The Operating Room Mystery
Wherein a scientific sleuth encounters a scientific criminal and the bandage is removed from the eyes of Justice
THE nurse was tying Dr. John Corday’s face mask as the tall young man with the tousled blonde head and the queer blue eyes ambled into the operating theatre of the Montreal Vic.
“Mind if I look on, Jack?” he asked in a cool drawl that went With his long looseness of body and his ambling gait.
“You flatter me!" replied the young surgeon with a laugh. “Give Mr. Power a sterile gown, nurse.”
“Like to come and watch you birds, Jack. Sometimes think I should’ve finished my medical course. Thanks, girlie—yes’m, I know how to fasten it.” This last to the dignified Miss Martin, the theatre charge nurse wha had handed him the gown and who now flounced away with an indignant snapping of her alert eyes.
“Seem to’ve offended her,” muttered Kent Power as he strolled over to Dr. Horace Holmes, who was administering the nitrous-oxide anaesthetic.
There fell a silence as John Corday, the youngest and most brilliant of the Montreal Vic’s surgeons, stepped to the operating table. Already the interne had painted the patient’s neck and draped the sterile sheets. No sound in the theatre but the hum of the steam sterilizers outside and the soft hiss of the gas machine.
Steel glittered in the long slim fingers. The surgeon bent over the operating field, his grey eyes—which alone of his features showed through the gauze face mask— intent and resourceful. It was his first big private case. For three years he had been struggling in obscurity, only his hospital associates realizing his brilliant possibilities. But here was the first rung on the ladder of success, a patient who really counted—James K. Mahoney, Quebec’s aggressive Crown Prosecutor. If this operation proved the success that many others of its kind had done in his hands, John Corday’s name was made, the lean years ended. And Kent Power, who had
been his dissecting mate in the old anatomy days, hoped it might be so.
But barely had the knife trailed a slender line of oozing blood than the anaesthetist, Dr. Holmes, leaned sharply forward, a look of apprehension on his lean, middle-aged face. “He’s not breathing, Corday!”
The young surgeon’s eyes quivered. He felt for the large artery in the neck.
“Pulse is all right. Start artificial respiration.”
Kent Power’s blue eyes had narrowed oddly, were glancing from face to face of the three nurses and two doctors who, besides himself, were in the operating-room. Was this coincidence or . . .
“Oxygen!” growled John Corday. He had covered the w'ound with a sterile towel, but was keeping his finger on that neck artery. He was beginning to look worried. “Pulse growing weaker, Holmes. Can’t understand this at all. The patient was in perfect condition—and nitrous oxide is the safest anaesthetic in the world.”
“It’s very strange!” exclaimed the agitated anaesthetist, as he kept pumping the patient’s arms. “He was not very deeply under. Very strange!”
J p “Yes,” drawled Kent Power grimly. “Respiratory failure due to nitrous oxide usually yields at once to artificial. It’s when the effect is on the heart that artificial’s no use, isn’t it, doc?”
“Quite!” replied the tight-lipped anaesthetist, from whose deeply lined face the sweat was dripping.
For a half hour, while a taut anxiety and distress hung over the steam-laden theatre, the efforts at resuscitation were kept up. John Corday brought to bear every means in the knowledge of science. In vain. Slowly but surely the patient’s pulse failed—ceased—he was dead.
“It’s incredible, Corday!” cried the anaesthetist, wringing his hands. “The first death I’ve ever had under nitrous oxide, and so early in the operation, too. If it had been later on, if he had been in poor shape . distressing, terribly distressing! I’m so sorry ... for you, my boy ... for us all ! He was one of my oldest friends; a man the country can ill afford to lose.”
“You’re talking, doc,” muttered Kent Power. “And I should know!”
T NDEED he should. As one of Montreal’s best-known private investigators, Kent Power had come frequently into contact with the ruggedly honorable man who had fought his last fight for law and order.
He took the young surgeon by the arm and drew him into the dressing room, closing the door behind them.
“Wouldn’t blame myself if I were you, Jack,” he said w’ith an affectionate pat on the back. “It might have been more than just one of those accidents.”
“What do you mean?” Corday swung sharply on the speaker.
“Didn’t come here this morning just to watch you, Jack,” the other went on in his low drawl. “Know my cousin, Betty Postyn? Too bad; mighty nice kid. Happens to be Mahoney’s private secretary; got her the job myself. Seems Mahoney’s been getting a lot of typed messages lately threatening his life. Last one came in the mail this morning, and when Betty found it she sent for me. Made me promise to come here and watch the operation. Said she had a feeling something was going to happen. Always allow there’s something in a woman’s intuition; so I came. Sceptical as the devil, Jack, but I came. She might’ve been right.”
“But why didn’t you tell me, Kent? I’d have—” “Meant to, Jack, but when I got here Mahoney was already under the anaesthetic and you were all set to operate. Didn’t want to make you or old Holmes nervous. Matter of fact, didn’t see how anything could happen in a hospital like the Montreal Vic. S’pose you’ll have the gas in that cylinder analyzed. And I’d kind of like to know where it came from and how it was delivered here. Can you attend to that?”
“Yes, certainly; anything, Kent. But you surely can’t think Mahoney was—”
“Never know, Jack. That respiratory failure. Funny. Never saw a case act just like that under gas. Going in to give the machine a dekko.”
When the two men returned to the theatre they found that the patient had already been removed. Dr. Holmes was examining the anaesthetic with another, a tall, distinguished-looking man with the piercing dark eyes and bearded face of a scientist.
“This is our biochemist, Dr. Carl Myland,” Corday said, introducing Kent. “Dr. Myland, this is Kent Power, the detective.”
“Yes,” said the scientist, extending his hand gravely, “I have heard of Mr. Power. This is a sad accident, Corday. Very unfortunate for you. I just happened along to return these blood tests. Holmes has asked me to analyze the gas. I’ll have the cylinders sent down to my lab. And by the way”—he turned to the anaesthetist who had unscrewed the glass jar which, forming part of the gas machine, contained ether and enabled a switch to be made to that anaesthetic without changing the face mask—“better let me have that, too. I’ll take it with me now so that it won’t get a chance to evaporate.” Somehow, in passing from the hands of the anaesthetist to those of the scientist, the jar slipped, crashed to the floor, and smashed.
“I’m so sorry!” exclaimed Dr. Holmes, agitatedly. “My stupid clumsiness! I’m still dreadfully upset!”
But Kent Power had dropped to his knees, was sopping up with his handkerchief the rapidly evaporating anaesthetic. “Get me a small bottle—funnel—cork !” he snapped; and there was no drawl in his voice now as he swung on the charge nurse. A moment later he was wringing the wet handkerchief into the bottle which, when he finally corked it, contained a couple of ounces of the pungent fluid.
“Good !’’ exclaimed the scientist, his dark eyes lighting. “It will be doubly important now that I examine that ether.”
Kent Power turned to the charge nurse.
“Where do you keep your adhesive, girlie?”
— he was drawling again — “this ought to be labelled.”
He followed her into her goods room, where suddenly she swung on him furiiously.
“If you address ma like that before my nurses again, Mr. Power, I’ll report you to the matron. I won’t stand for it!”
The queer blue eyes opened wider, became somewhat whimsical.
“That’s too bad,” he said softly. “I’ve got a weakness that way. Nearly got court-martialled in the army once for calling a colonel ‘old top.’ Won’t happen again. How about that adhesive?”
She handed him the roll and flounced out.
When he had returned to the others he gave the bottle to Dr. Myland.
“Guess Dr. Holmes isn’t the only clumsy one here this morning,” he drawled. “Just spilled some of it myself in there, fastening on the label. But I guess there’s enough left.”
When the scientist had gone Kent turned to the charge nurse.
“Tell me, gir . . . Miss Operating-Room Supervisor, whose job is it to fill the ether jar?”
“When’d you fill it last?”
“This morning after I came on duty.”
“Sure you put nothing but ether in it?”
“Quite sure!” There were sparks of anger in the alert eyes again, spots of flame over the cheek bones.
“And there wouldn’t’ve been anything in it when you poured the ether in?”
“It was quite empty.”
The detectivè jerked his thumb toward the other
room where the two nurses were cleaning instruments.
“Have ’em cluster here. Want to ask ’em a few questions.”
Dr. Holmes leaned anxiously forward.
“You don’t think there has been . . . ” He seemed to choke over the end of his question.
“You never know, doc. Lots of people would’ve liked to see James K. Mahoney out of the way, eh?”
The anaesthetist’s fine old head went back with a jerk. His lips became tightly compressed. He became suddenly the fashionable physician again—very much on his dignity.
Kent turned to the two girls who stood confronting him.
“Either of you do anything to the ether jar of the gas machine this morning?”
They shook their heads.
“See anybody doing anything to it?”
“No, Mr. Power.”
“Been here all morning?”
“They went to morning lunch at ten o’clock,” Miss Martin answered for them.
“That was an hour before the operation. Who was here then?”
“Didn’t see anybody at the machine yourself?”
Kent Power stooped down and began to examine closely the mechanism of the gas machine. Suddenly he turned to Corday and said:
“This gadget here that the ether jar’s attached to ’ll unscrew. Mind if I take it for a closer dekko, Jack?” “I don’t think there’d be any objection, but—”
“It would mean,” Dr. Holmes interjected stiffly, “that the machine could not be used as long as you had it.”
“We could borrow an attachment from the jobbers if we needed it,” Corday said. “Take it if you think it 11 be of any service to you, Kent.”
“Thanks,” said the detective rising. “Better come along and have a spot of lunch at the club, Jack.”
As they were going out together he turned gravely and said to Miss Martin:
“Good morning, Miss Operating-Room Supervisor.
Miss Martin gave him a look.
Most people put Kent Power down for a newspaper man. The turned-down hat, the longish overcoat, a
certain carelessness in the way he w’ore his clothes, together with an air of utter indifference to what was going on around him, aided this impression. When, therefore, he presented himself that afternoon at the Mahoney home on Pine Avenue West, the new maid informed him that her mistress was seeing no reporters.
“You’re a bright kid,” he said, grinning at her approvingly. “Some day you might win a prize. But I’m not a reporter. Want to see Miss Postyn. She’s a cousin of mine.”
The girl grinned back, and let him in.
He found Betty Postyn alone in the library, and her very attractive eyes were red around the lids.
“Oh, I knew it, Kent! I knew it!” she cried.
“We men ought to listen to you women more’n we do, Bet. Tell me something. Gone through Mahoney’s confidential papers yet? No? Wrant you to. Looking for a motive. Take a good dekko. Let me know if you find anything. And say, better come and see a talkie with me tonight, eh? Call for you at eight o’clock.”
Returning to his flat in Drummond Street, he went at once to the room at the back which he had fitted up as a laboratory. There were those who said that it was one of the most efficient little labs in Montreal. Kent Power had never lost that love for science which had once sent him halfway through a medical course. Here he carried out animal experiments that had earned him even the ad-
miration of the Carrel Institute. He had never published any of his discoveries. When he hit upon anything new it was his custom to stroll up to McGill and talk it over wdth some of his scientific friends there. “Doing a little experiment this week, Bill. Tell you about it. Try it over on your piano. If it's any use to you, it’s yours. Don’t trust myself overmuch; only a poor amateur.” And then he’d go into details w-hich later would as likely as not bring considerable credit to his auditor in the scientific world. For himself, he declared that his experiments were like the fleas on a dog; kept him from dwelling on what a poor crittur he was.
That afternoon he conducted a series of little experiments with a set of guinea pigs. It took him all of three hours, and when he finally glanced at his watch he exclaimed with a start of surprise:
“Great grief, seven-thirty! Time I was getting Betty to that show!” The dead Crown Prosecutor’s secretary brought a limp-leathercovered book which she handed him in the taxicab.
“I found it in his private box in the safe,” she said. “I’ve never seen it before and I don’t know what to make of it. It’s full of the queerest notes.”
When he arrived home that night he wTent through the book Betty had given him. It was full of odd jottings with dates; a veritable jumble of things. For instance: “Oct. 11. Man named Carrón told me today that a friend of his knows Bourdet was positively not at the Savoy on night of July 6. See Renouf.”
To Kent most of it meant nothing, but there were several items that caused him to open his eyes. It seemed that the dead Crown Prosecutor had collected in this book all those minutiae, the working up of which had made his cases against the criminal underworld so com-
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The Operating Room Mystery
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plete. Of some of the data the detective took notes.
Then—it was close on one o’clock—he rang up his friend, Sergeant Papineau of the city detective force.
“Sound kind of sleepy, old son,” he drawled into the receiver. “Wake up and hear a bedtime story that’ll send you to by-by properly. What’s that? Listen, Pap, you old habitant, you can sleep the rest of your life away; you birds down there don’t seem to do much else. I’m giving you some fatherly advice. Attend the inquest of James K. Mahoney tomorrow morning—with an open mind. Why? Because he was murdered, Pap, old frog. Non, non, ce n’est pas la folie, ma grenouille. Wouldn’t fool you for Beatty’s income—there’s enough people doing that now—mostly Montreal crooks. Proof? Not a shred, Pap, not a shred. What should you do? Hang it, mon vieux. I can’t be both uncle and aunt to you. Just listen in and keep both ears from drooping. All right. Oh, say, Pap, where does Tony Carducci’s crowd hold out now? Rue Bleury? Still there, eh? Oh, nothing much; just idle curiosity. Merci beaucoup, mon garçon. Bon soir et tout de tout!"
And then Kent Power called it a day.
HP H E early mail brought an interesting •L little missive—two typewritten lines:
Lay off the Mahoney case unless you want to go the same way he did.
“Most interesting,” he drawled, turning to tackle the usual bacon and eggs.
“The moon has its eyes on you, so be careful, what?”
Immediately after breakfast he went again to the Mahoney residence.
“Got any of those billets doux Mr. Mahoney received, Bets?” he said to Betty Postyn. “Those threatening letters?”
“Only the last two, Kent,” she replied. “Mr. Mahoney threw the others in the wastebasket as soon as he read them.”
“He had just that kind of courage. Let’s see what you have.”
She produced the notes. He spread them on the top of the desk with the one he had received. The girl, glancing over his shoulder, let out a cry of alarm: “Kent! They’re threatening you, too!” She was as pale as a ghost.
“That’s all right, girlie,” he exclaimed, laying a hand on her shoulder in the awkward manner of a St. Bernard dog. “If I had a share of Montreal Power for every threatening letter I’ve received I’d take you to Bermuda for the winter. Forget about it. I’m going to take these two along with me.”
“But you will be careful, won’t you, Kent?” she cried as she let him out of the front door.
“Sure! K. Power’s my name, and the K stands for both Kareful and Kautious.” In leaving the Mahoney residence he took a taxi down town, dismissed it in front of the Mount Royal, and strolled leisurely on eastward. Finally he leaned against a lamp-post and lit a cigarette. His chin was sunk into his turned-up collar and he seemed asleep until the big, swaying figure that was police officer Dan O’Brien lumbered past.
His hand went out. “Fine cop you are,” he drawled. “Walk past your own mother without recognizing her. Get your Irish head down out of the clouds v and listen to me.”
“Oh, it’s you, is it?’’ demanded O’Brien, planting his fists on his hips and regarding the other with a fine scowl. “An’ is it every dead beat in Montreal I’m supposed to be keepin’ me eye on? What’s troublin’ ye?”
“Ever been in Tony Carducci’s joint along the street?” Kent jerked a thumb
across the intersection a bit northward.
“An’ what would an honest man be doin’ there?”
“Dunno. Just asked if you’d been there.”
“Well, I haven’t, but I know plenty who has, an’ some of ’em I’ve had the pleasure of runnin’ in.”
“Stout fellow! Can you give me some idea of the layout?”
“If ye was to ax me proper I might.” “I’m axing ye. Here’s a paper and pencil. Draw me a picture.”
“What’s goin’ on at Tony’s I don’t know?” demanded the big policeman suspiciously.
“They’re gettin’ ready for Santa Claus and I want to know where to hang my stocking. Tell us about it.”
“Well, ye saucy pup,” said Dan, placing the point of the pencil on the slip of paper, “ye go in here. It’s down half a dozen steps. If they ask ye yer business tell ’em ye’re thirsty. Then ye come into the café. Tables and chairs and a lot of dago waiters. Up here on yer right’s a flight of stairs. They lead to Tony’s private office where he works all his divilment out. But first ye go along a passage to the left, then into a room where the gang plays poker an’ sharpens their knives. There’s a door off it here into a small office. That’s where the divil himself sits weavin’ trouble for honest policemen.”
“Thanks,” said Kent, pocketing the freehand drawing. “And you say you haven’t been there? It’s a tomato’s find leg you haven’t. Is his liquor good?”
“You git out or I’ll bate the livin’ tripe out of ye!” cried Dan O’Bnen, clenching his two hamlike fists dramatically.
With a grin Kent held his hand up to a passing taxi.
“We’re a great race, we Irish, Dan,” he cried, swinging aboard, “but there’s only a few of us who’re going to heaven!”
SERGEANT PAPINEAU rang up after lunch. “Perhaps you are right and it is murder,” he said, “but the jury did not think so.”
“They didn’t, eh?”
"Non. What did you—”
“Was there any evidence put forward on the contents of the ether jar of the anaesthetic machine?”
"Oui. But nothing came of that.” “What was the fluid?”
“Well, that’s interesting, Pap.”
“The only one to whom a motive can be attach’ is the docteur who gave the anaesthetique—Docteur Holmes. He has interes’. A friend of the widow and a rival of M’sieu Mahoney long time ago. But that has not made difference, for the friendship remain. For years he has been a regular visitor at the house. A motive, eh? But of course there is no evidence against him—pas du tout. Docteur Corday said that he is one of the best anaesthetists in Mon’real. Analysis of the gaz discloses nothing. Accidental death was the verdie’.”
“Well, thanks for ringing me, Pap, old son. May be able to tell you a better bedtime story another of these cold nights.”
The detective then made a visit to Dr. Horace Holmes’s office in the Medical Clinic. He found an attractive nursesecretary in charge, but Dr. Holmes was not in.
“Expecting him back soon?” Kent asked with a way he had of smiling into her kind of eyes.
“Any time now, sir.”
“Good. I’ll wait.” He seated himself in the nearest chair and she went back to her typewriter.
Presently a buzzer rang. Kent smiled. Old Pap was on time to the minute with
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that fake call. The girl went into an inner office and the door hadn’t closed behind her before the detective was over by the desk glancing closely over the case report she had been working at. Removing the three notes from his pocket he compared them.
When the girl came back he was standing over by the window.
“I don’t think I’ll wait any longer,” he said. “Tell Dr. Holmes that Mr. Carmichael called about that new car he was thinking of buying.”
He left her staring after him puzzledly and made two further visits, both down town. One of them was upon a shady lawyer who was one of the greatest justi ce-def eaters in Montreal. The other was an opulent rum-runner. Probably both of them are still wondering what Mr. Henry Carmichael wanted of them, and whether he was just plain balmy or playing some joke. The line of talk he gave them was certainly inexplicable, but when he left their offices he had, which neither suspected, just what he had gone there for.
Then he rang up John Corday, Dr. Horace Holmes and Dr. Carl Myland. To each his message was somewhat the same.
“Kent Power talking. Going to be busy around eleven o’clock tonight? Yes, I know the hour is late, but I’ve been working up a little experiment in my lab that won’t be completed until about that time. You’ll come? Good of you. Yes, doctor”—this in reply to a question Dr. Holmes asked somewhat hesitantly—“it has to do with that anaesthetic death. You’ll be there? Fine!”
AT 8.30 p.m. he was ambling along Rue Bleury with his chin well down in the turned-up collar against the cold wind. He was wearing, oddly enough, a pair of dark glasses, and he kept humming under his breath a little song that asked the question, “Is she lovable and sweet?”—and answered it in the affirmative.
Half a dozen steps down.
A panel opened in the door on which he knocked.
“Just another thirsty one,” he drawled. “A fellow needs fire inside him against this wind.”
The door swung open.
Along a hall, through a swinging door, and there was the Café Ravioli; there was chez Tony. A rectangular room with a low ceiling. Tables scattered around and, as Dan O’Brien had truthfully said, dago waiters. Not so many patrons yet, for the night was young. What there were had the look of those waiting for something to happen—waiting desperately but with a vast and sad fatalism. The man at the piano had not yet taken his vesper shots and wasn’t putting much heart into it. Later he would snuff the sort of rapture that Tony dealt subterraneously in, and play on those keys with demoniac fury.
Kent seated himself at the vacant table near the flight of stairs leading up to what police officer O’Brien had stated to be Signor Carducci’s private council chamber. When the waiter came along he demanded “Where’s your menu card? I’ll eat.”
The fellow produced a somewhat grimy carte du jour at which Kent glanced casually and then said: “Ham sandwich one, Tomasso.”
“Name notta Tomasso—Enrico,” the menial said somewhat sullenly.
“I’ll make a note of it,” drawled the detective. “Carry on!”
In the next half hour four men ascended the stairs nearby and disappeared through the door above. One of them Kent recognized as a local product concerning whose reputation he had heard nothing good; they were all small, furtive men, with dark little eyes that darted everywhere, watchful and doubting.
At three minutes past nine he beckoned
the waiter and handed him a calling card. “Take this up to Tony,” he said. “Tell him I’d like to come up and have a chat with him if he isn’t too busy.”
The man’s eyes narrowed a moment on him. He departed aloft. When he returned his expression was quite amiable. “Tony say you come. Theesa way ” Hands deep in his overcoat pocket, the detective followed up the scairs, along a corridor to the left, and into a room where eight men sat smoke-wreathed around the table. They had been playing cards. Most of the chips were stacked in front of the wiry little rat-faced Italian in the tuxedo at the table’s head.
Without removing the cigarette that dangled from his lower, protruding lip, this one said:
“You want to see me, Meest’ Kent Power?”
“That was the idea, Tony.”
The little eyes narrowed.
“Not ver’ good disguise, those glasses you got on.”
“Weren’t meant for a disguise, Tony. Just wearing them to protect my eyes from the bright lights of Rue Bleury.” “Funny guy! Whatsa idea? What you want?”
The detective flung a slip of paper on the table.
“Thought I’d like to know why you send me letters without signing ’em.”
The little Italian’s long, flexible fingers went out and closed around the note, crushing it. Without removing his ratlike eyes from Kent Power’s face, he drew it toward him. While the other members of his crew sat back in their chairs, hands in pockets, waiting for a sign they knew must come, he snarled:
“Whatsa.joke? I’ll bite.”
Kent put the match he had just lighted to the cigarette in his mouth. Reaching out over the table, he drew toward him the nearest ash-tray and dropped the match among the smoldering butts. Then he looked at the Italian and drawled: “It’s on you, Tony. You use the same typewriter to make up your menus downstairs that you do to write threatening letters to myself and the late James K. Mahoney. Some of its keys are a bit out of alignment. Better have it fixed.”
A tremor, faint but unmistakable, passed around the circle of tenselywatching gangsters.
Tony Carducci’s eyes were glistening. One of his hands had gone beneath the table.
“P’rapsa joke’s on you, Meest’ Kent Power.”
His hand was moving up again.
But Kent Power had reached for that ash-tray once more. Something dropped out of his sleeve into it—a whitish disc. At the same moment that the black automatic glinted above the far end of the table, he jammed the glowing end of his cigarette against this disc and the magnesium sheet flared with a blinding flash of light. There was a revolver shot and a yell, and the lights went off.
“Get heem! Sacra—”
The rest of the shrill scream was lost in the clatter of chairs and feet as the still half-blinded and coughing gangsters plunged toward the door that had banged shut. It opened and they shot out. It closed again and something moved in the dark corner behind it; moved toward that other door that, according to a certain freehand sketch, led into Tony Carducci’s private office. A moment later in that office, a light was switched on and, removing the dark glasses that had protected his eyes against the magnesium, Kent Power glanced quickly around. Against the far wall stood a roll-top desk. There was a window on the right. He moved toward the desk, began to go through it swiftly and systematically.
HE HAD finished the pigeon-holes and was halfway through the drawers when he heard footsteps and angry voices in the other room.
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The handle of the door—he had taken the precaution of releasing the catch of its Yale lock—turned. Then a yell: “Come outa there, you ... !" Tony howled like an enraged monkey. “Get an axe! Go getta an axe, you fool, Pierre !”
The detective went on with his job. Finally, as a result of the complete ransacking of the desk, he had a book in his hand—a cashbook of sorts. He rose to his feet. At the same instant there was a crash against the door and the sharp thin blade of a hatchet appeared through the upper right-hand panel.
Stepping to the window he unlatched it, drew the lower sash up noiselessly and peered out. Twenty feet below lay a narrow alley lined with refuse barrels and ash-cans. He let himself over the sill and was about to drop when the door-panel crashed in and a face became framed in it. Tony’s—and the little Italian’s black eyes glittered. A bullet hissed through a window above the detective’s head. The last thing he heard before he let himself down at arm’s length to take the drop was the shrill: “Go queeck! Heada heem off in the alley. Keel the ... ”
In his rage, Signor Carducci was dropping his more careful night-club English and lapsing into the patois he had found sufficiently efficient while yet a humble member of a dope-smuggling gang.
Picking himself up from among the garbage cans, the detective glanced each way along the alley. Something told him he would meet trouble if he moved toward the street. He started rearward. Immediately in front of him a door opened and a figure shot out. They almost collided. The detective got a confused impression of a hand with a metal thing in it and the point of a jaw above it. He struck at the point. As he connected with it there was a sharp report and the crack of a bullet against the brick wall alongside.
The gangster was lying in a heap in the
open doorway. But hls shot had been a give-away.
There was some kind of a yard beyond the end of the building. The detective found it—a filthy, foulsome place—and heard a yell from the street end of the alley. There was a fairly high wooden fence. He was on the other side of it when the swift pad-pad of pursuing feet and the Italian’s shrill yell echoed out of the near end of the alley.
He moved toward the rear of a house— toward a door. It was locked. He knocked on it.
“Over da fence!”
There was a window close by. He smashed the nearest pane with his fist, reached in and undid the latch, threw the sash up. He climbed into a dark room. He fumbled across it, upsetting a chair; found a door. He stepped into a lighted hall, at the far end of which a woman and two children crouched, fear in their eyes.
“It’s all right,” he said, brushing past them and opening the door. “Not going to hurt you.”
He was out in a street. A taxi came cruising by. He held up his hand. “Montreal Vic!” he grunted to the driver as he leapt aboard.
IT WAS three minutes past eleven when his man, Hicks, stepped into the laboratory and announced:
“Beg pardon, sir. Three gentlemen to see you.”
“Show ’em along.”
He continued working with the highly complicated apparatus on the table; had just made the last adjustment when the three men entered the room.
“Mighty good of you to come,” he drawled in greeting.
Dr. Horace Holmes showed signs of distress. In the last two days the usually well-poised and fashionable anaesthetist had aged considerably. Of the three, John Corday seemed most his normal self, for there was a suggestion of unease
even about the tall, bearded scientist whose hands seemed to be a trouble to him.
“Brought you here to show you a little experiment in the way of anaesthetics,” the detective said. “Just cluster round this table.”
From a coop in the far corner he brought two wriggling guinea pigs. These he put under separate glass cages which were special animal-anaesthetizing chambers of his own devising.
“We’ll call ’em Fergie and Tach,” he said, indicating the two animals. “Fergie in the farthest chamber, Tach in the nearest. Going to anaesthetize ’em both; Fergie with ordinary nitrous-oxide oxygen, Tach with the same plus a special gas w'hose nature we’ll disclose later.”
He turned on a series of stopcocks. There was a faint hissing as the gases began to move through the rubber tubing connections. Presently the two animals lay over on their sides.
“Both breathing quite normally, eh? Watch little Tach. See? . . . Stopped breathing.”
He lifted the nearest chamber and removed the motionless guinea pig. He seemed to move carelessly, and yet his fingers were swiftly deft as he fastened around the chest of the animal a rubber band containing air and attached to a recording kimograph. Laying the animal down, he then set in motion the drum of the apparatus. Immediately the little indicator alongside began to move up and down, making a wavy tracing of the smoked surface of the record sheet.
“See? Heart still beating and recording. Get the idea? Respiratory failure— like James K. Mahoney.”
Unfastening the band from the animal’s chest, he took it over to the coop and returned.
“Now,” he said, pointing to the second chamber in which the control animal still breathed quietly under the anaesthetic, “you see attached to the tubing conducting the nitrous-oxide oxygen to
little Fergie, a small bottle. At present its contents do not come into contact with the stream of gas running into the chambc . But I turn this stopcock and the gas bubbles through it. Watch Fergie . . . See? . . . Stopped breathing. Now we’ll attach the kimograph belt to his chest and see if his heart’s still beating . . . It is . . . Same effect as on Tach.”
He swung on the three men.
“The liquid in the little bottle through which I diverted the gas to Fergie was the liquid that was in the ether jar at the Montreal Vic yesterday morning.” He smiled rather grimly. “I transferred some of it to another bottle while I was labelling it in Miss Martin’s office. The gas under which poor old Tach died was nitrous-oxide oxygen plus pure phosgene. Phosgene was one of the deadly gases used during the war. And it looks very much as if nitrous-oxide oxygen passing through or over the fluid that was in the ether jar of the gas machine at the hospital yesterday morning, liberates the same gas—phosgene, eh? I submit that James K. Mahoney might have died of phosgene poisoning.”
Dr. Holmes exclaimed in amazement. He was breathing heavily and mopping his brow.
“So the next thing we want to know,” the detective continued in his quiet drawl, “is the composition of the liquid in that little bottle. Chloroform and ether, gentlemen; nothing but chloroform and ether. I smelled it yesterday morning when Dr. Holmes was unfortunate enough to let the jar drop, scattering the stuff. It was that whiff of chloroform odor that set me to mopping it up. Why, I asked myself, had chloroform got into that ether jar? What, I asked myself, might it signify? Simply this—and you can believe it or not—nitrous-oxide oxygen passing over or through chloroform oxidizes it and sets free phosgene.”
“Clever! Marvellously clever, Power!” breathed Dr. Myland. “I congratulate
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drunk again!’ So we went right ahead without flagging, and when we got to the bridge there just wasn’t any bridge and we tumbled into the water. The engineer and conductor, however, had the edge on the fireman and myself, knowing what to expect, and they just stepped off and let us go.
“I got the full contents of the boiler over me when the whistle stem broke, and Frank Doig, the fireman, had both arms broken. I was laid up for three months at Rat Portage with the flesh of my legs baked to the bone. It was actually so hard that you couldn’t cut it, and I had to lie there without moving.
“However, I got around again all right and when I went back they made a job for me, but I had no claim for pay or damages for I had no right on that engine when I wasn’t on duty.”
Characteristic of this seventy-year-old railroader, he finishes abruptly by saying there’s nothing more to say. He worked out of Winnipeg on a passenger engine without further mishap until his retirement in 1917. Five years later he moved to the Pacific Coast, where he still lives.
William H. Evans
ANOTHER of the pioneer engineers who ¿Vhad more than his share of the thrills and perils of those early days of railroading is William H. (Billy) Evans, whose hand was at the throttle of the first train to reach tidewater at Port Moody direct from Montreal, and who now looks back on forty-six years of continuous service with the C. P. R.
“The job of locomotive engineer is not the easiest on the nerves at best, but I think that first year or two we operated through Fraser Canyon was about the toughest period experienced in the lives of Canadian Pacific engineers on any portion of the road,” he told me when I asked him for his story.
“I am not alone in this view, for I believe that any of the men who survived that time and are still with us will tell the same story.
“I had worked two years on the prairies before coming to British Columbia and it wasn’t all sunshine there, either. I was just twenty years old when I reached Winnipeg in 1881, from my birthplace, Hiawatha, Ontario. My mother’s family were of the United Empire Loyalist stock and my father was English. I had worked a while in a machine shop at Goderich, Ontario, before deciding to come West, and had about served my time as an apprentice. I worked in the shops for a few months until there was a chance on the road.
“Winter operating then was no pleasure; neither is it today. I was twentyfive hours on one trip between Winnipeg and Brandon. Every time we stopped to load four-foot poplars the engine would freeze up. Maybe the next stop would be for water, and we’d cut a hole in the ice to siphon and find that we were frozen up again when we wanted to start.
“In 1883 I came west to work for Andrew Onderdonk on the construction job out of Yale, travelling south to San Francisco and up the coast by boat to Victoria, thence to Yale by riverboat.
“There were several small engines in the first service of construction there. I ran one of these, the ‘Curly,’ for some time before taking one of the larger types known as the ‘Yale.’ When a portion of the road was completed we operated a regular mixed service between important points such as Port Moody and Yale, and then on to Savona and later to Kamloops.
“Into the Atmosphere”
TT WAS on February 28, 1885, that I A had my first big accident; and it came very nearly being my last. We had been having a heavy rain and the hillsides were soft and sloughing dirt and
rocks down at intervals, keeping us on hot griddles all the time.
“About two miles east of Keefer’s was a trestle of what was known as the ‘grasshopper’ type, with one side sitting close in against the rock bank and the other on long stilts outside. I came around a point on to this trestle and saw’ a big rock on the track right in the middle of it. It was too late to stop, for we had hit it before I could do more than shut off steam.
“We went right over the side into the atmosphere, the first drop being straight down sixty feet, and then a steep slope from there on for another 300 feet. When we finally got stopped, the tender had scattered itself all about, and I was later pulled out from under its trucks some distance from the engine. All the way down were rocks and coarse gravel, and to this day I carry the marks of that trip. An account in a San Francisco paper told how I looked as though I had been through a threshing machine with every tooth doing its work.
“I remember there was a fellow looking me over after the wreck and he remarked:
“ ‘You went down that there hill and came out alive from under that engine! Why, man, you could jump into the Mississippi and not get wet!’
“I was laid up two months with that spill and then took the throttle again. On my second trip out I got into another wreck at Barnes Creek, east of Ashcroft. Heavy rains had undermined the bridge. I was just coming on to it with everything looking O.K. in my headlight’s glim when I suddenly caught a glimpse of a broken rail slightly out of place. We had no big, powerful electric headlights at that time, just an oil lamp with reflector.
“I saw we were in for derailment at least and shouted to my fireman to jump, at the same time whistling for brakes. There were no air brakes either in those days, the train crew being required to get out on top and set hand brakes when we wanted to stop. Of course it was useless to try to get stopped in a few feet like that, and my poor fireman didn’t get clear in time to jump and was killed.
“I was thrown out and landed down in the creek beside the wheels of the engine. I had reversed before we struck and the ■wheels were still spinning backward against my legs down there on the bottom of the stream. I was pretty badly shaken up over that one and was laid up for another two months, but I had the better of the other two at that,
for the head brakeman was also killed, being buried for twenty-four hours before they found him.
The Last Spike
rT'HE first contract of Onderdonk was limited on the east by Savona, the C. P. R. intending to construct through to that point from the East, but when it was seen that they were not making the time at first anticipated, and after Onderdonk, on the other hand, had made such good progress from the coast end, a further contract was given to the contractor to construct through to Craigellachie, 28.3 miles west of Revelstoke.
“As the link was nearing the point of connection and it was expected soon to be hooked up, an official train was arranged to run from Port Moody at tidewater to witness the closing of the final gap. I ran the engine of this train, leaving Port Moody on November 5, 1885, arriving at Craigellachie on the
morning of November 7, and a few hours later the last rail was sawn to length and set in place and Donald Smith was given the task of driving the last spike.
“The following winter was the heaviest in snow that I ever experienced. No attempt was made to keep the road open east of Savona as no service was scheduled until the following summer, but on the west end terrific efforts were required to keep up even a tri-weekly service.
Eight Days, Eight Miles
T REMEMBER in February, 1886, we L had a fall of six feet of snow in one night between Lytton and Ruby Creek. It hadn’t started when I went into camp at 19 o’clock, which is seven o’clock in the twelve-hour system used in the East. P'our hours later, at eleven o’clock at night, I was called to go out on a snow plow and was astounded to see the snow had fallen to a depth that covered the fences. It took us just eight days to go eight miles out of North Bend, and we were over two weeks getting this portion of the line open.
“The Onderdonk Company was still operating the line, the final tranter not having yet been made, and they operated a mixed service between Savona and Port Moody. This train got stuck in snow when it started from Yale on a Saturday night for Ruby Creek and did not return until Wednesday night, making a distance of twenty-two miles in four days. The passengers had nothing to eat but dried salmon during that trip.
npilE following summer, after all deL tails had been completed between the railway and the contractors, a through schedule was arranged and I went to Kamloops to bring back the first through passenger train from Montreal. We arrived at Port Moody on July 4, 1886, just six days after the train had left its eastern terminal, which was very good time under the conditions imposed during the first year of operation.
“An excursion boat was run to Port Moody from Victoria for the occasion, for this was an eventful day for the Canadian West, signifying the linking up of British Columbia with the other provinces after a lengthy struggle. It was an old side-wheeler, a Sacramento riverboat, the Yosemite. Mayor Kell of Victoria was on board and at Vancouver he was joined by Mayor MacLean. Colonel Scott of the Port Moody Hotel was termed mayor of that temporary terminus, so that when the addresses of welcome were presented to Henry Abbott, general superintendent of the Canadian Pacific, there were pointed references made to the matter of terminals.
“Mayor MacLean referred to Vancouver as the logical terminus, Colonel Scott claimed Port Moody as the actual or Parliamentary terminus, and Mayor Fell of Victoria, not to be outdone, claimed for the Capital City the title of objective terminal for all railroads and shipping.
“When we arrived the crowd rushed around the train in high excitement., climbing all over it. They came up into the engine, pressing B. C. cigars on me in their gratitude for my part in the accomplishment.
“ ‘You must be pretty good stuff, mister,’ some of them said. ‘It’s a long run from Montreal to here without quitting.’ They thought that I had run the engine that pulled the train all the way through.
“Our train was made up of one baggage and express car, one mail car, two colonists and a standard sleeper, with Mr. Abbott’s private car behind.
“A regular service was installed then and maintained throughout the year in spite of terrific difficulties to overcome during winter and spring on some portions of the road, due to snow and slide and freshet conditions. In summer, too, we had to combat fires until the country became cleared close to the tracks. I ran in regular service between Kamloops and Vancouver until promotion in 1901. Kamloops was just a cow town in those days and the railway ran right down the main street.
A Lucky Dodge
I H AD another peculiar incident one time which came very close to being fatal. Running through the big tunnel east of Yale at about fifty miles an hour, I came on to a hand-car on the track so suddenly that the section gang hadn’t time to get it clear. As it was loaded with tools I dodged down behind the engine boiler, realizing that they might be thrown high in the air. After the impact I turned to see where a long steel bar had shot through the front window of the cab, travelled completely through my seat box and through my overcoat and finally came to rest imbedded in the other end of the seat box. There is no doubt of w'hat would have happened to me if I had remained where I was at the window' and directly in its path.
“In 1901 I was promoted to road foreman, holding that position until 1912, when I was again advanced to master mechanic of the Pacific Division, being retired by the rule of age in May, 1927.” Editor’s Note: This is the concluding
number of a series of five articles by Mr. Pugsley on the experiences of Canada's railway pioneers.