to the other of us.
"Mr. Masterson on the wire, ma'am," whispered a maid. "Do you wish to speak to him? He begged to say that he did not wish to intrude, but he felt that if there—"
"Yes, I will talk to him—in my room," she interrupted.
I thought that there was just a trace of well-concealed confusion, as she excused herself.
We rose. Kennedy did not resume his seat immediately. Without a word or look he completed his work at the typewriter by abstracting several blank sheets of paper from the desk.
A few moments later Mrs. Maitland returned, calmer.
"In his note," resumed Kennedy, "he spoke of Dr. Ross and—"
"Oh," she cried, "can't you see Dr. Ross about it? Really I—I oughtn't to be—questioned in this way—not now, so soon after what I've had to go through."
It seemed that her nerves were getting unstrung again. Kennedy rose to go.
"Later, come to see me," she pleaded. "But now—you must realise— it is too much. I cannot talk—I cannot."
"Mr. Maitland had no enemies that you know of?" asked Kennedy, determined to learn something now, at least.
"No, no. None that would—do that."
"You had had no quarrel?" he added.
"No—we never quarrelled. Oh, Price—why did you? How could you?"
Her feelings were apparently rapidly getting the better of her. Kennedy bowed, and we withdrew silently. He had learned one thing. She believed or wanted others to believe in the note.
At a public telephone, a few minutes later, Kennedy was running over the names in the telephone book. "Let me see—here's an Arnold Masterson," he considered. Then turning the pages he went on, "Now we must find this Dr. Ross. There—Dr. Sheldon Ross— specialist in nerve diseases—that must be the one. He lives only a few blocks further uptown."
Handsome, well built, tall, dignified, in fact distinguished, Dr. Ross proved to be a man whose very face and manner were magnetic, as should be those of one who had chosen his branch of the profession.
"You have heard, I suppose, of the strange death of Price Maitland?" began Kennedy when we were seated in the doctor's office.
"Yes, about an hour ago." It was evident that he was studying us.
"Mrs. Maitland, I believe, is a patient of yours?"
"Yes, Mrs. Maitland is one of my patients," he admitted interrogatively. Then, as if considering that Kennedy's manner was not to be mollified by anything short of a show of confidence, he added: "She came to me several months ago. I have had her under treatment for nervous trouble since then, without a marked improvement."
"And Mr. Maitland," asked Kennedy, "was he a patient, too?"
"Mr. Maitland," admitted the doctor with some reticence, "had called on me this morning, but no, he was not a patient."
"Did you notice anything unusual?"
"He seemed to be much worried," Dr. Ross replied guardedly.
Kennedy took the suicide note from his pocket and handed it to him.
"I suppose you have heard of this?" asked Craig.
The doctor read it hastily, then looked up, as if measuring from Kennedy's manner just how much he knew. "As nearly as I could make out," he said slowly, his reticence to outward appearance gone, "Maitland seemed to have something on his mind. He came inquiring as to the real cause of his wife's nervousness. Before I had talked to him long I gathered that he had a haunting fear that she did not love him any more, if ever. I fancied that he even doubted her fidelity."
I wondered why the doctor was talking so freely, now, in contrast with his former secretiveness.
"Do you think he was right?" shot out Kennedy quickly, eying Dr. Ross keenly.
"No, emphatically, no; he was not right," replied the doctor, meeting Craig's scrutiny without flinching. "Mrs. Maitland," he went on more slowly as if carefully weighing every word, "belongs to a large and growing class of women in whom, to speak frankly, sex seems to be suppressed. She is a very handsome and attractive woman—you have seen her? Yes? You must have noticed, though, that she is really frigid, cold, intellectual."
The doctor was so sharp and positive about his first statement and so careful in phrasing the second that I, at least, jumped to the conclusion that Maitland might have been right, after all. I imagined that Kennedy, too, had his suspicions of the doctor.
"Have you ever heard of or used cobra venom in any of your medical work?" he asked casually.
Dr. Ross wheeled in his chair, surprised.
"Why, yes," he replied quickly. "You know that it is a test for blood diseases, one of the most recently discovered and used parallel to the old tests. It is known as the Weil cobra-venom test."
"Do you use it often?"
"N—no," he replied. "My practice ordinarily does not lie in that direction. I used it not long ago, once, though. I have a patient under my care, a well-known club-man. He came to me originally—"
"Arnold Masterson?" asked Craig.
"Yes—how did you know his name?"
"Guessed it," replied Craig laconically, as if he knew much more than he cared to tell. "He was a friend of Mrs. Maitland's, was he not?"
"I should say not," replied Dr. Ross, without hesitation. He was quite ready to talk without being urged. "Ordinarily," he explained confidentially, "professional ethics seals my lips, but in this instance, since you seem to know so much, I may as well tell more."
I hardly knew whether to take him at his face value or not. Still he went on: "Mrs. Maitland is, as I have hinted at, what we specialists would call a consciously frigid but unconsciously passionate woman. As an intellectual woman she suppresses nature. But nature does and will assert herself, we believe. Often you will find an intellectual woman attracted unreasonably to a purely physical man—I mean, speaking generally, not in particular cases. You have read Ellen Key, I presume? Well, she expresses it well in some of the things she has written about affinities. Now, don't misunderstand me," he cautioned. "I am speaking generally, not of this individual case."
I was following Dr. Ross closely. When he talked so, he was a most fascinating man.
"Mrs. Maitland," he resumed, "has been much troubled by her dreams, as you have heard, doubtless. The other day she told me of another dream. In it she seemed to be attacked by a bull, which suddenly changed into a serpent. I may say that I had asked her to make a record of her dreams, as well as other data, which I thought might be of use in the study and treatment of her nervous troubles. I readily surmised that not the dream, but something else, perhaps some recollection which it recalled, worried her. By careful questioning I discovered that it was—a broken engagement."
"Yes," prompted Kennedy.
"The bull-serpent, she admitted, had a half-human face—the face of Arnold Masterson!"
Was Dr. Ross desperately shifting suspicion from himself? I asked.
"Very strange—very," ruminated Kennedy. "That reminds me again. I wonder if you could let me have a sample of this cobra venom?"
"Surely. Excuse me; I'll get you some."
The doctor had scarcely shut the door when Kennedy began prowling around quietly. In the waiting-room, which was now deserted, stood a typewriter.
Quickly Craig ran over the keys of the machine until he had a sample of every character. Then he reached into drawer of the desk and hastily stuffed several blank sheets of paper into his pocket.
"Of course I need hardly caution you in handling this," remarked Dr. Ross, as he returned. "You are as well acquainted as I am with the danger attending its careless and unscientific uses." "I am, and I thank you very much," said Kennedy.
We were standing in the waiting-room.
"You will keep me advised of any progress you make in the case?" the doctor asked. "It complicates, as you can well imagine, my treatment of Mrs. Maitland."
"I shall be glad to do so," replied Kennedy, as we departed.
An hour later found us in a handsomely appointed bachelor apartment in a fashionable hotel overlooking the lower entrance to the Park.
"Mr. Masterson, I believe?" inquired Kennedy, as a slim, debonair, youngish-old man entered the room in which we had been waiting.
"I am that same," he smiled. "To what am I indebted for this pleasure?"
We had been gazing at the various curios with which he had made the room a veritable den of the connoisseur.
"You have evidently travelled considerably," remarked Kennedy, avoiding the question for the time.
"Yes, I have been back in this country only a few weeks," Masterson replied, awaiting the answer to the first question.
"I called," proceeded Kennedy, "in the hope that you, Mr. Masterson, might be able to shed some light on the rather peculiar case of Mr. Maitland, of whose death, I suppose, you have already heard."
"You have known Mrs. Maitland a long time?" ignored Kennedy.
"We went to school together."
"And were engaged, were you not?"
Masterson looked at Kennedy in ill-concealed surprise.
"Yes. But how did you know that? It was a secret—only between us two—I thought. She broke it off—not I."
"She broke off the engagement?" prompted Kennedy.
"Yes—a story about an escapade of mine and all that sort of thing, you know—but, by Jove! I like your nerve, sir." Masterson frowned, then added: "I prefer not to talk of that. There are some incidents in a man's life, particularly where a woman is concerned, that are forbidden."
"Oh, I beg pardon," hastened Kennedy, "but, by the way, you would have no objection to making a statement regarding your trip abroad and your recent return to this country—subsequent to—ah—the incident which we will not refer to?"
"None whatever. I left New York in 1908, disgusted with everything in general, and life here in particular—"
"Would you object to jotting it down so that I can get it straight?" asked Kennedy. "Just a brief resume, you know."
"No. Have you a pen or a pencil?"
"I think you might as well dictate it; it will take only a minute to run it off on the typewriter."
Masterson rang the bell. A young man appeared noiselessly.
"Wix," he said, "take this: 'I left New York in 1908, travelling on the Continent, mostly in Paris, Vienna, and Rome. Latterly I have lived in London, until six weeks ago, when I returned to New York.' Will that serve?"
"Yes, perfectly," said Kennedy, as he folded up the sheet of paper which the young secretary handed to him. "Thank you. I trust you won't consider it an impertinence if I ask you whether you were aware that Dr. Ross was Mrs. Maitland's physician?"
"Of course I knew it," Masterson replied frankly. "I have given him up for that reason, although he does not know it yet. I most strenuously object to being the subject of—what shall I call it?- -his mental vivisection."
"Do you think he oversteps his position in trying to learn of the mental life of his patients?" queried Craig.
"I would rather say nothing further on that, either," replied Masterson. "I was talking over the wire to Mrs. Maitland a few moments ago, giving her my condolences and asking if there was anything I could do for her immediately, just as I would have done in the old days—only then, of course, I should have gone to her directly. The reason I did not go, but telephoned, was because this Ross seems to have put some ridiculous notions into her head about me. Now, look here; I don't want to discuss this. I've told you more than I intended, anyway."
Masterson had risen. His suavity masked a final determination to say no more.
The Soul Analysis
The day was far advanced after this series of very unsatisfactory interviews. I looked at Kennedy blankly. We seemed to have uncovered so little that was tangible that I was much surprised to find that apparently he was well contented with what had happened in the case so far.
"I shall be busy for a few hours in the laboratory, Walter," he remarked, as we parted at the subway. "I think, if you have nothing better to do, that you might employ the time in looking up some of the gossip about Mrs. Maitland and Masterson, to say nothing of Dr. Ross," he emphasised. "Drop in after dinner."
There was not much that I could find. Of Mrs. Maitland there was practically nothing that I already did not know from having seen her name in the papers. She was a leader in a certain set which was devoting its activities to various social and moral propaganda. Masterson's early escapades were notorious even in the younger smart set in which he had moved, but his years abroad had mellowed the recollection of them. He had not distinguished himself in any way since his return to set gossip afloat, nor had any tales of his doings abroad filtered through to New York clubland. Dr. Ross, I found to my surprise, was rather better known than I had supposed, both as a specialist and as a man about town. He seemed to have risen rapidly in his profession as physician to the ills of society's nerves.
I was amazed after dinner to find Kennedy doing nothing at all.
"What's the matter?" I asked. "Have you struck a snag?"
"No," he replied slowly, "I was only waiting. I told them to be here between half-past eight and nine."
"Who?" I queried.
"Dr. Leslie," he answered. "He has the authority to compel the attendance of Mrs. Maitland, Dr. Ross, and Masterson."
The quickness with which he had worked out a case which was, to me, one of the most inexplicable he had had for a long time, left me standing speechless.
One by one they dropped in during the next half-hour, and, as usual, it fell to me to receive them and smooth over the rough edges which always obtruded at these little enforced parties in the laboratory.
Dr. Leslie and Dr. Ross were the first to arrive. They had not come together, but had met at the door. I fancied I saw a touch of professional jealousy in their manner, at least on the part of Dr. Ross. Masterson came, as usual ignoring the seriousness of the matter and accusing us all of conspiring to keep him from the first night of a light opera which was opening. Mrs. Maitland followed, the unaccustomed pallor of her face heightened by the plain black dress. I felt most uncomfortable, as indeed I think the rest did. She merely inclined her head to Masterson, seemed almost to avoid the eye of Dr. Ross, glared at Dr. Leslie, and absolutely ignored me.
Craig had been standing aloof at his laboratory table, beyond a nod of recognition paying little attention to anything. He seemed to be in no hurry to begin.
"Great as science is," he commenced, at length, "it is yet far removed from perfection. There are, for instance, substances so mysterious, subtle, and dangerous as to set the most delicate tests and powerful lenses at naught, while they carry death most horrible in their train."
He could scarcely have chosen his opening words with more effect.
"Chief among them," he proceeded, "are those from nature's own laboratory. There are some sixty species of serpents, for example, with deadly venom. Among these, as you doubtless have all heard, none has brought greater terror to mankind than the cobra-di- capello, the Naja tripudians of India. It is unnecessary for me to describe the cobra or to say anything about the countless thousands who have yielded up their lives to it. I have here a small quantity of the venom"—he indicated it in a glass beaker. "It was obtained in New York, and I have tested it on guinea-pigs. It has lost none of its potency."
I fancied that there was a feeling of relief when Kennedy by his actions indicated that he was not going to repeat the test.
"This venom," he continued, "dries in the air into a substance like small scales, soluble in water but not in alcohol. It has only a slightly acrid taste and odour, and, strange to say, is inoffensive on the tongue or mucous surfaces, even in considerable quantities. All we know about it is that in an open wound it is deadly swift in action."
It was difficult to sit unmoved at the thought that before us, in only a few grains of the stuff, was enough to kill us all if it were introduced into a scratch of our skin.
"Until recently chemistry was powerless to solve the enigma, the microscope to detect its presence, or pathology to explain the reason for its deadly effect. And even now, about all we know is that autopsical research reveals absolutely nothing but the general disorganisation of the blood corpuscles. In fact, such poisoning is best known by the peculiar symptoms—the vertigo, weak legs, and falling jaw. The victim is unable to speak or swallow, but is fully sensible. He has nausea, paralysis, an accelerated pulse at first followed rapidly by a weakening, with breath slow and laboured. The pupils are contracted, but react to the last, and he dies in convulsions like asphyxia. It is both a blood and a nerve poison."
As Kennedy proceeded, Mrs. Maitland never took her large eyes from his face.
Kennedy now drew from a large envelope in which he protected it, the typewritten note which had been found on Maitland. He said nothing about the "suicide" as he quietly began a new line of accumulating evidence.
"There is an increasing use of the typewriting machine for the production of spurious papers," he began, rattling the note significantly. "It is partly due to the great increase in the use of the typewriter generally, but more than all is it due to the erroneous idea that fraudulent typewriting cannot be detected. The fact is that the typewriter is perhaps a worse means of concealing identity than is disguised handwriting. It does not afford the effective protection to the criminal that is supposed. On the contrary, the typewriting of a fraudulent document may be the direct means by which it can be traced to its source. First we have to determine what kind of machine a certain piece of writing was done with, then what particular machine."
He paused and indicated a number of little instruments on the table.
"For example," he resumed, "the Lovibond tintometer tells me its story of the colour of the ink used in the ribbon of the machine that wrote this note as well as several standard specimens which I have been able to obtain from three machines on which it might have been written.
"That leads me to speak of the quality of the paper in this half- sheet that was found on Mr. Maitland. Sometimes such a half-sheet may be mated with the other half from which it was torn as accurately as if the act were performed before your eyes. There was no such good fortune in this case, but by measurements made by the vernier micrometer caliper I have found the precise thickness of several samples of paper as compared to that of the suicide note. I need hardly add that in thickness and quality, as well as in the tint of the ribbon, the note points to person as the author."
No one moved.
"And there are other proofs—unescapable," Kennedy hurried on. "For instance, I have counted the number of threads to the inch in the ribbon, as shown by the letters of this note. That also corresponds to the number in one of the three ribbons."
Kennedy laid down a glass plate peculiarly ruled in little squares.
"This," he explained, "is an alignment test plate, through which can be studied accurately the spacing and alignment of typewritten characters. There are in this pica type ten to the inch horizontally and six to the inch vertically. That is usual. Perhaps you are not acquainted with the fact that typewritten characters are in line both ways, horizontally and vertically. There are nine possible positions for each character which may be assumed with reference to one of these little standard squares of the test plate. You cannot fail to appreciate what an immense impossibility there is that one machine should duplicate the variations out of the true which the microscope detects for several characters on another.
"Not only that, but the faces of many letters inevitably become broken, worn, battered, as well as out of alignment, or slightly shifted in their position on the type bar. The type faces are not flat, but a little concave to conform to the roller. There are thousands of possible divergences, scars, and deformities in each machine.
"Such being the case," he concluded, "typewriting has an individuality like that of the Bertillon system, finger-prints, or the portrait parle."
He paused, then added quickly: "What machine was it in this case? I have samples here from that of Dr. Boss, from a machine used by Mr. Masterson's secretary, and from a machine which was accessible to both Mr. and Mrs. Maitland."
Kennedy stopped, but he was not yet prepared to relieve the suspense of two of those whom his investigation would absolve.
"Just one other point," he resumed mercilessly, "a point which a few years ago would have been inexplicable—if not positively misleading and productive of actual mistake. I refer to the dreams of Mrs. Maitland."
I had been expecting it, yet the words startled me. What must they have done to her? But she kept admirable control of herself.
"Dreams used to be treated very seriously by the ancients, but until recently modern scientists, rejecting the ideas of the dark ages, have scouted dreams. To-day, however, we study them scientifically, for we believe that whatever is, has a reason. Dr. Ross, I think, is acquainted with the new and remarkable theories of Dr. Sigmund Freud, of Vienna?"
Dr. Ross nodded. "I dissent vigorously from some of Freud's conclusions," he hastened.
"Let me state them first," resumed Craig. "Dreams, says Freud, are very important. They give us the most reliable information concerning the individual. But that is only possible"—Kennedy emphasised the point—"if the patient is in entire rapport with the doctor.
"Now, the dream is not an absurd and senseless jumble, but a perfect mechanism and has a definite meaning in penetrating the mind. It is as though we had two streams of thought, one of which we allow to flow freely, the other of which we are constantly repressing, pushing back into the subconscious, or unconscious. This matter of the evolution of our individual mental life is too long a story to bore you with at such a critical moment.
"But the resistances, the psychic censors of our ideas, are always active, except in sleep. Then the repressed material comes to the surface. But the resistances never entirely lose their power, and the dream shows the material distorted. Seldom does one recognise his own repressed thoughts or unattained wishes. The dream really is the guardian of sleep to satisfy the activity of the unconscious and repressed mental processes that would otherwise disturb sleep by keeping the censor busy. In the case of a nightmare the watchman or censor is aroused, finds himself overpowered, so to speak, and calls on consciousness for help.
"There are three kinds of dreams—those which represent an unrepressed wish as fulfilled, those that represent the realisation of a repressed wish in an entirely concealed form, and those that represent the realisation of a repressed wish in a form insufficiently or only partially concealed.
"Dreams are not of the future, but of the past, except as they show striving for unfulfilled wishes. Whatever may be denied in reality we nevertheless can realise in another way—in our dreams. And probably more of our daily life, conduct, moods, beliefs than we think, could be traced to preceding dreams."
Dr. Ross was listening attentively, as Craig turned to him. "This is perhaps the part of Freud's theory from which you dissent most strongly. Freud says that as soon as you enter the intimate life of a patient you begin to find sex in some form. In fact, the best indication of abnormality would be its absence. Sex is one of the strongest of human impulses, yet the one subjected to the greatest repression. For that reason it is the weakest point in our cultural development. In a normal life, he says, there are no neuroses. Let me proceed now with what the Freudists call the psychanalysis, the soul analysis, of Mrs. Maitland."
It was startling in the extreme to consider the possibilities to which this new science might lead, as he proceeded to illustrate it.
"Mrs. Maitland," he continued, "your dream of fear was a dream of what we call the fulfilment of a suppressed wish. Moreover, fear always denotes a sexual idea underlying the dream. In fact, morbid anxiety means surely unsatisfied love. The old Greeks knew it. The gods of fear were born of the goddess of love. Consciously you feared the death of your husband because unconsciously you wished it."
It was startling, dramatic, cruel, perhaps, merciless—this dissecting of the soul of the handsome woman before us; but it had come to a point where it was necessary to get at the truth.
Mrs. Maitland, hitherto pale, was now flushed and indignant. Yet the very manner of her indignation showed the truth of the new psychology of dreams, for, as I learned afterward, people often become indignant when the Freudists strike what is called the "main complex."
"There are other motives just as important," protested Dr. Boss. "Here in America the money motive, ambition—"
"Let me finish," interposed Kennedy. "I want to consider the other dream also. Fear is equivalent to a wish in this sort of dream. It also, as I have said, denotes sex. In dreams animals are usually symbols. Now, in this second dream we find both the bull and the serpent, from time immemorial, symbols of the continuing of the life-force. Dreams are always based on experiences or thoughts of the day preceding the dreams. You, Mrs. Maitland, dreamed of a man's face on these beasts. There was every chance of having him suggested to you. You think you hate him. Consciously you reject him; unconsciously you accept him. Any of the new psychologists who knows the intimate connection between love and hate, would understand how that is possible. Love does not extinguish hate; or hate, love. They repress each other. The opposite sentiment may very easily grow."
The situation was growing more tense as he proceeded. Was not Kennedy actually taxing her with loving another?
"The dreamer," he proceeded remorselessly, "is always the principal actor in a dream, or the dream centres about the dreamer most intimately. Dreams are personal. We never dream about matters that really concern others, but ourselves.
"Years ago," he continued, "you suffered what the new psychologists call a 'psychic trauma'—a soul-wound. You were engaged, but your censored consciousness rejected the manner of life of your fiance. In pique you married Price Maitland. But you never lost your real, subconscious love for another."
He stopped, then added in a low tone that was almost inaudible, yet which did not call for an answer, "Could you—be honest with yourself, for you need say not a word aloud—could you always be sure of yourself in the face of any situation?"
She looked startled. Her ordinarily inscrutable face betrayed everything, though it was averted from the rest of us and could be seen only by Kennedy. She knew the truth that she strove to repress; she was afraid of herself.
"It is dangerous," she murmured, "to be with a person who pays attention to such little things. If every one were like you, I would no longer breathe a syllable of my dreams."
She was sobbing now.
What was back of it all? I had heard of the so-called resolution dreams. I had heard of dreams that kill, of unconscious murder, of the terrible acts of the subconscious somnambulist of which the actor has no recollection in the waking state until put under hypnotism. Was it that which Kennedy was driving at disclosing?
Dr. Ross moved nearer to Mrs. Maitland as if to reassure her. Craig was studying attentively the effect of his revelation both on her and on the other faces before him.
Mrs. Maitland, her shoulders bent with the outpouring of the long- suppressed emotion of the evening and of the tragic day, called for sympathy which, I could see, Craig would readily give when he had reached the climax he had planned.
"Kennedy," exclaimed Masterson, pushing aside Dr. Ross, as he bounded to the side of Mrs. Maitland, unable to restrain himself longer, "Kennedy, you are a faker—nothing but a damned dream doctor—in scientific disguise."
"Perhaps," replied Craig, with a quiet curl of the lip. "But the threads of the typewriter ribbon, the alignment of the letters, the paper, all the 'fingerprints' of that type-written note of suicide were those of the machine belonging to the man who caused the soul-wound, who knew Madeline Maitland's inmost heart better than herself—because he had heard of Freud undoubtedly, when he was in Vienna—who knew that he held her real love still, who posed as a patient of Dr. Ross to learn her secrets as well as to secure the subtle poison of the cobra. That man, perhaps, merely brushed against Price Maitland in the crowd, enough to scratch his hand with the needle, shove the false note into his pocket— anything to win the woman who he knew loved him, and whom he could win. Masterson, you are that man!"
The next half hour was crowded kaleidoscopically with events—the call by Dr. Leslie for the police, the departure of the Coroner with Masterson in custody, and the efforts of Dr. Ross to calm his now almost hysterical patient, Mrs. Maitland.
Then a calm seemed to settle down over the old laboratory which had so often been the scene of such events, tense with human interest. I could scarcely conceal my amazement, as I watched Kennedy quietly restoring to their places the pieces of apparatus he had used.
"What's the matter?" he asked, catching my eye as he paused with the tintometer in his hand.
"Why," I exclaimed, "that's a fine way to start a month! Here's just one day gone and you've caught your man. Are you going to keep that up? If you are—I'll quit and skip to February. I'll choose the shortest month, if that's the pace!"
"Any month you please," he smiled grimly, as he reluctantly placed the tintometer in its cabinet.
There was no use. I knew that any other month would have been just the same.
"Well," I replied weakly, "all I can hope is that every day won't be as strenuous as this has been. I hope, at least, you will give me time to make some notes before you start off again."
"Can't say," he answered, still busy returning paraphernalia to its accustomed place. "I have no control over the cases as they come to me—except that I fan turn down those that don't interest me."
"Then," I sighed wearily, "turn down the next one. I must have rest. I'm going home to sleep."
"Very well," he said, making no move to follow me.
I shook my head doubtfully. It was impossible to force a card on Kennedy. Instead of showing any disposition to switch off the laboratory lights, he appeared to be regarding a row of half- filled test-tubes with the abstraction of a man who has been interrupted in the midst of an absorbing occupation.
"Good night," I said at length.
"Good night," he echoed mechanically.
I know that he slept that night—at least his bed had been slept in when I awoke in the morning. But he was gone. But then, it was not unusual for him, when the fever for work was on him, to consider even five or fewer hours a night's rest. It made no difference when I argued with him. The fact that he thrived on it himself and could justify it by pointing to other scientists was refutation enough.
Slowly I dressed, breakfasted, and began transcribing what I could from the hastily jotted down notes of the day before. I knew that the work, whatever it was, in which he was now engaged must be in the nature of research, dear to his heart. Otherwise, he would have left word for me.
No word came from him, however, all day, and I had not only caught up in my notes, but, my appetite whetted by our first case, had become hungry for more. In fact I had begun to get a little worried at the continued silence. A hand on the knob of the door or a ring of the telephone would hare been a welcome relief. I was gradually becoming aware of the fact that I liked the excitement of the life as much as Kennedy did.
I knew it when the sudden sharp tinkle of the telephone set my heart throbbing almost as quickly as the little bell hammer buzzed.
"Jameson, for Heaven's sake find Kennedy immediately and bring him over here to the Novella Beauty Parlour. We've got the worst case I've been up against in a long time. Dr. Leslie, the coroner, is here, and says we must not make a move until Kennedy arrives."
I doubt whether in all our long acquaintance I had ever heard First Deputy O'Connor more wildly excited and apparently more helpless than he seemed over the telephone that night.
"What is it?" I asked.
"Never mind, never mind. Find Kennedy," he called back almost brusquely. "It's Miss Blanche Blaisdell, the actress—she's been found dead here. The thing is an absolute mystery. Now get him, GET HIM."
It was still early in the evening, and Kennedy had not come in, nor had he sent any word to our apartment. O'Connor had already tried the laboratory. As for myself, I had not the slightest idea where Craig was. I knew the case must be urgent if both the deputy and the coroner were waiting for him. Still, after half an hour's vigorous telephoning, I was unable to find a trace of Kennedy in any of his usual haunts.
In desperation I left a message for him with the hall-boy in case he called up, jumped into a cab, and rode over to the laboratory, hoping that some of the care-takers might still be about and might know something of his whereabouts. The janitor was able to enlighten me to the extent of telling me that a big limousine had called for Kennedy an hour or so before, and that he had left in great haste.
I had given it up as hopeless and had driven back to the apartment to wait for him, when the hall-boy made a rush at me just as I was paying my fare.
"Mr. Kennedy on the wire, sir," he cried as he half dragged me into the hall.
"Walter," almost shouted Kennedy, "I'm over at the Washington Heights Hospital with Dr. Barron—you remember Barron, in our class at college? He has a very peculiar case of a poor girl whom he found wandering on the street and brought here. Most unusual thing. He came over to the laboratory after me in his car. Yes, I have the message that you left with the hall-boy. Come up here and pick me up, and we'll ride right down to the Novella. Goodbye."
I had not stopped to ask questions and prolong the conversation, knowing as I did the fuming impatience of O'Connor. It was relief enough to know that Kennedy was located at last.
He was in the psychopathic ward with Barron, as I hurried in. The girl whom he had mentioned over the telephone was then quietly sleeping under the influence of an opiate, and they were discussing the case outside in the hall.
"What do you think of it yourself?" Barron was asking, nodding to me to join them. Then he added for my enlightenment: "I found this girl wandering bareheaded in the street. To tell the truth, I thought at first that she was intoxicated, but a good look showed me better than that. So I hustled the poor thing into my car and brought her here. All the way she kept crying over and over: 'Look, don't you see it? She's afire! Her lips shine—they shine, they shine.' I think the girl is demented and has had some hallucination."
"Too vivid for a hallucination," remarked Kennedy decisively. "It was too real to her. Even the opiate couldn't remove the picture, whatever it was, from her mind until you had given her almost enough to kill her, normally. No, that wasn't any hallucination. Now, Walter, I'm ready."
We found the Novella Beauty Parlour on the top floor of an office- building just off Fifth Avenue on a side street not far from Forty-second Street. A special elevator, elaborately fitted up, wafted us up with express speed. As the door opened we saw a vista of dull-green lattices, little gateways hung with roses, windows of diamond-paned glass get in white wood, rooms with little white enamelled manicure-tables and chairs, amber lights glowing with soft incandescence in deep bowers of fireproof tissue flowers. There was a delightful warmth about the place, and the seductive scents and delicate odours betokened the haunt of the twentieth- century Sybarite.
Both O'Connor and Leslie, strangely out of place in the enervating luxury of the now deserted beauty-parlour, were still waiting for Kennedy with a grim determination.
"A most peculiar thing," whispered O'Connor, dashing forward the moment the elevator door opened. "We can't seem to find a single cause for her death. The people up here say it was a suicide, but I never accept the theory of suicide unless there are undoubted proofs. So far there have been none in this case. There was no reason for it."
Seated in one of the large easy-chairs of the reception-room, in a corner with two of O'Connor's men standing watchfully near, was a man who was the embodiment of all that was nervous. He was alternately wringing his hands and rumpling his hair. Beside him was a middle-sized, middle-aged lady in a most amazing state of preservation, who evidently presided over the cosmetic mysteries beyond the male ken. She was so perfectly groomed that she looked as though her clothes were a mould into which she had literally been poured.
"Professor and Madame Millefleur—otherwise Miller,"—whispered O'Connor, noting Kennedy's questioning gaze and taking his arm to hurry him down a long, softly carpeted corridor, flanked on either side by little doors. "They run the shop. They say one of the girls just opened the door and found her dead."
Near the end, one of the doors stood open, and before it Dr. Leslie, who had preceded us, paused. He motioned to us to look in. It was a little dressing-room, containing a single white-enamelled bed, a dresser, and a mirror. But it was not the scant though elegant furniture that caused us to start back.
There under the dull half-light of the corridor lay a woman, most superbly formed. She was dark, and the thick masses of her hair, ready for the hairdresser, fell in a tangle over her beautifully chiselled features and full, rounded shoulders and neck. A scarlet bathrobe, loosened at the throat, actually accentuated rather than covered the voluptuous lines of her figure, down to the slender ankle which had been the beginning of her fortune as a danseuse.
Except for the marble pallor of her face it was difficult to believe that she was not sleeping. And yet there she was, the famous Blanche Blaisdell, dead—dead in the little dressing-room of the Novella Beauty Parlour, surrounded as in life by mystery and luxury.
We stood for several moments speechless, stupefied. At last O'Connor silently drew a letter from his pocket. It was written on the latest and most delicate of scented stationery.
"It was lying sealed on the dresser when we arrived," explained O'Connor, holding it so that we could not see the address. "I thought at first she had really committed suicide and that this was a note of explanation. But it is not. Listen. It is just a line or two. It reads: 'Am feeling better now, though that was a great party last night. Thanks for the newspaper puff which I have just read. It was very kind of you to get them to print it. Meet me at the same place and same time to-night. Your Blanche.' The note was not stamped, and was never sent. Perhaps she rang for a messenger. At any rate, she must have been dead before she could send it. But it was addressed to—Burke Collins."
"Burke Collins!" exclaimed Kennedy and I together in amazement.
He was one of the leading corporation lawyers in the country, director in a score of the largest companies, officer in half a dozen charities and social or ganisations, patron of art and opera. It seemed impossible, and I at least did not hesitate to say so. For answer O'Connor simply laid the letter and envelope down on the dresser.
It seemed to take some time to convince Kennedy. There it was in black and white, however, in Blanche Blaisdell's own vertical hand. Try to figure it out as I could, there seemed to be only one conclusion, and that was to accept it. What it was that interested him I did not know, but finally he bent down and sniffed, not at the scented letter, but at the covering on the dresser. When he raised his head I saw that he had not been looking at the letter at all, but at a spot on the cover near it.
"Sn-ff, sn-ff," he sniffed, thoughtfully closing his eyes as if considering something. "Yes—oil of turpentine."
Suddenly he opened his eyes, and the blank look of abstraction that had masked his face was broken through by a gleam of comprehension that I knew flashed the truth to him intuitively.
"Turn out that light in the corridor," he ordered quickly.
Dr. Leslie found and turned the switch. There we were alone, in the now weird little dressing-room, alone with that horribly lovely thing lying there cold and motionless on the little white bed.
Kennedy moved forward in the darkness. Gently, almost as if she were still the living, pulsing, sentient Blanche Blaisdell who had entranced thousands, he opened her mouth.
A cry from O'Connor, who was standing in front of me, followed. "What's that, those little spots on her tongue and throat? They glow. It is the corpse light!"
Surely enough, there were little luminous spots in her mouth. I had heard somewhere that there is a phosphorescence appearing during decay of organic substances which once gave rise to the ancient superstition of "corpse lights" and the will-o'-the-wisp. It was really due, I knew, to living bacteria. But there surely had been no time for such micro-organisms to develop, even in the almost tropic heat of the Novella. Could she have been poisoned by these phosphorescent bacilli? What was it—a strange new mouth- malady that had attacked this notorious adventuress and woman of luxury?
Leslie had flashed up the light again before Craig spoke. We were all watching him keenly.
"Phosphorus, phosphoric acid, or phosphoric salve," Craig said slowly, looking eagerly about the room as if in search of something that would explain it. He caught sight of the envelope still lying on the dresser. He picked it up, toyed with it, looked at the top where O'Connor had slit it, then deliberately tore the flap off the back where it had been glued in sealing the letter.
"Put the light out again," he asked.
Where the thin line of gum was on the back of the flap, in the darkness there glowed the same sort of brightness that we had seen in a speck here and there on Blanche Blaisdell's lips and in her mouth. The truth flashed over me. Some one had placed the stuff, whatever it was, on the flap of the envelope, knowing that she must touch her lips to it to seal it She had done so, and the deadly poison had entered her mouth.
As the light went up again Kennedy added: "Oil of turpentine removes traces of phosphorus, phosphoric acid, or phosphoric salve, which are insoluble in anything else except ether and absolute alcohol. Some one who knew that tried to eradicate them, but did not wholly succeed. O'Connor, see if you can find either phosphorus, the oil, or the salve anywhere in the shop."
Then as O'Connor and Leslie hurriedly disappeared he added to me: "Another of those strange coincidences, Walter. You remember the girl at the hospital? 'Look, don't you see it? She's afire. Her lips shine—they shine, they shine!'"
Kennedy was still looking carefully over the room. In a little wicker basket was a newspaper which was open at the page of theatrical news, and as I glanced quickly at it I saw a most laudatory paragraph about her.
Beneath the paper were some torn scraps. Kennedy picked them up and pieced them together. "Dearest Blanche," they read. "I hope you're feeling better after that dinner last night. Can you meet me to-night? Write me immediately. Collie."
He placed the scraps carefully in his wallet. There was nothing more to be done here apparently. As we passed down the corridor we could hear a man apparently raving in good English and bad French. It proved to be Millefleur—or Miller—and his raving was as overdone as that of a third-rate actor. Madame was trying to calm him.
"Henri, Henri, don't go on so," she was saying.
"A suicide—in the Novella. It will be in all the papers. We shall be ruined. Oh—oh!"
"Here, can that sob stuff," broke in one of O'Connor's officers. "You can tell it all when the chief takes you to headquarters, see?"
Certainly the man made no very favourable impression by his actions. There seemed to be much that was forced about them, that was more incriminating than a stolid silence would have been.
Between them Monsieur and Madame made out, however, to repeat to Kennedy their version of what had happened. It seemed that a note addressed to Miss Blaisdell had been left by some one on the desk in the reception-room. No one knew who left it, but one of the girls had picked it up and delivered it to her in her dressing- room. A moment later she rang her bell and called for one of the girls named Agnes, who was to dress her hair. Agnes was busy, and the actress asked her to get paper, a pen, and ink. At least it seemed that way, for Agnes got them for her. A few minutes later her bell rang again, and Agnes went down, apparently to tell her that she was now ready to dress her hair.
The next thing any one knew was a piercing shriek from the girl. She ran down the corridor, still shrieking, out into the reception-room and rushed into the elevator, which happened to be up at the time. That was the last they had seen of her. The other girls saw Miss Blaisdell lying dead, and a panic followed. The customers dressed quickly and fled, almost in panic. All was confusion. By that time a policeman had arrived, and soon after O'Connor and the coroner had come.
There was little use in cross-questioning the couple. They had evidently had time to agree on the story; that is, supposing it were not true. Only a scientific third degree could have shaken them, and such a thing was impossible just at that time.
From the line of Kennedy's questions I could see that he believed that there was a hiatus somewhere in their glib story, at least some point where some one had tried to eradicate the marks of the poison.
"Here it is. We found it," interrupted O'Connor, holding up in his excitement a bottle covered with black cloth to protect it from the light. "It was in the back of a cabinet in the operating-room, and it is marked 'Ether phosphore".' Another of oil of turpentine was on a shelf in another cabinet. Both seem to have been used lately, judging by the wetness of the bottoms of the glass stoppers."
"Ether phosphore, phosphorated ether," commented Kennedy, reading the label to himself. "A remedy from the French Codex, composed, if I remember rightly, of one part phosphorus and fifty parts sulphuric ether. Phosphorus is often given as a remedy for loss of nerve power, neuralgia, hysteria, and melancholia. In quantities from a fiftieth to a tenth or so of a grain free phosphorus is a renovator of nerve tissue and nerve force, a drug for intense and long-sustained anxiety of mind and protracted emotional excitement—in short, for fast living."
He uncorked the bottle, and we tasted the stuff. It was unpleasant and nauseous. "I don't see why it wasn't used in the form of pills. The liquid form of a few drops on gum arabic is hopelessly antiquated."
The elevator door opened with a clang, and a well-built, athletic looking man of middle age with an acquired youngish look about his clothes and clean-shaven face stepped out. His face was pale, and his hand shook with emotion that showed that something had unstrung his usually cast-iron nerves. I recognised Burke Collins at once.
In spite of his nervousness he strode forward with the air of a man accustomed to being obeyed, to having everything done for him merely because he, Burke Collins, could afford to pay for it and it was his right. He seemed to know whom he was seeking, for he immediately singled out O'Connor.
"This is terrible, terrible," he whispered hoarsely. "No, no, no, I don't want to see her. I can't, not yet. You know I thought the world of that poor little girl. Only," and here the innate selfishness of the man cropped out, "only I called to ask you that nothing of my connection with her be given out. You understand? Spare nothing to get at the truth. Employ the best men you have. Get outside help if necessary. I'll pay for anything, anything. Perhaps I can use some influence for you some day, too. But, you understand—the scandal, you know. Not a word to the newspapers."
At another time I feel sure that O'Connor would have succumbed. Collins was not without a great deal of political influence, and even a first deputy may be "broke" by a man with influence. But now here was Kennedy, and he wished to appear in the best light.
He looked at Craig. "Let me introduce Professor Kennedy," he said. "I've already called him in."
"Very happy to have the pleasure of meeting you," said Collins, grasping Kennedy's hand warmly. "I hope you will take me as your client in this case. I'll pay handsomely. I've always had a great admiration for your work, and I've heard a great deal about it."
Kennedy is, if anything, as impervious to blandishment as a stone, as the Blarney Stone is itself, for instance. "On one condition," he replied slowly, "and that is that I go ahead exactly as if I were employed by the city itself to get at the truth."
Collins bit his lip. It was evident that he was not accustomed to being met in this independent spirit. "Very well," he answered at last. "O'Connor has called you in. Work for him and—well, you know, if you need anything just draw on me for it. Only if you can, keep me out of it. I'll tell everything I can to help you— but not to the newspapers."
He beckoned us outside. "Those people in there," he nodded his head back in the direction of the Millefleurs, "do you suspect them? By George, it does look badly for them, doesn't it, when you come to think of it? Well, now, you see, I'm frank and confidential about my relations with Blan—er—Miss Blaisdell. I was at a big dinner with her last night with a party of friends. I suppose she came here to get straightened out. I hadn't been able to get her on the wire to-day, but at the theatre when I called up they told me what had happened, and I came right over here. Now please remember, do everything, anything but create a scandal. You realise what that would mean for me."
Kennedy said nothing. He simply laid down on the desk, piece by piece, the torn letter which he had picked up from the basket, and beside it he spread out the reply which Blanche had written.
"What?" gasped Collins as he read the torn letter. "I send that? Why, man alive, you're crazy. Didn't I just tell you I hadn't heard from her until I called up the theatre just now?"
I could not make out whether he was lying or not when he said that he had not sent the note. Kennedy picked up a pen. "Please write the same thing as you read in the note on this sheet of the Novella paper. It will be all right. You have plenty of witnesses to that."
It must have irked Collins even to have his word doubted, but Kennedy was no respecter of persons. He took the pen and wrote.
"I'll keep your name out of it as much as possible," remarked Kennedy, glancing intently at the writing and blotting it.
"Thank you," said Collins simply, for once in his life at a loss for words. Once more he whispered to O'Connor, then he excused himself. The man was so obviously sincere, I felt, as far as his selfish and sensual limitations would permit, that I would not have blamed Kennedy for giving him much more encouragement than he had given.
Kennedy was not through yet, and now turned quickly again to the cosmetic arcadia which had been so rudely stirred by the tragedy.
"Who is this girl Agnes who discovered Miss Blaisdell?" he shot out at the Millefleurs.
The beauty-doctor was now really painful in his excitement. Like his establishment, even his feelings were artificial.
"Agnes?" he repeated. "Why, she was one of Madame's best hair- dressers. See—my dear—show the gentlemen the book of engagements."
It was a large book full of girls' names, each an expert in curls, puffs, "reinforcements," hygienic rolls, transformators, and the numberless other things that made the fearful and wonderful hair- dresses of the day. Agnes's dates were full, for a day ahead.
Kennedy ran his eye over the list of patrons. "Mrs. Burke Collins, 3:30," he read. "Was she a patron, too?"
"Oh, yes," answered Madame. "She used to come here three times a week. It was not vanity. We all knew her, and we all liked her."
Instantly I could read between the lines, and I felt that I had been too charitable to Burke Collins. Here was the wife slaving to secure that beauty which would win back the man with whom she had worked and toiled in the years before they came to New York and success. The "other woman" came here, too, but for a very different reason.
Nothing but business seemed to impress Millefleur, however. "Oh, yes," he volunteered, "we have a fine class. Among my own patients I have Hugh Dayton, the actor, you know, leading man in Blanche Blaisdell's company. He is having his hair restored. Why, I gave him a treatment this afternoon. If ever there is a crazy man, it is he. I believe he would kill Mr. Collins for the way Blanche Blaisdell treats him. They were engaged—but, oh, well," he gave a very good imitation of a French shrug, "it is all over now. Neither of them will get her, and I—I am ruined. Who will come to the Novella now?"
Adjoining Millefleur's own room was the writing room from which the poisoned envelope had been taken to Miss Blaisdell. Over the little secretary was the sign, "No woman need be plain who will visit the Novella," evidently the motto of the place. The hair- dressing room was next to the little writing-room. There were manicure rooms, steam-rooms, massage-rooms, rooms of all descriptions, all bearing mute testimony to the fundamental instinct, the feminine longing for personal beauty.
Though it was late when Kennedy had finished his investigation, he insisted on going directly to his laboratory. There he pulled out from a corner a sort of little square table on which was fixed a powerful light such as might be used for a stereopticon.
"This is a simple little machine," he explained, as be pasted together the torn bits of the letter which he had fished out of the scrap-basket, "which detectives use in studying forgeries. I don't know that it has a name, although it might be called a 'rayograph.' You see, all you have to do is to lay the thing you wish to study flat here, and the system of mirrors and lenses reflects it and enlarges it on a sheet."
He had lowered a rolled-up sheet of white at the opposite end of the room, and there, in huge characters, stood forth plainly the writing of the note.
"This letter," he resumed, studying the enlargement carefully, "is likely to prove crucial. It's very queer. Collins says he didn't write it, and if he did he surely is a wonder at disguising his hand. I doubt if any one could disguise what the rayograph shows. Now, for instance, this is very important. Do you see how those strokes of the long letters are—well, wobbly? You'd never see that in the original, but when it is enlarged you see how plainly visible the tremors of the hand become? Try as you may, you can't conceal them. The fact is that the writer of this note suffered from a form of heart disease. Now let us look at the copy that Collins made at the Novella."
He placed the copy on the table of the rayograph. It was quite evident that the two had been written by entirely different persons. "I thought he was telling the truth," commented Craig, "by the surprised look on his face the moment I mentioned the note to Miss Blaisdell. Now I know he was. There is no such evidence of heart trouble in his writing as in the other. Of course that's all aside from what a study of the handwriting itself might disclose. They are not similar at all. But there is an important clue there. Find the writer of that note who has heart trouble, and we either have the murderer or some one close to the murderer."
I remembered the tremulousness of the little beauty-doctor, his third-rate artificial acting of fear for the reputation of the Novella, and I must confess I agreed with O'Connor and Collins that it looked black for him. At one time I had suspected Collins himself, but now I could see perfectly why he had not concealed his anxiety to hush up his connection with the case, while at the same time his instinct as a lawyer, and I had almost added, lover, told him that justice must be done. I saw at once how, accustomed as he was to weigh evidence, he had immediately seen the justification for O'Connor's arrest of the Millefleurs.
"More than that," added Kennedy, after examining the fibres of the paper under a microscope, "all these notes are written on the same kind of paper. That first torn note to Miss Blaisdell was written right in the Novella and left so as to seem to have been sent in from outside."
It was early the following morning when Kennedy roused me with the remark: "I think I'll go up to the hospital. Do you want to come along? We'll stop for Barron on the way. There is a little experiment I want to try on that girl up there."
When we arrived, the nurse in charge of the ward told us that her patient had passed a fairly good night, but that now that the influence of the drug had worn off she was again restless and still repeating the words that she had said over and over before. Nor had she been able to give any clearer account of herself. Apparently she had been alone in the city, for although there was a news item about her in the morning papers, so far no relative or friend had called to identify her.
Kennedy had placed himself directly before her, listening intently to her ravings. Suddenly he managed to fix her eye, as if by a sort of hypnotic influence.
"Agnes!" he called in a sharp tone.
The name seemed to arrest her fugitive attention. Before she could escape from his mental grasp again he added: "Your date-book is full. Aren't you going to the Novella this morning?"
The change in her was something wonderful to see. It was as though she had come out of a trance. She sat up in bed and gazed about blankly.
"Yes, yes, I must go," she cried as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Then she realised the strange surroundings and faces. "Where is my hat—wh-where am I? What has happened?"
"You are all right," soothed Kennedy gently. "Now rest. Try to forget everything for a little while, and you will be all right. You are among friends."
As Kennedy led us out she fell back, now physically exhausted, on the pillow.
"I told you, Barron," he whispered, "that there was more to this case than you imagined. Unwittingly you brought me a very important contribution to a case of which the papers are full this morning, the case of the murdered actress, Blanche Blaisdell."
THE BEAUTY SHOP
It was only after a few hours that Kennedy thought it wise to try to question the poor girl at the hospital. Her story was simple enough in itself, but it certainly complicated matters considerably without throwing much light on the case. She had been busy because her day was full, and she had yet to dress the hair of Miss Blaisdell for her play that night. Several times she had been interrupted by impatient messages from the actress in her little dressing-booth, and one of the girls had already demolished the previous hair-dressing in order to save time. Once Agnes had run down for a few seconds to reassure her that she would be through in time.
She had found the actress reading a newspaper, and when Kennedy questioned her she remembered seeing a note lying on the dresser. "Agnes," Miss Blaisdell had said, "will you go into the writing- room and bring me some paper, a pen, and ink? I don't want to go in there this way. There's a dear good girl." Agnes had gone, though it was decidedly no part of her duty as one of the highest paid employes of the Novella. But they all envied the popular actress, and were ready to do anything for her. The next thing she remembered was finishing the coiffure she was working on and going to Miss Blaisdell. There lay the beautiful actress. The light in the corridor had not been lighted yet, and it was dark. Her lips and mouth seemed literally to shine. Agnes called her, but she did not move; she touched her, but she was cold. Then she screamed and fled. That was the last she remembered.
"The little writing-room," reasoned Kennedy as we left the poor little hair-dresser quite exhausted by her narrative, "was next to the sanctum of Millefleur, where they found that bottle of ether phosphore and the oil of turpentine. Some one who knew of that note or perhaps wrote it must have reasoned that an answer would be written immediately. That person figured that the note would be the next thing written and that the top envelope of the pile would be used. That person knew of the deadly qualities of too much phosphorised ether, and painted the gummed flap of the envelope with several grains of it. The reasoning held good, for Agnes took the top envelope with its poisoned flap to Miss Blaisdell. No, there was no chance about that. It was all clever, quick reasoning."
"But," I objected, "how about the oil of turpentine?"
"Simply to remove the traces of the poison. I think you will see why that was attempted before we get through."
Kennedy would say no more, but I was content because I could see that he was now ready to put his theories, whatever they were, to the final test. He spent the rest of the day working at the hospital with Dr. Barron, adjusting a very delicate piece of apparatus down in a special room, in the basement. I saw it, but I had no idea what it was or what its use might be.
Close to the wall was a stereopticon which shot a beam of light through a tube to which I heard them refer as a galvanometer, about three feet distant. In front of this beam whirled a five- spindled wheel, governed by a chronometer which erred only a second a day. Between the poles of the galvanometer was stretched a slender thread of fused quartz plated with silver, only one one- thousandth of a millimetre in diameter, so tenuous that it could not be seen except in a bright light. It was a thread so slender that it might have been spun by a miscroscopic spider.
Three feet farther away was a camera with a moving film of sensitised material, the turning of which was regulated by a little flywheel. The beam of light focused on the thread in the galvanometer passed to the photographic film, intercepted only by the five spindles of the wheel, which turned once a second, thus marking the picture off into exact fifths of a second. The vibrations of the microscopic quartz thread were enormously magnified on the sensitive film by a lens and resulted in producing a long zig-zag, wavy line. The whole was shielded by a wooden hood which permitted no light, except the slender ray, to strike it. The film revolved slowly across the field, its speed regulated by the flywheel, and all moved by an electric motor.
I was quite surprised, then, when Kennedy told me that the final tests which he was arranging were not to be held at the hospital at all, but in his laboratory, the scene of so many of his scientific triumphs over the cleverest of criminals.
While he and Dr. Barren were still fussing with the machine he despatched me on the rather ticklish errand of gathering together all those who had been at the Novella at the time and might possibly prove important in the case.
My first visit was to Hugh Dayton, whom I found in his bachelor apartment on Madison Avenue, apparently waiting for me. One of O'Connor's men had already warned him that any attempt to evade putting in an appearance when he was wanted would be of no avail. He had been shadowed from the moment that it was learned that he was a patient of Millefleur's and had been at the Novella that fatal afternoon. He seemed to realise that escape was impossible. Dayton was one of those typical young fellows, tall, with sloping shoulders and a carefully acquired English manner, whom one sees in scores on Fifth Avenue late in the afternoon. His face, which on the stage was forceful and attractive, was not prepossessing at close range. Indeed it showed too evident marks of excesses, both physical and moral, and his hand was none too steady. Still, he was an interesting personality, if not engaging.
I was also charged with delivering a note to Burke Collins at his office. The purport of it was, I knew, a request couched in language that veiled a summons that Mrs. Collins was of great importance in getting at the truth, and that if he needed an excuse himself for being present it was suggested that he appear as protecting his wife's interests as a lawyer. Kennedy had added that I might tell him orally that he would pass over the scandal as lightly as possible and spare the feelings of both as much as he could. I was rather relieved when this mission was accomplished, for I had expected Collins to demur violently.
Those who gathered that night, sitting expectantly in the little armchairs which Kennedy's students used during his lectures, included nearly every one who could cast any light on what had happened at the Novella. Professor and Madame Millefleur were brought up from the house of detention, to which both O'Connor and Dr. Leslie had insisted that they be sent. Millefleur was still bewailing the fate of the Novella, and Madame had begun to show evidences of lack of the constant beautification which she was always preaching as of the utmost importance to her patrons. Agnes was so far recovered as to be able to be present, though I noticed that she avoided the Millefleurs and sat as far from them as possible.
Burke Collins and Mrs. Collins arrived together. I had expected that there would be an icy coolness if not positive enmity between them. They were not exactly cordial, though somehow I seemed to feel that now that the cause of estrangement was removed a tactful mutual friend might have brought about a reconciliation. Hugh Dayton swaggered in, his nervousness gone or at least controlled. I passed behind him once, and the odour that smote my olfactory sense told me too plainly that he had fortified himself with a stimulant on his way from the apartment to the laboratory. Of course O'Connor and Dr. Leslie were there, though in the background.
It was a silent gathering, and Kennedy did not attempt to relieve the tension even by small talk as he wrapped the forearms of each of us with cloths steeped in a solution of salt. Upon these cloths he placed little plates of German silver to which were attached wires which led back of a screen. At last he was ready to begin.
"The long history of science," he began as he emerged from behind the screen, "is filled with instances of phenomena, noted at first only for their beauty or mystery, which have been later proved to be of great practical value to mankind. A new example is the striking phenomenon of luminescence. Phosphorus, discovered centuries ago, was first merely a curiosity. Now it is used for many practical things, and one of the latest uses is as a medicine. It is a constituent of the body, and many doctors believe that the lack of it causes, and that its presence will cure, many ills. But it is a virulent and toxic drug, and no physician except one who knows his business thoroughly should presume to handle it. Whoever made a practice of using it at the Novella did not know his business, or he would have used it in pills instead of in the nauseous liquid. It is not with phosphorised ether as a medicine that we have to deal in this case. It is with the stuff as a poison, a poison administered by a demon."
Craig shot the word out so that it had its full effect on his little audience. Then he paused, lowered his voice, and resumed on a new subject.
"Up in the Washington Heights Hospital," he went on, "is an apparatus which records the secrets of the human heart. That is no figure of speech, but a cold scientific fact. This machine records every variation of the pulsations of the heart with such exquisite accuracy that it gives Dr. Barron, who is up there now, not merely a diagram of the throbbing organ of each of you seated here in my laboratory a mile away, but a sort of moving-picture of the emotions by which each heart here is swayed. Not only can Dr. Barron diagnose disease, but he can detect love, hate, fear, joy, anger, and remorse. This machine is known as the Einthoven 'string galvanometer,' invented by that famous Dutch physiologist of Leyden."
There was a perceptible movement in our little audience at the thought that the little wires that ran back of the screen from the arms of each were connected with this uncanny instrument so far away.
"It is all done by the electric current that the heart itself generates," pursued Kennedy, hammering home the new and startling idea. "That current is one of the feeblest known to science, for the dynamo that generates it is no ponderous thing of copper wire and steel castings. It is just the heart itself. The heart sends over the wire its own telltale record to the machine which registers it. The thing takes us all the way back to Galvani, who was the first to observe and study animal electricity. The heart makes only one three-thousandth of a volt of electricity at each beat. It would take over two hundred thousand men to light one of these incandescent lamps, two million or more to run a trolley- car. Yet just that slight little current is enough to sway the gossamer strand of quartz fibre up there at what we call the 'heart station.' So fine is this machine that the pulse-tracings produced by the sphygmograph, which I have used in other cases up to this time, are clumsy and inexact."
Again he paused as if to let the fear of discovery sink deep into the minds of all of us.
"This current, as I have said, passes from each one of you in turn over a wire and vibrates a fine quartz fibre up there in unison with each heart here. It is one of the most delicate bits of mechanism ever made, beside which the hairspring of a watch is coarse. Each of you in turn, is being subjected to this test. More than that, the record up there shows not only the beats of the heart but the successive waves of emotion that vary the form of those beats. Every normal individual gives what we call an 'electro-cardiogram,' which follows a certain type. The photographic film on which this is being recorded is ruled so that at the heart station Dr. Barron can read it. There are five waves to each heart-beat, which he letters P, Q, R, S, and T, two below and three above a base line on the film. They have all been found to represent a contraction of a certain portion of the heart. Any change of the height, width, or time of any one of those lines shows that there is some defect or change in the contraction of that part of the heart. Thus Dr. Barron, who has studied this thing carefully, can tell infallibly not only disease but emotion."
It seemed as if no one dared look at his neighbour, as if all were trying vainly to control the beating of their own hearts.
"Now," concluded Kennedy solemnly as if to force the last secret from the wildly beating heart of some one in the room, "it is my belief that the person who had access to the operating-room of the Novella was a person whose nerves were run down, and in addition to any other treatment that person was familiar with the ether phosphore. This person knew Miss Blaisdell well, saw her there, knew she was there for the purpose of frustrating that person's own dearest hopes. That person wrote her the note, and knowing that she would ask for paper and an envelope in order to answer it, poisoned the flap of the envelope. Phosphorus is a remedy for hysteria, vexatious emotions, want of sympathy, disappointed and concealed affections—but not in the quantities that this person lavished on that flap. Whoever it was, not life, but death, and a ghastly death, was uppermost in that person's thoughts."
Agnes screamed. "I saw him take something and rub it on her lips, and the brightness went away. I—I didn't mean to tell, but, God help me, I must."
"Saw whom?" demanded Kennedy, fixing her eye as he had when he had called her back from aphasia.
"Him—Millefleur—Miller," she sobbed, shrinking back as if the very confession appalled her.
"Yes," added Kennedy coolly, "Miller did try to remove the traces of the poison after he discovered it, in order to protect himself and the reputation of the Novella."
The telephone bell tinkled. Craig seized the receiver.
"Yes, Barron, this is Kennedy. You received the impulses all right? Good. And have you had time to study the records? Yes? What's that? Number seven? All right. I'll see you very soon and go over the records again with you. Good-bye."
"One word more," he continued, now facing us. "The normal heart traces its throbs in regular rhythm. The diseased or overwrought heart throbs in degrees of irregularity that vary according to the trouble that affects it, both organic and emotional. The expert like Barron can tell what each wave means, just as he can tell what the lines in a spectrum mean. He can see the invisible, hear the inaudible, feel the intangible, with mathematical precision. Barron has now read the electro-cardiograms. Each is a picture of the beating of the heart that made it, and each smallest variation has a meaning to him. Every passion, every emotion, every disease, is recorded with inexorable truth. The person with murder in his heart cannot hide it from the string galvanometer, nor can that person who wrote the false note in which the very lines of the letters betray a diseased heart hide that disease. The doctor tells me that that person was number—"
Mrs. Collins had risen wildly and was standing before us with blazing eyes. "Yes," she cried, pressing her hands on her breast as if it were about to burst and tell the secret before her lips could frame the words, "yes, I killed her, and I would follow her to the end of the earth if I had not succeeded. She was there, the woman who had stolen from me what was more than life itself. Yes, I wrote the note, I poisoned the envelope. I killed her."
All the intense hatred that she had felt for that other woman in the days that she had vainly striven to equal her in beauty and win back her husband's love broke forth. She was wonderful, magnificent, in her fury. She was passion personified; she was fate, retribution.
Collins looked at his wife, and even he felt the spell. It was not crime that she had done; it was elemental justice.
For a moment she stood, silent, facing Kennedy. Then the colour slowly faded from her cheeks. She reeled.
Colling caught her and imprinted a kiss, the kiss that for years she had longed and striven for again. She looked rather than spoke forgiveness as he held her and showered them on her.
"Before Heaven," I heard him whisper into her ear, "with all my power as a lawyer I will free you from this."
Gently Dr. Leslie pushed him aside and felt her pulse as she dropped limply into the only easy chair in the laboratory.
"O'Connor," he said at length, "all the evidence that we really have hangs on an invisible thread of quartz a mile away. If Professor Kennedy agrees, let us forget what has happened here to- night. I will direct my jury to bring in a verdict of suicide. Collins, take good care of her." He leaned over and whispered so she could not hear. "I wouldn't promise her six weeks otherwise."
I could not help feeling deeply moved as the newly reunited Collinses left the laboratory together. Even the bluff deputy, O'Connor, was touched by it and under the circumstances did what seemed to him his higher duty with a tact of which I had believed him scarcely capable. Whatever the ethics of the case, he left it entirely to Dr. Leslie's coroner's jury to determine.
Burke Collins was already making hasty preparations for the care of his wife so that she might have the best medical attention to prolong her life for the few weeks or months before nature exacted the penalty which was denied the law.