The Golden Scarab
HERBERT HOPKINS MOORHOUSE
PULSES beating wildly, Addison Kent-watched the movement of the pencil in the girl’s hand. So intent were the two in the room on the sketch she was drawing that he began to wonder again if he could raise the window without being detected. But, no, the big man was turning toward him. Any further move would be fatal.
What were they talking about so earnestly? That one exclamation “Alceste!”—what did that mean? What did these people know about that old enemy of his?—There was only one “Alceste”—one who had borne that dread name in the underworld—and now he was dead and buried! But “his evil lives after him” poor Caron had warned and—could it be that this girl, this man, were connected in some way with the theft of the golden scarab? The girl had been on the scene during the storm! He felt sure he was not mistaken in her identity. And this brutal hulk of a man—what if he, too, had been there? The man he had glimpsed on the garden wall had been big, at least. Was it possible that the clue to the whole thing was inside this room—within ten feet of him?
Little did Addison Kent realize what perils lay before him as he watched the room from which a moment before had come the dread word “Alceste”
that real self was—” He looked at her appealingly.
“I introduced myself when I saw you last. I am Miss Rockwood—” She paused at his look of disappointment. He waa shaking his head reproachfully.
“Not ‘of the Mercury,' please! You see, Pulver—the managing-editor of that reliable paper—is a very old friend of mine, Miss Rockwood!”
“How interesting!” Her brows arched with polite attention.
“He denied all knowledge of you!” continued Kent regretfully.
She looked at him steadily for a moment, then shrugged her shoulders.
“It seems too bad to have a good story spoiled like that, does it not?”
“Yes? But there are always others to telL I am wondering what new one you are going to tell me now!”
“What do you mean, exactly?”
“Surely you need not quibble with me. Miss Rockwood! You know to what I refer
The thought set his pulses hammering and parched his throat. Breathlessly he watched—noted the extreme interest with which the fellow was following the movements of the pencil in the girl’s hand—noted the forgotten wallet, pressed by the left hand against his thigh, gradually tilting as he leaned farther forward across the table—saw the bit of paper that slipped out and fluttered to the floor beneath the table.
“Good! That’s enough, mademoiselle. I believe you now!”
It came boomingly in excellent French with a slight German accent. The big man and the girl were both laughing— with relief, Kent fancied, in the case of the girl. Her companion’s laugh was entirely one of comradeship as he shook hands heartily, picked up his hat and stepped towards the door. He made an elaborate bow over her hand, which she permitted him to raise to his lips.
He was gone. Kent sat back and considered. Should he hurry down and follow the man or should he wait and get that piece of forgotten paper under the table?" Likely the fellow would be gone by the time he got down and around to the front of the building. He looked under the blind again; the girl was yawning and reaching for the light switch. The light in the sitting-room went out and a moment later came on in the adjoining bedroom.. He got a glimpse of her passing into the bathroom beyond and the door closed behind her.
That decided him. The opportunity was too good to miss—if only the window catch were not fastened? He
pushed at it gently and firmly and thrilled as he felt it give. His fingers were soon under the bottom of the window and very quietly and carefully he raised it. After a hasty survey he put one leg over the sill and in a moment was standing in the room.
On hands and knees he crossed the intervening space to the table and his groping fingers soon located the fragment of paper. He thrust it into his pocket and rose to his feet.
“Don’t move!—except as I tell you! Up with your hands! Quick!” The snap of the electric switch was followed by a flood of light. “Now, you may turn around!” Addison Kent slowly turned, his hands above his head. The girl, tense and cool, was standing within a few feet of him. In her hand was an automatic, pointed steadily, straight at him!
“TTOW do you do, Miss Rockwood?” Kent grinned at IT her cheerfully. “We appear to be constantly meeting, ‘face to face’ as they say in the novels!”
“You followed me, then?”
“I thought I had got rid of you—”
He smiled as she lowered the automatic and restored it to its holster, slung under her arm, inside her waist. Slowly his arms came down from their elevation.
“I can not tell you how anxious I have been to meet you again, Miss Rockwood.”
She eyed him coldly.
“You seem to be very sure of yourself, Mr. Kent.” “May I return the compliment, Miss Rockwood—at least, I hope it is a compliment. I am glad to see that you do not deny your identity.”
“Why should I?”
“Your role this time is so—so different,” he suggested. “So is yours, Mr. Kent—entering a girl’s room through the window! Excuse me while I wash this stuff off my face.”
Before he could think of anything to say, she had calmly turned her back upon him and walked into the bathroom, deliberately closing the door behind her. He sat down on the nearest chair, twiddling his thumbs, his eyes crinkling with appreciation of her equanimity Then he remembered that he was in his stocking feet, repossessed himself of his boots and put them op. She rejoined him presently with the thick rouge no longer disfiguring her cheeks. . . • ** \ - . '• •-
“Am I looking more like my real self now?” She turned her glorious eyes upon him; but there was no coquetry in their depths—only a patient boredom.
“Decidedly,” he approved. “Now, if I only knew who
—your running away from me this evening, your make-up, the man in your room!” “You seem to be taking a lively interest in me, Mr. Kent!” she retorted with analytical eyes.
“I do, indeed!” He spoke with an intensity that surprised himself.
“I am afraid I am not going to tell you much. There is not a great deal to tell.”
“Oh, but I wish you would, Miss Rockwood!” he urged impulsively. “I really want to believe in you— very much.”
SHE glanced up quickly at his earnestness and as she studied his serious face—handsome in spite of the smudge on one cheek, so artfully placed to fit the clothes he wore—she dropped her long lashes suddenly and colored.
‘ What is it you wish to know?” she asked.
“Who was that man who just left this room?”
“If you were listening at the window, Mr. Kent—as I have no doubt you were—you heard nothing, at least, that would suggest any interest on my part in the man— other than in a business way.”
“I saw him meet you on the street. I did not like his looks. He seemed to be a rough specimen, Miss Rockwood. I did climb the fire-escape, as you intimate. I felt that I might be of service to you.”
“So kind of you!” she murmured. “If you heard all that was said it will not be necessary for me to tell you so much.” She smiled at him innocently.
“Unfortunately, I heard very little. The window was closed.” He stopped short, realizing the blunder of his admission even as he spoke.
“All I can tell you about the man, Mr. Kent, is that he is a danger to someone I love—”
“Another man?” It was blurted out before he thought. He metaphorically kicked himself!
“Yes.” Then she added quickly: “But do not misunderstand me, Mr. Kent. I have no time for love affairs.”
Kent realized all at once that his intense question and his feeling of relief at her reply indicated a susceptibility that was both strange and disconcerting. He took himself in hand sharply and cleared his throat authoritatively.
“I have no desire nor any right to pry into your personal affairs; but there are some things which I want you to clear up for your own good.”
“Yes? What are these things you wish to know?”
Kent took a breath and ticked them off on his fingers as he enumerated.
“I want to know all about that man who just left you— who he is, what he does for a living, if anything, and so on. I want to know why you meet him so secretly and go to such pains to throw me, your sincere friend, off your
track to-night. I want to know why I find you masquerading like a cheap actress and frequenting a place like the Belgique. I want to know if you ran away from us at Westchester because you were afraid of the police—!
“Understand, I am your friend, trying to help you. I want to know why you passed yourself off as a newspaper woman in order to call at the Lamont residence-—what the object of that early morning visit really was. I want to know what you were doing there, even earlier that same morning—in the middle of that terrific electric storm when you looked in at me through the glass doors of the library—at nineteen minutes past three a.m., to be exact. It is important that you explain your actions that night in some detail, Miss Rockwood; as you know, there was a murder committed and a very valuable gem stolen. If I am to help you I must have your full confidence; otherwise, the situation is liable to become very awkward for you.
“You note that I am not accusing you of being connected in any way with what took place that night at the Lamont residence; I am hoping for an explanation most earnestly, Miss Rockwood—one that will satisfy the authorities. At the same time, you must admit that your actions to-night scarcely remove you from suspicion; that is why I must have a complete answer to all my questions regarding this man who was with you. While I did not hear all of your conversation with him, I did overhear enough to require explanation; it is better that you make that explanation here and now to me, as a friend, than to make it under other circumstances which might not be so —well, let us say, comfortable.”
“You would hand me over to the police?”
THROUGH it all she had sat quite silent, listening to the arraignment with a faint smile; but the smile was gone as she asked this sudden question, reading his face intently.
He shook his head.
“That is something which need not be discussed, Miss Rockwood. For one thing, you are much too sensible to force an issue when the way out is so simple.”
“Simple!” She laughed shortly.
‘Yes—the simple truth,” he urged gravely.
“Is there anything that you have left off your list of questions, Mr. Kent? Please make it complete, so that I will know exactly what ground you want covered ”
“Yes, there is another item—a big one. I heard a name mentioned in this room by your visitor—a name that stands for everything that is bad—the name of a notorious criminal, known to the police of Europe as well as America. I refer to ‘Alceste’! I want to know how that name came into your conversation. What do you know about ‘Alceste’? You imply that you were having a business interview with this man here in your room. I want to know why you brought the name of ‘Alcente’ into it. I want to know exactly what either or both of you have to do with —the Order of the Golden Scarabl”
The novelist leaned forward as he spoke, his keen eyes seeking penetration of her expression. Slowly and with significant emphasis he enunciated the last six words. But she looked back at him blankly, a little frown of puzzlement on her brow. The words apparently meant nothing to her.
“Are you trying—to frighten me, Mr. Kent?” A smile started uncertainly at the corners of her pretty mouth, then dodged back again. “You are so terribly solemn!” He reached impulsively for her hand and she suffered him to pat it reassuringly.
“Pardon me if I seem too serious, Miss Rockwood; but it is a very serious situation for me as well as you and I want you to clear it all up for me. Do not be afraid to confide in me fully; I really do want to be your friend.” She gave a breath of relief and smiled at him brightly. “Very well; but it is such a long list of things—! It is going to take much longer than I thought.” She glanced down at her exceptionally short skirt and looked at him
with a delightful twinkle in her eyes. “You will be good enough to excuse me for a few moments while I get into some decent clothes, Mr. Kent? Then if you would let me make you a cup of tea—?”
He thrilled with the allure of her.
“Delighted!” he smiled back at her, and at once she left the room. “Great!” he exulted to himself as the door of the bedroom closed.
Everything was going to be all right, he felt sure, and was conscious of a pronounced feeling of relief. No girl who was guilty could behave as she was behaving. There would be an adequate explanation of all the mystery that had surrounded her in his mind. Malabar had been right in his blind loyalty to her. “Charming!” he had said. She was—and more!
“If Dick could only see me now!” he chuckled. “Well, it’s my turn!”
Then he gazed in sudden dismay at his grimy hands and eyed his spotted, wrinkled clothes with distaste. He straightened his dirty collar and his threadbare green tie, brushed futile fingers down his soiled trousers and decided that when she came out he would ask her if he might wash.
HIS eyes took in the sitting-room, every detail of it;
but he was not impressed. The pictures on the wall were cheap prints; the furnishings, while adequate, had a used look and the room somehow seemed severe. It lacked those little feminine touches which he would have associated with the apartment of a girl like Miss Rockwood. If this were her home—
He impatiently dismissed the thought that obtruded. It was true that this place seemed to fit the character she had been playing that night, rather than the well dressed, perfectly poised “Miss Rockwood” who had paid the early morning call out in Westchester. It was hardly likely that she would have two homes! It w'as hardly likely—
He fidgeted in his chair and cleared his throat loudly. He wished she would hurry. Women were so confoundedly fussy about their clothes and how they looked! If all the hours they spent in front of a mirror, preening and fooling around—!
A glance at his watch apprized him that fully twenty minutes had gone by. He got up at last and tapped diffidently on the bedroom door. There was no response. He tapped again, louder.
“Miss Rockwood!” he called. No answer. “Oh, Miss Rockwood!”—louder this time. Still no reply.
He wondered for a moment if she had fainted or anything like that. He listened; but could hear no sound of running water nor any movement beyond the door! It was then that Addison Kent began to realize the truth. After another loud knock on the door, he turned the knob and opened it, calling out to her as he did so.
He swung the door wide. The bedroom was empty. He strode across to the bathroom door and rapped on it sharply. Not a sound! He opened it, then. The bathroom was empty! He looked in the clothes-closet; not a stitch of wardrobe! It was empty!
A door at the end of the bedroom caught his eye and he made for it. When he opened it he found himself looking out into a corridor. He could see the elevator shaft at the far end.
“Well, I’ll be damned!” He snapped his fingers in annoyance.
He went back to the sitting-room for his cap, let himself out of the apartment and made for the elevator. The manager of the building had quarters on the ground floor and was much surprised to find himself being questioned very fully in a voice of authority, backed up by a police badge.
“The apartment was rented yesterday by a young woman—a Miss Rockwood, of—of—”
“Of the Mercury?” Kent smiled grimly.
“That’s it! She said she was a newspaper reporter. Yes, the Mercury; I remember now. She rented that furnished apartment for just one night and as it was vacant—”
“What? For just one night?”
“Yes. But she had to pay something to get it,” assured the manager, wagging his head sagely. “We aint givin’ nothin’ away here! Nor we aint trustin’ nobody!”
“You are an exceedingly wise man,” commended Kent.
CHAPTER XV. •
THE young man in the greasy cap who slouched off down the street exhibited no outward sign of the fires of resentment which smoldered within him. If there was a hint of hardness about the set lines of his mouth, it was no more than the usual handwriting of Poverty’s private secretary, 111 Luck. He turned into the first decentlooking restaurant he came to and ordered a full-sized steak; when it was placed before him he attacked it with the relish of hunger.
As he ate, the novelist’s mind was busy with the scenes through which he had just passed—the uncouth man, the refined girl; above all, with Alceste. What did this strangely assorted pair know about that clever crook who, upon another occasion, so nearly had written “Finis” to the career of Addison Kent? The introduction of his name into their conversation held some significance, if he but had the wit to grasp it.
Yet Alceste was dead, officially and completely—and buried! Scotland Yard had said so and Scotland Yard did not make many mistakes. The New York police had welcomed the news. So had the police of Europe, no doubt. There had been an exchange of congratulatory telegrams. Kent had accepted it without question. Only his friend, Armaund Lamont, the wealthy Fifth Avenue jewel expert, had shaken his big head doubtfully.
What was it Lamont had said one time about this unique cracksman?—“He is here—there—nowhere! Jewels, rarest of gems, always the precious stones that he takes and nothing else! He knows the fine ones—always the very finest he takes. The police run after him like hens after food. But he is always—gone! He has wings! He sinks under water! He buries himself in the earth! He strikes, disappears, is dead, forgotten; then when least expected—Voilai he is alive, takes what he wants and is gone again! He is le diable!”
They had smiled at the excited Frenchman at the time, Kent remembered; but the subsequent events had been far from a smiling matter. Dead and forgotten, then alive again when least expected! Was it possible'—? Kent shook his head in smiling skepticism as he lingered over his coffee and ashed his cigarette on the edge of the saucer. Yet, if such an unheard of thing could be true— if Alceste by some necromancy, should prove to be alive and here in New York—! Then indeed would the situation become suddenly fraught with unimaginable dangers to everybody concerned but particularly to one named Addison Kent, his sworn enemy!
The novelist sat for a while, head bent, absorbed in these speculations. When he looked up he was startled to see a man, wearing dark-colored glasses, gazing in at him through the restaurant windew. Impelled by some-
thing—a flash of something untoward—a flicker of subconscious warning—Kent half rose from his chair and reached for his cap.
At his first motion the man was gone and the author sat down again, feeling foolish. Was the mere thinking about Alceste enough to raise visions? Surely he had not got to that point—seeing things! Some hungry loafer, attracted by the food displayed in the window! He had come along just as Kent had decided that, supposing Alceste could reappear in New York, he would have to wear smoked glasses to hide those tell-tale eyes of his; the operation Dr. MacMurrough had performed upon them would make it doubly necessary now for Alceste— if he were alive—to conceal his eyes. No wonder those dark glasses on the loafer at the window had startled Kent for the moment!
Laughing at himself, he felt in his pocket for a match and his fingers came in contact with the three bits of paper he had picked up from beneath the table where he had seen them slip from the big man’s wallet back in the apartment. The girl had not noticed them or she would have questioned him. With a gleam of interest he now smoothed them out on the table. All were irregularly torn scraps of print—two from a newspaper and one on the better grade of paper used by illustrated magazines. The two newsprint fragments he laid to one side after a brief glance—one a patent medicine advertisement; the other a typical sporting-page report of a boxing bout.
The tearing from the magazine page was more interesting. It was evidently taken from an article upon aviation and this paragraph explained that flyers doing stunt flying keep their eyes fixed in the cockpit or on some designated point in order not to be confused by the revolving landscape.
“Three blanks—a bad draw!” muttered Kent resignedly as he idly turned it over and began to read what was on the other side.
He leaned suddenly forward, reading eagerly, and a thrill shot through him. He brought his fist down on the table with a thump that made the dishes jump. He felt the texture of the paper between thumb and forefinger.
“S.C. Book—80 lb. stock,” he appraised. He studied the type face. “There’s an article I must find and read.”
He shoved from the table. At the door he paid his check and departed without waiting for change. Outside he hailed the first taxi he saw.
ALL the way back to Pomereski’s he sat lost in thought.
He scarcely spoke to the Pole as he changed into his own clothes. He took the Third Avenue elevated and was roared northward through the city. At Minaki Annex Mrs. Madden, his housekeeper, heard him unlocking the door of his apartment and came across the hall from her own quarters, following him in.
“There was a gentleman called to see you this evening, Mr. Kent. He seemed very disappointed you were not here and wanted to be let in to wait for you—”
“You know the rule, Mrs. Madden.”
“I do, sir. I did not let him in, of course. I told him I did not expect you to return for some time.”
“Did he leave his name?”
“No, he would not do that—said he wanted to surprise you as he was an old friend of yours and happened to be in town—”
“An old friend? Where from?”
“That he did not say. He would give me no information about himself. He said he would call again sometime.”
“What did he look like, Mrs. Madden? Can you describe him?”
“Well, the only thing that made him any different from ordinary was his glasses. His clothes were neat and well pressed. He was wearing dark-colored glasses as if he had something the matter with his eyes.”
“Dark glasses!” echoed Kent with interest.
“Yes. I couldn’t make much of his face on account of them and the light being kind o’ dim in the hall—I put the mail on your desk, sir, as usual.”
“Thanks—and Mrs. Madden!” She turned at the doorway. “On no account whatsoever are you to let anyone into this apartment during my absence. Yes, I know that and I am not finding fault, of course. I merely want to impress it on you that just now particularly it is vital to adhere to that rule. Don’t open this door for anybody —not even for the police or the President of the United States!”
“Yes, sir, I understand. Is there anything I can do for you, sir? You have dined, of course?”
“Yes. No, there is nothing, Mrs. Madden, thanks— except to see that I am not disturbed for an hour or so.” He toyed with the paper-knife on his desk for a few moments after the door closed. Dark glasses again!—an old friend—from out of town—who could it be? Impatiently he called Inspector Lowry on the private wire which connected the apartment with Police Headquarters.
"Jim, this is Kent talking. Jerry’s expecting me to show up at the Belgique to-night; but I find I can’t make it. Tell him to keep an eye open for a big German—blond, beefy, wen on the forehead—a little lump. Have him
brought in without fail, if he’s there. I’ll stand behind whatever charge Donovan lays. Tell him it’s important. I’ll explain when I see you.
“And, Jim, listen. Have your file clerk turn up that Alceste dossier—right now please; I’ll hold the wire. Run through the last of the Scotland Yard correspondence and let me know if there is any mention of the measurements of that man they buried as Alceste—his height and so on. Eh? No, I haven’t gone crazy! Never mind, I want to know.”
As he waited with the receiver to his ear, Kent tried to recall the announcement of Superintendent Brownlee, of Scotland Yard, concerning the death of Alceste. With the police of several countries co-operating to capture him, this notorious cracksman had had the temerity to revisit England. He had been cornered at last in a lonely cottage on the edge of a moor and, when escape proved impossible, he deliberately had set fire to the place and committed suicide. Upon his charred body the police had found such articles as his watch and a tin case containing various papers which identified him beyond question as the famous “Alceste” for whom they had sought so earnestly for a long time. A tame ending for all his cleverness, but the only sort of finish to the kind óf game he had played!—a brilliant mind, gone wrong! It had been, so patently, the thing that Alceste would do—commit suicide rather than be taken to stand trial—
“Hello! Yes? Not a thing, eh? No, it’s all right, Jim, thanks. That’s all just now. I’ll call up later after Donovan gets back. So long.”
Kent reached for the code book and proceeded to write out a cablegram to his old friend, Inspector Arthur Thompson, of Scotland Yard. His face was grave as he put in a call for a messenger.
THE next twenty minutes Kent spent searching through his files for magazine clippings which compared in paper and print with the particular bit of paper which was intriguing him. At length he slipped on his overcoat, picked up his hat and hurried out, knocking on his housekeeper’s door and handing her the cablegram for delivery to the messenger.
His destination now was the Lambs’ Club. As he expected at that hour, he found bis publisher, Charlie Baxter, in his favorite corner of the lounge. Baxter laid aside his newspaper and judiciously felt the fragment of paper which Kent placed in his fingers..
“I make it 70 lb. S.C., Charlie. What magazine would you say that was from? I think I know; but I want to be sure. Note the type face and the spelling of such words as ‘fixt’ and ‘prest’—Literary Digest, isn’t it?” “That’s what I’d say. Why all the excitement?” “No excitement. Everything calm and serene. Just want to read the article of which that’s a part.”
“Well, Cowan’s here somewhere. Why don’t you ask him? He might recall—”
“Hey, come back here! I want to talk shop a minute. We’ll have the proofs of that new jacket to-morrow—” “See you later, Charlie. Don’t hold me up just now.” Cowan was a member of the Digest editorial staff and Kent located him playing snooker pool. He tapped the bit of paper reflectively when the novelist had explained the situation.
“Can’t say offhand,’* he frowned. “We publish so many items about aviation in the course of a year and, for all you know, this may be out of a back number— away back. I don’t seem to remember—but that doesn’t signify. I’d say it was Digest print all right, but—leave it with me, Kent, and I’ll see what I can do to locate it in the morning—Or are you wanting it to-night? Have you tried to trace it through the Reader’s Guide at the library?”
Kent did not need to go to the reference library for a copy of the Reader’s Guide; he had one at home. But his own very comprehensive files would provide the shortest route to the information he sought; he did not pay clipping agencies for nothing, and now that he was sure of the magazine from which the item was torn, the search was narrowed. Under the subject of Aviation, with its various sub-classifications, there was a formidable array of folders which bulged with data.
He returned direct to Minaki Annex and settled down to the task of sorting and reading. Without the title of the article or the name of the author, it promised to be a weary search; but fortune favored him and it was only a little while before his eye encountered the actual paragraph which had aroused his interest. It was in the review of an article in the New York World by an Army Medical officer concerning the speed at w-hich human beings could fly through the air and live. As Kent read it carefully his elation grew.
“By the Lord Harry!” he ejaculated.
He reached for the telephone and, after a few moments' delay, got connection with the Lamont residence out in Westchester. Dick Malabar, however, had been out all evening and had not yet returned.
Kent grabbed his hat and coat, switched out the Continued on page 1,6
The Golden Scarab
Continued, from page 22
fights and for the second time that evening hurried away from his apartment.
AS THE result of a specially cabled request from Armaund Lamont in Switzerland, Addison Kent continued to live at the Lamont mansion in Westchester, although over two weeks had elapsed since the tragic happenings which had first taken him there. The residence of the wealthy jeweller was full of valuables and Kent could understand how disturbed Lamont must have been over the sudden death of his guest, Professor Caron, and the murder of his trusted servant, Mokra. He naturally would feel easier in his mind if he knew that a friend in whom he had utmost confidence was actually upon the premises until he returned home. There was no reason why Kent could not meet the request, and he had agreed, particularly as Dick Malabar seemed quite content to remain with him for company.
Nothing that would add to their comfort had been overlooked. Lamont’s office manager, Dunlop, had carte blanche instructions. Under Gaston’s skilled direction the cuisine was all that could be desired. He had promptly discharged Henri, his assistant, for incompetence, and had a new man in the kitchen. Dunlop had also hired a new butler, who seemed entirely competent, and altogether the menage was highly satisfactory.
When Richard Malabar returned late that night, however, he was not prepared to see the mansion bright with lights. There was evident activity in the kitchen quarters; the lights were on and he could see busy figures coming and going. Through the dining-room windows he saw with amazement that the butler had the table set with snowy linen and an array of silver and crystal; it could mean only one thing—a supper party. As he let himself in Malabar heard a strange pounding emanating from the library.
Overcoat still on and hat in hand, the journalist paused in the archway and looked into the room with increasing astonishment. The place was topsyturvy seemingly. The huge round library table that had stood in the centre was in three pieces; one of these had been backed against the far wall, another segment on the opposite side of the room, while in the middle—
“My word!” cried Malabar at last. “I say, Kent, what the devil are you up to?”
For Addison Kent, in his shirtsleeves, lay sprawled on the floor at full length— on his back with his head out of sight beneath the centre portion of the table. He hunched out from beneath this and looked up with a cheerful grin.
“Just in time, Dick, to give me a hand before our guests arrive.” He got up, dusting his trousers.
“What’s it all about? What guests?” “Well, there’ll be some medical men and Fraser of the Metropolitan Museum —who took charge of Professor Caron’s collection for his estate, you remember— and then there is Inspector Lowry, Chief of Detectives at the Bureau; he’s bringing along one of his Bertillon experts and I expect Detective-Lieutenant Donovan will be here also. Dunlop, from Lamont’s office, is coming and—Oh yes, Doc. Harvey, of course.”
“What’s happened?” Malabar’s blue eyes were alive with quick interest.
“You’ll know all about that presently. You may have noticed, Dick, that all evenings are not of the same size; this happens to have been one of the large ones—the largest evening I have met for quite some time—
“Now, don’t stand there, staring! They’ll be here in a minute. Give me a hand with this table; I want to get it together again before anyone comes. Get busy, man!”
HALF an hour later Addison Kent was facing a small but intent audience in the library of the Lamont residence— an audience which had assembled at that unusual hour only upon the novelist’s urgent request. That he had not called them together merely for social intercourse they were well aware. They waited
with the keenest interest for him to speak.
“In the early morning hours of the twenty-seventh of last month, gentlemen,” he began, “there occurred in this very room a thing so hellish as to be almost past belief! The annals of crime are replete with examples of transcendent cunning; but I propose to uncover tonight something entirely new—a crime so simple in its ingenuity, if I may be permitted the paradox, as almost to defy detection. But for the good fortune which attended me this evening it very likely would have been added to the long list of undiscovered crimes. I shall prove to you conclusively that Professor Emil Caron, on the night in question, did not die suddenly from any process of nature, but was foully murdered in this room!
“Before proceeding with the demonstration of how the crime was consummated I must ask the medical gentlemen present to bear with me while I draw, your attention for a moment to a few scientific truths which are pertinent. I would ask you to consider the subject of Motion and the reactions of the human body to movement. The subject is one which is occupying the minds of those interested in aviation tests. You may recall that Lieutenant Williams, of the Navy, who won the Pulitzer Trophy races with a speed of 243.67 miles an hour, stated that in turning the pylons he ‘went out cold’—that is, he lost consciousness temporarily. This is by no means an uncommon experience of aviators in stunt flying and more than one novice has been killed while attempting air stunts because of this temporary vertigo in making sudden turns at high velocity. With the maximum speed which may eventually be attained by human beings in the air we are not concerned. I do wish, however, to lay before you the causes of this temporary dizziness, experienced by stunt flyers.
“If I appear to assume the role of a professor of anatomy, talking to pupils entirely ignorant of the subject, I crave the indulgence of you professional doctors and would be grateful for your correction if I make any misstatement of facts with which you have been familiar. Circulation of the blood in our bodies by means of heart and blood-vessels is controlled by nerves; so that the blood-vessels contract or expand according to the amount of blood required in any particular part of the body at any particular tim». Our digestive processes, after eating, call for a special supply of blood; similarly, when we are undergoing special mental activity the brain telegraphs for more blood. The splanchnic blood-vessels in our abdomen are specially elastic and easily dilated as a blood reservoir.
“If we lie down or stand up—whatever position the body assumes—adjustment of blood circulation takes place immediately. If we jump too quickly from our beds to an erect position we feel dizzy and things blur before our eyes because sufficient blood has not yet reached our brain for the sudden change from the horizontal to the perpendicular. Riding in a fast train which hits a curve to the left, our bodies sw^ay to the right—the direction in which the train had been traveling; if before the train curved, we had leaned to the left, our bodies would have been pulled to an upright position. This is due to what is known as centrifugal force. It is to overcome this recognized force that railroad tracks and automobile speedways are elevated on the outer side at the curves to avoid accident; it is because of this centrifugal pull that aviators bank their machines in making a turn.
“But while these precautions offset the centrifugal pull upon the vehicle of travel, they do not prevent that pull upon the human body and its fluid content.
“Our common experiences of motion are those of the horizontal plane or, as in riding in an elevator, the vertical plane. Circular movement, however, human beings experience only to a minimum extent. Some of us are more susceptible to the reactions of motion than others, the up-and-down pitch and the side-toside roll of a boat, for instance, will make some of us seasick more quickly than others. In passing, I wish to draw attenContinued on page 18
Continued, from page 46 tion to the fact that the late Professor Caron was confined to his berth all the way across the Atlantic because of seasickness, proving that he was extremely sensitive to motion.
“It is hardly necessary for me to pursue the line of thought further. The part which our ears play in the matter of equilibrium we may leave to disputing physiologists, whose opinion is divided as to the functioning of the endolymphatic fluid in the canals of the internal ear. Suffice it to say that it is possible to establish a condition of motion which would have fatal effects upon the delicate organism of the human body.
“May I cite the experiments of Dr. Garsaux, of France, in this connection? He rotated on a wheel a number of dogs at speeds varying from four to six turns per second—I beg your pardon, Dr. Harvey?”
“Go on, Kent! Go on!—Nothing! Only, I see what you are leading up to. Splendid!”
A murmur of approval ran round the room and with a smile the novelist continued:
“Dr. Garsaux found that only a few of the dogs survived the experiment. In some cases the brain had been injured through pressure against the skull. The autopsies showed brain anemia and an engorgement of the vessels of the abdominal area!
“Gentlemen, I use the very words which my friend, Dr. Harvey, used in describing to me the condition which he noted in the autopsy that was performed upon the body of the late Professor Caron! It was Dr. Harvey’s opinion that this anemia of the brain and the engorgement of blood-vessels was forced, inasmuch as there were no digestive or other conditions to account for it. He was not prepared to state at the time what could have brought this about; for he was justifiably perplexed.
“It is the cause of that condition which I have been fortunate enough to discover and which I shall now proceed to demonstrate. I have to inform you that the late Professor Caron was killed in this room by application of the principle of centrifugal force—killed by dizziness!— sustained brain anemia, forced with astounding ingenuity. He was murdered as deliberately as if he had been stabbed like the Algerian butler, Mokra, or as if he had been shot through the heart!”
DISREGARDING the effect of this
startling announcement upon his audience, Kent stepped forward and laid his hand upon the library table.
“How was this fiendish thing accomplished? Take a look at this cumbersome piece of furniture. As a library table it is unique—entirely adequate, although somewhat unwieldy. You note that it is j very substantially built—rather a striking j affair. It is one of the most highly prized antiques in Mr. Lamont’s collection. But it is not the table as you now see it which makes it so valuable; it is what it conceals. This is merely the outer shell —All right, Dick, if you will be so good as to take hold of the side next you—” With Malabar’s assistance Kent pulled the table apart, turned a screw beneath and wheeled aside the two larger segments. There remained a centre section, oblong in shape, upon a solid pedestal. Kent had loosened the screws before the guests assembled; so that he and Malabar were able to lift off the top and side panels of this centre section in one piece. Revealed now was a huge and solidlooking roulette wheel which brought the guests out of their chairs with exclamations.
“I regret that I am unable to detail the history of this remarkable contrivance, gentlemen. I believe it has quite a history and I am sure that if Mr. Lamont were here he could entertain you for some time with its story. I believe that Mr. Lamont regards this roulette wheel as one of his most cherished possessions because of its history; for undoubtedly it was one of the first roulette wheels constructed in France a very long time ago and there is no other just like it. I had heard of its existence but had not seen it and it did not occur to me to look for it in concealment here -until this evening when my mind was directed along certain channels, as presently I shall explain.
“Note that the wheel’s rim is of solid metal and that it turns as part of the
wheel itself, unlike the improved type of roulette wheel which turns within a howl, as it were. Note also that the pedestal upon which it finds a solid base is likewise of metal and that, cumbersome though it seems, the wheel revolves very easily. As nearly as I have been able to discover in the brief examination I have given it, this wheel revolves upon a conical pin in a smooth socket. It is really a large spinning-top. You note how fast it travels and how long the motion is sustained when I give it a single twirl with my hand. It has been recently oiled for use. Driven by an electric motor, you can imagine how efficient an instrument of death it became in the early morning hours on the twenty-seventh of last month.”
A babel of questions arose and Kent waved his guests back to their seats.
“If you will let me finish, gentlemen,
I will be glad to answer any and all questions. Upon and under the rim of the wheel I find marks which could only have been made by the screw clamps which were used to hold in place the board upon which the body of Professor Caron was laid. As you may remember,, there was a trace of chloral hydrate found in his stomach, but only enough for a harmless sleeping draught. This was administered to him in the wine which he drank; so that he was entirely helpless and could offer no resistance. I like to think that he did not know what was happening to him—that he was already unconscious when he was bound to the board, hand and foot, and was whirled to his death without either terror or pain.
“I have been unable to locate the board which was fastened in place across the wheel; no doubt it has been destroyed. A hole was bored in it—as proven by the sawdust I have collected in this envelope—so that it fitted over the central pin, which helped to hold it in position. It is likely that Professor Caron’s body was laid out horizontally with the head at the exact centre and the feet extending outward and that a weight was placed on the opposite end of the board as a counter-balance. An electric motor was used to spin the wheel at the required velocity; I have located unmistakable traces of this and also of the transformer used to convert the current. With the doors closed the subdued hum of motor and wheel would not be noticeable; in fact, I doubt if it could be heard at all in the servants’ wing where the only persons in the house at the time were sound asleep.
“That is how the deed was done, gentlemen. The traces of it were easily obliterated—the table top put back in place, the transformer removed from the wiring, the motor taken away, the body of Professor Caron placed in his chair at the table as it was found the next morning —with an open book before him as if he had fallen asleep while reading and had passed away quite naturally. The murderer even placed an old bottle of digitalis in the vest pocket to suggest that his victim was in the habit of taking treatments for a weak heart. No doubt the murderer let himself out of the house early that morning, hugely satisfied with his own cleverness.
“And, gentlemen, but for this fragment of paper which I hold in my hand, we might never have known the truth!”
THE novelist looked around at the intent faces of his audience as he paused. Every person in the room was listening eagerly to this amazing revelation.
“You are naturally wondering how I stumbled upon this truth,” Kent went on. “As a student of anatomy my mind had been busy with the problem revealed by the autopsy; but it was this bit of print—torn from an article in the Literary Digest—which set me upon the right track. This article, I may say, proved to be a review of another article which appeared not long ago in the New York World—written by an army medical officer, Major L. H. Bauer, Commandant of the School of Aviation Medicine,at Mitchell Field, Long Island. In it Major Bauer predicts that the human element must be taken into account as limiting increasing air speeds, even if mechanical difficulties are overcome; in fact, it is his argument which I have presented in outlining the effects of motion upon the human body. His article even makes mention of the experiments of Dr. Garsaux, of France, and it is the para-
graph dealing with these experiments which I hold in my hand.
“This clipping—or rather, it is torn out roughly from the Digest page—came into my possession this evening in a manner which may provide a clue to the identity of the murderer and perhaps lead to his immediate apprehension. The man from whom I got this excerpt had the clip-it-out-and-save-it habit and carried around with him all manner of clippings of things that had interested him; it may prove significant that in the present instance the part of the article which he preserved was this paragraph giving the details of the Garsaux experiments. This, of course, is something for special conference with my friends of the police who are present.
“Also, I shall make no more than passing reference to the fingerprint clue which I have discovered upon the mechanism of the roulette wheel. That is something for the Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Mr. Smythe, the Bertillon expert, who is with us. It is enough for me to say merely that this clue has led me to make some inquiries which point to immediate action on the part of the police.
“I am at liberty to divulge nothing further until I have had opportunity of conferring with Inspector Lowry and Lieutenant Donovan.
“This much only I can add by way of warning to you all.
“So impressed have I been by these discoveries, and some others which I may not mention, that I am being led to a conclusion which at first seemed an impossible one. I have cabled Scotland Yard for verification of my suspicions and if the reply is what I expect it to be—then, gentlemen, I must warn every one of you to forget that you have been present here this evening and to be on your guard constantly. For this case then will assume new and positively dangerous aspects for everyone connected with it! The hand of Alceste—” “Alcestel”
Inspector Lowry was on his feet. Detective-Lieutenant Donovan gripped the arms of his chair and leaned forward with eyes narrowed. Richard Malabar, startled and suddenly alert, half rose— then dropped back in his seat, his face troubled and anxious. For of those present these three realized most fully the significance of that dread name.
“Kent, what do you mean?” demanded Lowry. “Do you mean to say that Alceste has a hand in this affair?”
“I am beginning to believe so, Inspector.”
“You say that, knowing as well as I do that the police records show that crook to have been dead and buried for nearly a year!”
“You have only the word of Scotland Yard for that.”
“The word of Scotland Yard is not a thing to be passed over lightly.”
“Granted, Inspector. But neither is the ingenuity of this Alceste. Your own records at Headquarters contain ample evidence of the lengths to which this paranoiac will go; we had a visit from him—you recall the Radcliffe case, of course?
“He walked away scot free, Inspector, by undergoing a painful eye operation— a special tattooing process — which changed the color of his eyes! I mention this merely to show that in a tight corner the man’s wits are at their best. Scotland Yard is sincere enough in the belief that the charred body they buried was all that was left of Alceste—as indicated by the evidence found upon the body. I earnestly hope they are right!”
“But you doubt it?”
“The evidence found was conclusive.” “The more conclusive it was the more I would doubt it. It is no new thing for evidence to be left around conveniently for the police to find. Until I have the measurements of that body Scotland Yard buried and have checked them against the true measurements of Alceste, procured by me personally and now in my own files—until then I shall be unable to free my mind from the growing suspicion that Alceste merely has added one more smart hoax to his list!”
“And is alive to-day?”
“Very much alive to-day!”
“And here in New York?”
“And here in New York!” repeated Kent with conviction.
“Will someone kindly lead us in
prayer?” suggested Dick Malabar, attempting to relieve the sudden tension in the room.
But his levity fell flat and he welcomed the butler’s announcement that supper was served.
RICHARD MALABAR paced about
the library restlessly, his brows gathered in concentrated thought. It was nearly three o’clock in the morning. The supper guests had gone; but neither Malabar nor the novelist felt like retiring. The night had been too full of surprising interest to leave them otherwise than wide awake.
“You look worried, Dick. What’s on your mind?” questioned Kent at last, slipping his pen into his breast pocket and closing his notebook. “I thought everything went off very nicely, didn’t you? Everybody seemed to be duly impressed—”
“Impressed? Of course they were impressed! Who wouldn’t be? It was a marvellous bit of work; but instead of complimenting you, I am going to give you my frank opinion, whether you like it or not.”
“Kent, you are a damned fool!” “Well?”
“The thing that impresses me about this whole business is the personal danger into which it is heading you!” Malabar’s lean face was full of concern as he stopped and laid a hand on the author’s shoulder. “My dear old fellow, take the advice of a friend who has knocked about the world a great deal more than you have and drop this case right now! It is a matter for the police. Let them handle it. For God’s sake, keep out of it!”
“You mean well, Dick; but it can not be.” Kent smilingly shook his head. “It would never do to disappoint Alceste after he had come back all the way from the dead—!”
“Oh, damn Alceste!” cried Malabar irritably.
“Then, there is the young lady—”
“I thought so! Y ou are going to remain here and risk your life for a brazen moll of the underworld—!”
“That’ll do, Malabar! We’ll leave her out of the discussion, if you please! You noted that I made no mention of her to-night?”
“It was sporting of you,” conceded Malabar, “but—”
“I’m telling you straight that her connection with this affair must not reach the police, no matter what happens to me. You understand? I mean exactly that and as a friend of mine I expect you to keep quiet, Malabar!”
“What are you going to do, if—”
“There is to be no ‘if’ about it. I am going to get her! It may take till Christmas; but I am going to get her myself!” “You lose sight of the possibility that Alceste may have something to say about it, Kent. By the way—those measurements you have on file—I am curious to know how you will spot the gentleman if he does turn out to be alive. How will you know him?”
“He is about five inches shorter than you are, Dick. His eyes originally were blue like yours but lacked the expression that goes with a warm-hearted personality like yours; he was the coldest proposition imaginable—a man devoid of soul and it showed in his hard eyes. You read up the Radcliffe tase, didn’t you?”
“Yes, I was interested in it because of your connection with it.”
“Well, then, you will remember that Alceste escaped from the police in a daring manner, fooling them by changing most skilfully the color of his eyes from blue to dark browm by a special tattooing operation, performed by his accomplice, Dr. MacMurrough, who was shot and killed by the police while trying to escape from the house in which the pair were cornered over on Long Island.
“Tattooing of the eye is done on the corneain front of the iris; so that it would mark those eyes of Alceste for all time to come. I fancy he will find it a handicap for the rest of his days ; for while the pupils of his eyes in a dim light will dilate as usual, behind the cornea, he will have but the fixed orifice left in the tattooing through which to see. Under a strong light, the pupils of his eyes will contract to pin-points and it is then that he would be easily recognized by the tiny rim of blue that will show about the pupil—the
original, natural blue behind the artificial coloring on the cornea. Do you follow me? Well, that is why Alceste will require to wear glasses that conceal his eyes—probably smoked glasses of some sort.” Malabar smiled and nodded his head.
“I see. It would appear, then, that you are not the only foolhardy person in the world! Well, I don’t wish you any bad luck, old boy; but I still think the wisest thing you can do—”
“Is to go to be—ed-uh!” yawmed the novelist.
AS ADDISON KENT had predicted, action by the police followed close upon his demonstration of how Professor Caron had been killed.
From the moment the Bertillon expert reported that the thumbprint on the wheel and a thumbprint found in Henri’s room were identical the dragnet was out for the former cook’s assistant, who seemed to have vanished since his dismissal the week before. Then Donovan discovered that one of Singer Lieb’s croupiers likewise was missing suddenly and on a lucky inspiration he put Smythe to work on a thumbprint of the “St. Boniface Kid” with highly satisfactory results; for the thumbprint of Singer Lieb’s missing croupier, who had presided over a roulette layout in that worthy’s gambling “joint” on the Bowery, was identical with the thumbprint found on the roulette wheel at the Lamont residence!
Here was something definite at last! At once Singer Lieb was on the carpet again at Headquarters and the police redoubled their efforts not only to locate the St. Boniface Kid but to find Kellani, the vanished Nubian manservant of the late Professor Caron, and also to unearth a certain large blond man with a wen on his forehead.
But their search proved singularly abortive. Although care had been taken to keep from the newspapers any inkling of Kent’s disclosures, it was Donovan’s opinion that the news had leaked into underworld “grapevine” channels. Even before this—on the night Addison Kent had found his scrap of paper—so peaceful and serene had the police found things at Singer Lieb’s place that the intended raid had been postponed. Apparently due warning had been given by somebody. It looked suspicious.
A period of watchful waiting followed.
IT WAS during this lull that Addison Kent quietly disappeared from his customary haunts. The mail accumulated on his desk in the apartment at Minaki Annex and enquiry of Mrs. Madden, his housekeeper, would have elicited the information that he was “off on a holiday trip.” But a despondent young mechanic who had ordered a full-sized beefsteak in a restaurant over on Seventh Avenue a week before and who had departed without waiting for his change was still jobhunting without success. It must be confessed, however, that his method of looking for work was somewhat unique, inasmuch as he spent most of his time—had anyone taken the trouble to follow him about—haunting cabarets and poolrooms, chiefly in the Bowery district. Strangely enough also, he seemed always to be able to pay for the food he ordered, although often he merely picked at it without appetite. Once or twice he had left hurriedly before his order could be served, paying for it at the door and complaining of not feeling very well.
These sudden exits in pursuit of possible leads, however, had not advanced Addison Kent one step forward upon the quest which lured him. At the end of several days he had uncovered not a single trace of the girl who had flaunted him or of the massively built man. to meet whom she had hired a special apartment for one night.
True, he had learned a few things at first hand about bootlegging operations, which just now as never before—appeared to occupy the attention of gangland—and about the “hijackers” who were finding it extremely profitable to rob the bootleggers of their illegal gains. Gunmen bragged openly enough of the “jobs” they bad “pulled” ashore or afloat and Kent heard tales of bloody fights that had been waged by the boldest of the hijackers outside on the open seas, beyond the limit set by the Supreme Court as the “deadline”-—the distance from the American shore which liquor-carrying craft must stay to avoid seizure under the Volstead Act.
Continued on page 52
Continued from page 50
ALL of this was very interesting to Addison Kent as a student of criminal psychology.
Interesting, certainly. But was it going to help Mr. Addison Kent find Miss Edith Rockwood, “of the Mercury," or the man with the wyn who carefully kept a record of how Dr. Garsaux, of France, had killed dogs scientifically by spinning them on a wheel?
It was this question Kent was asking himself as, with neck hunched in the turned up, greasy velvet collar of his old overcoat, he swung off Broadway into Astor Place.
And supposing he did find her, what was he going to say to her? What was he going to do?
He crossed the street and went on down the Bowery. It was after eleven o’clock and back on Broadway the theatre crowds were surging out and making for the popular eating-places. The novelist had as his objective the Casa Loma Cabaret. It was over in a quieter section, several blocks away; but it was worth the walk, for it was fairly clean and they served a rarebit there that was not half bad, while the coffee was excellent.
Shortly after turning the next corner Addison Kent threw a swift look over his shoulder and swept both sides of the street behind him with a keen glance. He saw nothing to justify the intuition which warned him; yet he was almost positive that someone was following him!
THE Casa Lorna was not as crowded as he expected to find it and he had no trouble in getting a table in a corner which commanded a view of the front entrance. On either side of the dancing floor were ranged boxes, or small compartments, partitioned from each other and designed to seat two couples; the balance of the long room was an open restaurant, the space filled with round tables. Kent had chosen a table at the end; so that with his back to the partition of the first compartment he was well placed to observe without becoming conspicuous.
He gave his order to Tony, a waiter with whom he had scraped acquaintance during the past few days, and allowed his careless glance to rove through the room. The Italian trio at the upper end—harp, violin and piano—was getting ready to play; but the tuning was lost in the general chatter and laughter. Then Kent forgot everything else but the two men who had just entered and stood near the door, eyes flitting from table to table. One was thin and tight-lipped with deep sunken eyes; the other had a thick neck and a flat nose and looked like a professional prize-fighter. A single quick glance assured the novelist that their faces were entirely unfamiliar to him.
As the new arrivals advanced in response to Tony’s lifted finger, Kent became suddenly absorbed in close scrutiny of the menu card. He kept the menu in front of his face until the men were seated —in the very compartment alongside his table. He did this on impulse; for he had no reason to believe that the pair were interested in him. In fact, it was soon apparent that they were greatly absorbed in each other’s confidences as soon as the waiter left them. Their voices were pitched too low for Kent to hear what they were saying.
Tony had brought him his rarebit and he was well started on it when above the mumble of conversation in the neighboring compartment he caught mention of a nam'ë that keyed him to instant attention —the name of the St. Boniface Kid! With jaws motionless and head back against the partition, he strained his ears. With growing satisfaction he caught the name of Singer Lieb. Then, in a pause of the music:
“I tell you de Kid’s gotta beat it! The dicks is onto him, see? Dis here big guy wid de lump is a friend o’ Singer’s an’ everyt’ing’s hunky. Get me? Dere’s a skirt—a friend o’ Wasserhaus—Dat’s de big guy, see? An’ I’m to meet de bunch in half an hour an’—”
“Can it, Kayo! This aint the Grand Central an’ you aint callin’ trains!”
That was all Kent could hear; for the voices again reverted to a mere mumble and the orchestra was playing again. But Kent finished his rarebit with an elation which he was careful to hide. Unhurriedly he got up at last and put on his coat, called his waiter, paid his bill and saun-
tered leisurely past the groups of laughing men and women to the front entrance.
Once outside, he walked briskly for a block, crossed over to the other side of the street and came back until he stood nearly opposite the entrance to the Casa Loma. In a dark doorway he waited and watched. When the two men he had overheard came out he intended to follow them; it looked as if they might lead him straight to the very quarry he was seeking.
Not far down the block a taxicab was drawn up at the curb while the driver refreshed himself at a lunch-counter. Carefully Kent studied the street.
THERE they were now, just coming out! Would they walk or ride? If they got into that taxicab—it was the only one in sight! Ye gods! that was exactly what they were going to do. And there was the chauffeur, just coming out from his coffee and doughnuts!
Anxiously Kent scanned the street both ways for some vehicle in which he could trail them. Not a thing he could hail! Was he to lose this opportunity— the first that held promise of definite results?
He stared out at the taxi, his eyes on the rear of it. Would he be able to hang on behind? The men were climbing in now.
Then just as Addison Kent was about to make a dash for it, to his great joy around the corner up the street came a ramshackle brass-bound limousine of ancient vintage with a bearded driver in front. The impression the novelist got as he ran out into the street was that here was some old Jewish merchant, all dressed up and returning from a joy-ride —an unprepossessing old codger who apparently had been the guest of bootlegging friends.
“Follow that taxi just ahead there!” Kent commanded brusquely. “I’ll pay well. Here’s a V in advance and there’s another coming if you keep ’em in sight.” Without more ado he yanked at the door and leaped inside the closed body of the limousine, shutting the door behind him with a solid slam. But the driver had no intention of disputing the gifts of the gods; the money was in his hand and with a jolt the car lurched away so suddenly that Kent was pitched bodily into the back seat. He only laughed with relief. What a godsend this old “bus” was! And the fact that he had found it unoccupied—what luck!
Eagerly he peered ahead through the front glass and saw the taxi turning out of sight. His man was right after it, however, and soon it was in full view again, less than a block ahead. Fine! Kent picked up the speaking-tube and cautioned his driver to keep his distance.
“Twenty bucks if you do this job right,” he encouraged, and with a wave of the hand to signify that he heard, the owner of the commandeered car bent over his wheel.
For perhaps ten minutes they twisted and turned at a moderate pace in the wake of the taxi. Kent continued to sit forward, watching for the first evidence of alarm on the part of the pursued; but the occupants of the car ahead did not appear to notice that they were being trailed and no effort was made either to dodge or to speed away.
Kent’s head presently gave a little bump against the glass through which he was looking. It bumped a second time and almost subconsciously he realized that he felt drowsy. This was no time to fall asleep! He roused himself impatiently. What a stuffy old “boat” was this! He blinked foolishly—then grew conscious of a peculiar, penetrating odor that sickened him—!
Snf! Snf! He sniffed at the thick, sweet air and with a thrill of alarm, realized what it was—
Chloroform! But where?—how—? Then he saw it—in the roof of the car—a dark wet patch, spreading rapidly and dripping—raining! Drops were falling upon his head, his shoulders—!
The windows of the car were tightly closed—all of them!—heavy plate-glass windows! He reached for the handle of the door as the pungent fumes beat at his senses—The handles had been removed from the inside!
He snatched the speaking-tube and shouted—at least he thought he shouted. Two glittering evil eyes looked in at him through the glass in front!
Trapped! Frantically he put his shoulder to the door and tried to smash a window with his fist. The fumes grew overpoweringly strong! He fought to get out his automatic—head singing, senses reeling—!
The automatic was in his hand. With a last desperate effort he raised it and tried to pull the trigger; but the weapon fell from his paralyzed fingers and everything went black!
To be Continued