The BANNISTER CASE
A murder mystery story starring Kent Power, scientific detective
ALLO, Kent Power!” the voice of Sergeant Jules Papineau of the Montreal detective force came over the telephone wire.
The young man in the long white coat with the receiver to his ear grinned, and his grin was one of mingled irony and affection.
Pushing the microscope on the bench in front of him farther out of the way, he leaned an elbow on the cleared space and exclaimed:
"What's on the mind today, Pap? The crime wave hurting your feet?"
"Sucre, there is no crime wave in Mo’real.
Kent Power. We have the best policed city in Canada."
“You shrinking violets at the City Hall are much too modest, Pap."
Sergeant Papineau chose to ignore the unmistakable irony.
“You are busy?” he demanded.
"Busy? What’s that? Something policemen do with their heads?”
“I will come over, then, immédiatement!’’
The sergeant jammed up his receiver.
Placing the phone within reach on the bench. Kent Power drew the microscope toward him again. For the next twenty minutes he moved amid the complicated apparatus that cluttered his small private laboratory with the precision and deftness of one very much at home in such surroundings. The best known private investigator in Montreal, he was more than that. At McGill University they constantly groaned about his outstanding scientific ability having gone wrong in the highways and byways of crime. In spite of that, the same gentry owed more than one discovertthat bore their names to hints received from the little laboratory at the rear of a Drummond Street flat.
There was a stir at the door, and Hicks the manservant announced after the portentous manner of his kind:
“The sergeant is ’ere, sir."
Kent Power swung from the bench. Once more, as his glance rested on the rotund figure advancing from the door, a mixture of irony and affection became evident in his grin.
“Hello, Pap,” he said, jerking a stool forward with his foot. “Rest the bones."
Sergeant Papineau rested his bones and wiped beads of perspiration from his forehead. He stroked the magnificent and virile black mustachios that curved from under his beaklike nose and said:
"Voilà, more trouble!"
“It’s a cruel world, Pap." Kent wiped oil from the bottom of the microscope's oil-immersion lens and stuffed the cloth into his coat pocket.
“Henry Bannister is dead. Last night. You ; w in the
“It appeared simple. He is a man of sixty-five, in not so good healt’. The heart is weak. But he does not die that way. Mais non! The daughter has insist on a post-mortem. She has reason, she says, to believe foul play. To satisfy her, they do that post-mortem. Sacre, there is in the stomach contents—what you think?—cyanide! And not a single clue—rien de tout!"
Papineau blew out his cheeks and thrust up his hands in a gesture of disgust.
“No clue at all?”
“Not'ing! Only darkness ! He sits with his wife at home last night after dinner. He is reading. Suddenly—pouf!— he is dead ! What do you make of that, eh?”
Before Kent could reply, Hicks appeared at the door
“Mr. Leon Pellatte 'as called to see you, sir. 'E is in the drawing-room,” he announced.
“Tell him to step this way, Hicks.”
“Very good, sir.”
Kent turned to Papineau.
“Something serious must have happened to bring friend Leon here. Usually he sends out the royal command for me to attend at his own premises—Ah, how do you do, Mr. Pellatte !”
’ I 'HE tall, sleek figure of Montreal’s outstanding Canadien
■*advocate approached suavely.
“Good afternoon, Power." The voice was mellow, rich —tinctured with the Gallic accent. ”Bo' jo’, sergeant.” He seated himself on the proffered stool and addressed himself to Kent :
"I am here on Miss Mary Bannister’s instructions. You have probably heard from the sergeant of the unfortunate
“We were just discussing it,” Kent replied.
"I wish to engage your very valuable services in solving this sriystery. Not that I have the slightest lack of confidence in your great abilities”—he bowed unctuously in Pap’s direction—“but Miss Bannister has heard of our young friend here, and wishes particularly to have the benefit of his shall I say, scientific genius.”
“I was just on the point of offering it to the sergeant, Mr. Pellatte.” Kent said.
“Perhaps Miss Bannister will pay more than the Crown Prosecutor,” the lawyer smiled suavely.
"So much the better. Since we’re all working toward the same end, it makes little difference.”
“Of course, my dear chap.” M. Pellatte hastened to say; and then: “There are circumstances which Miss Bannister feels you should know and which I regret to say”—once
more he bowed to Papineau—“she withheld from you, sergeant. That was because she wished to discuss matters with her legal adviser before mentioning what has so far been a strict family secret.
“This is the situation, Power. Henry Bannister laid the foundation of his not inconsiderable fortune many years ago in the West—a lucky invention used on all our railroads. Since then, of course, he has added to it greatly by careful investment and was fortunate enour ' to get out of the market before 1929, ahead of the rest o,
M. Pellatte smiled wryly as one who had not been quite so shrewd.
“My own first contact with him was when I defended him in a lawsuit just before he came to Montreal. A crackbrained old fool whom he had befriended declared that the lucky invention was his own and that Bannister had stolen it from him. Absurd, of course. I was able to clear Bannister absolutely. I did not know until this morning, however, that he had been receiving odd communications from time to time ever since; cryptic messages at which he laughed, which he declared to his family he neither understood nor knew the reason for, and which he disregarded entirely. At the same time, he forbade the family ever to mention them outside. It was because of them, and because she suspected they came from his old associate—which I do myself—that
she insisted on the post-mortem which revealed such tragic findings. I have brought the last three—Miss Mary retrieved them from her father’s wastebasket from time to time—for you to see. All three were received within the last two years; the third only a few weeks ago.”
He held the slips of paper out to Kent.
They had all been torn from the same sort of scribbling pad. The printing—neat, concise and very small— corresponded in each. The first read :
“Thou hast forgotten, O summer swallow.
But the world shall end when I forget!”
Kent recognized the smooth sensuousness of Swinburne, smiled gently, and turned up the second.
“Who shall my fame impair When thou art dead, and all thy wretched crew?”
He frowned over that one for a moment and then read it aloud to Leon Pellatte.
“Recognize the poet, sir?” he asked.
“Keats,” the lawyer replied with an edged smile.
The third and last ran:
“Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow Leads on this petty pace from day to day To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way To dusty death.”
“You will notice,” remarked M. Pellatte, “that two of them mention death, and one remembrance.”
“Oui!” exclaimed Papineau, his dark little eyes gleaming with interest. “For sure.”
“By the way,” Kent addressed the lawyer, “was the dead man any relation to Cyrus Bannister, of Bannister and Brown, the stock brokers?”
M. Pellatte gave him a somewhat startled look.
“Yes; his father. Why do you ask?”
“There’s a rumor that Bannister and Brown are in difficulties with this steadily dropping market.”
“My dear chap,” expostulated the lawyer, “you surely aren’t trying to connect him with his father’s death. The idea’s absurd.”
Kent smiled obscurely.
“I merely wanted the information, sir. What about Mrs. Bannister?”
“The second wife is some years younger than the dead man. They were married five years ago.”
“Was there a will?”
“Er—yes.” M. Pellatte was known as a master of cross-examination and doubtless his experience made him wary. He leaned forward engagingly and said: “I think I should tell you that Bannister rang me up day before yesterday and asked me to make out a codicil. Three years ago he made over to his son the money he had put into Bannister and Brown; the money. I may say, that started the firm. He then made a will dividing the remainder of the estate in equal parts between his daughter and Mrs. Bannister. Under the new codicil. Cyrus Bannister would have inherited a hundred thousand dollars. I infer that Henry Bannister feared the stormy seas his son’s firm was traversing and wished to make sure that he would not be left penniless. Unfortunately the codicil was not signed. I was to have taken it to his house this morning.”
“Very interesting,” Kent remarked.
“Absolument!” declared Papineau.
The lawyer’s face was grave, his manner portentous.
“I can assure you, Power, that if anything I have disclosed causes you to suspect Cyrus Bannister of foul play, you are making a tragic mistake. It is entirely incredible that he could have done this wretched thing.”
“Did he know the codicil had not been signed?” Kent asked relentlessly.
“I do not know,” the lawyer replied a little curtly, rising to his feet.
Kent went with him to the front door of the flat. As they were parting he said :
“Mr. Pellatte, the truth, the whole truth, has never done harm to an honest man.”
But M. Pellatte was a lawyer.
“Perhaps,” he replied with a shrug. “And again, perhaps not. Good afternoon.”
Kent returned to the laboratory.
“Well, Pap,” he said, “we’ll start by interviewing the widow.” Then, catching sight of the other’s face, he exclaimed: “What’s the matter, man?”
Pap was swearing in a gusty combination of English and French.
“Mo' dieu!” he exploded. “How am I expect’ to solve murder when all the information is kept from me? Yet
given to you! And then they say: 'For why does the
detective force of Mo’real not solve its crimes and Kent Power must solve them?’ Sacre nom d'un nom d’un—!” Kent slapped him across the shoulder laughingly.
“It’s my open face, Pap. People confide in me—babies, old women, dogs ! Cultivate an open face. Let’s trot along and see how open this widow’s face is.”
MRS. HENRY BANNISTER was a dissatisfied woman in her late thirties. She was the dark, vivid type, with some hardening of her beauty-parlored features. Nor did she show any noticeable sign of bereavement, evincing, indeed, a quite unexpected self-command. She answered their questions shortly and without embroidery, but her evidence added nothing new. The dead man, she declared, had seemed quite normal the night of his death, had eaten a good meal, had complained of no symptom.
“He ate nothing after dinner, no fruit or anything like that?” Kent asked her.
“Coffee disagreed with him. He had a liqueur at dinner.” “You knew of the messages he received, Mrs. Bannister. Did he ever connect them with the name of a possible enemy in your hearing?”
“Never. He always referred to them laughingly and threw them away. I saw none of them until this morning. I am sure he would have been quite angry if he had known they were being surreptitiously preserved.”
“Claws,” Kent thought; “taking a scratch at the daughter.”
“You knew' that Mr. Bannister proposed a change in his will?” he asked her.
She shot him a quick glance before replying. When she did speak, her tone seemed shot through with a certain grim satisfaction, a suppressed triumph perhaps.
“Yes,” she said.
“One more question: Did Mr. Cyrus Bannister know
that his father had not signed the new codicil at the time of his death?”
Again something flecked those dark, quick eyes; an unfathomable momentary gleam. But she replied without hesitation:
“I believe not. He seemed very upset when I told him this morning.”
“Thanks very much.” Kent rose, and suddenly turned to her again. “You are not on the best of terms with your stepson and stepdaughter?”
She shrugged, glanced at Papineau and then back at the younger man. There was malice in her eyes.
“It’s not my fault. They have always resented my being
As the front door closed behind them Papineau said :
“She is deep, that one ! What you think?”
Kent did not answer. A smart and gleaming convertible coupé had drawm up at the curb below. A girl as modem as the car and as finely limned stepped from it. The long, black afternoon dress that swept the sidewalk robed a lithe slender figure of the long-limbed type that is so effective these days. Against the wide-brimmed black hat the face was as lovely as first daffodils, the hair of that creamy blondeness that is the despair alike of young idealists and old sinners.
She halted at the foot of the granite steps and gazed up at them with grey, questioning eyes that were not untouched with tragedy. Kent’s hat came off in swift instinctive tribute. He was not above homage to the sort of picture she made, as what red-blooded aesthete should be?
“Miss Bannister?” he asked, taking a step down to meet her.
BREATHING somewhat more heavily than an old married man should have, Pap followed.
“Yes,” the voice replied. It was music.
“I’m Kent Power. This is Sergeant Papineau of the detective force.”
Pap’s bow was a masterpiece of Gallic gallantry, but lost, helas, for the girl’s eager glance was fixed on his escort’s face.
“Oh, Mr. Power,” she was saying, “I do hope you'll be able to unravel this terrible business.”
“It won’t be for lack of trying, Miss Bannister. Could you help by answering a few questions?”
“Did you know that your father had not signed the new codicil of his will before he died?”
She stared at him in a surprised, puzzled way.
“Why, no; not until my stepmother told me this morning.’ “Your brother didn’t know either?”
“No. Poor Cy, he—” She did not finish the remark.
Continued on page 57
Continued from page 9
Something suspiciously like tears momentarily filmed the grey, lovely eyes.
“Your father never spoke of an enemy, Miss Bannister? You don’t know of anyone who held a grudge against him?”
“He said nothing, but I’m sure he had an enemy. Did Mr. Pellatte tell you about those messages?”
“It must have been that man ! He did his best to defraud dad out of his invention.” “But your father never said so in your hearing?” ,
“He never bore anyone a grudge, Mr. Power. People misunderstood him. He could be so kind.” She choked somewhat over the last words, had to bite the crimson lips.
“Sorry to have had to harrow you this way, Miss Bannister,” Power said, replacing his hat. “Thanks a lot for your help. Good-by for the present.”
They left her. But, hand on the doorknob, she turned and glanced after the tall slim figure beside the stout dumpy one striding down the hill toward Sherbrooke Street. She was not the first to do that very thing. There was something about Kent Power—call it sex appeal if you like.
“Sacre, she is beautiful,” breathed Pap as they hurried along. “Helas, it is the tragedy that one grows old and fat. Twenty years ago—oo-la-la!” Pap kissed pursed fingers of a plump hand toward the Ritz. Kent grinned at him sardonically.
“Put an ice bag on the head,” he exhorted; “you need your brain for other work. One of these days I’m going to have a quiet chat with Madame Pap. She allows you too much liberty in these streets of Montreal.” “Mo’ dieu!" exclaimed the other. “Can a man have no dreams, Kent Power? Where do we go from this hot place?”
They were in Sherbrooke Street. Kent held his hand up to a passing taxi.
“St. James Street, old dear. An environ where other fond idiots have had their dreams; the golden kind that aren’t blondes. I want to have a chat with Cyrus Bannister.”
THE customers’ room at Bannister and Brown’s was practically empty. A clerk leapt to the railing on the scent of possible new business, for these were sad days on St. James Street. Kent handed him his card, asked for an interview with Cyrus Bannister. A moment later they were ushered into a richly furnished brokerage interior.
Bannister was the athletic Apollo type, one of those handsome football tackles that gravitate so instinctively to stocks and bonds and the best tailoring establishments. But the face that ten years previously had delighted the bleacherettes at McGillVarsity games had a haggard, harrassed look today.
“Glad to meet you, Power.” He gave Kent the finger-bruising handshake that is the hallmark of the he-man. “Have you and Sergeant Papineau been able to discover anything? It’s a ghastly business ! I had no idea my sister’s insistence on a post-mortem would bring this thing to light.”
He was not able to give them much information in addition to that which they had already garnered. He pooh-poohed the idea that the cryptic communications his father had been receiving were in any way connected with his death.
“I don’t believe they were written by the old bird who thought the guv’nor had stolen his invention, Power. He’s been out of the picture for a long time, disappeared from the old home town, probably dead. They were the work of one of those fanatics who are always writing to men of means. It’s the price of eminence and riches, Power; and I wish to Heaven I were getting ’em these days.” He laughed somewhat hollowly.
“Had your father any close friends?” Kent asked him in the end. “Anyone he’d have been likely to confide in?”
The other man stared for a moment at the ormolu inkstand.
“He wasn’t much on confidences, Power;
friendship either. Something about him that shooed people off. I suppose Leon Pellatte and Weems Gladwin were as close to him as anybody. Gladwin and he played a lot of backgammon lately. I doubt if the guv’nor opened up even to him.”
“That’s Dr. Gladwin the dentist, isn’t it?”
“Yes.” Bannister smiled ironically. “I have an idea old Glad went to the house so often, more because he wanted additional margin here than because of a yen for backgammon.”
“Got caught in the great bear rush, eh?”
“I’ll say he did!”
Kent rose to go. As he was leaving, the other man said with more feeling than he had hitherto shown:
“If there has been dirty work, Power— and my sister is convinced there has been—I want you to know that we’re prepared to go to any length to have him caught.”
Outside Pap made a further post-mortem comment:
“That young man is worried.”
“So’d you be, Pap, if you were trying to stem back the Niagara of this economic depression.”
The sergeant glanced at his watch.
“Sacre!” he exclaimed. “It is four-thirty. I must report at headquarters immédiatement. I am late !”
“Okay. Wouldn’t do any harm, Pap, to send a night letter to the chief of police in that town in the West that Bannister hailed from. Find out the name of the bird who sued him over the invention—Pellatte ’ll know—and enquire about him. I think it’d be worth while tracing him. And it might be a good idea to keep an ear to the ground about the present financial standing of Bannister and Brown.”
“Oui" Pap made a note of it in his little book and then took himself off.
DR. WEEMS GLADWIN’S suite in the Colonial Corporation Building went well with his reputation as one of Montreal’s most fashionable dentists. Only one patient, however, a svelte lady of uncertain years, sat in the delightfully cool, antique-furnitured waiting room at this late hour. There was suddenly an eagerness in her eyes as she glanced up from the illustrated pages of Mayfair at the tall young man who had entered; an eagerness born of that ennui and hope that springs eternal in the hearts of svelte ladies of uncertain years. It died somewhat sadly after the short colloquy between the nurse-secretary and Power.
“You have an appointment with the doctor?”
“I’m afraid I haven’t, but would you ask him if I could have a word with him when he’s disengaged?”
The nurse took the engraved card behind the rich, brocaded curtains where the torture chamber lay and returned almost immediately.
“Will you step this way, please?”
Dr. Gladwin was waiting, card in hand, beyond the curtains. He was a tall, lean man of about fifty, with a close-cropped mustache, quick, intelligent dark eyes, and a
decidedly engaging air. He wore one of those white coats—belted, with a high neckband buttoning over the right shoulder —that give so many dentists the look of a Russian prince.
“You wish to see me, Mr. Power?”
“Yes, doctor, about Henry Bannister, understand you were a friend.”
Something came into those intelligent and quick dark eyes, something guarded and secretive. But the outward manner matched itself immediately to the occasion.
“A terrible business, Mr. Power. You are working on it—a detective?”
“Yes. I thought you might be able to give me some information about him.”
“Of course. I’ll be glad to tell you anything I know. Would you mind waiting a few minutes? Step into the studio. Show him the way, Miss James. You’ll find cigarettes.”
Kent stepped through a door on the right which the nurse opened and found himself in the “studio.” He smiled over the name, over the pitiful thwarting of artistic yearnings that had given rise to it. This “studio” was merely a dental laboratory. True enough, it was larger and fitted with a more imposing amount of apparatus than the ordinary dental workshop, but it was still a laboratory. The general equipment probably explained the rumor that Weems Gladwin could make teeth that fitted like the skin on a baby’s nose.
He became so interested in its intricacies that he did not see an oldish man in the white coat seated at a bench by the window until he was within a few feet of him. The mechanic, who was working on a wax model, had the look of his kind; the watery, grey eyes of failure, the unkempt hedge of drooping grey whisker, the wrinkled features.
“I’m just waiting for Dr. Gladwin,” Kent said in explanation of his presence. “You’ve got some mighty neat apparatus here. There’s an ingenious gadget.” He pointed at a delicate lathe.
“Yes,” said the old man, “me and the doctor spent a lot of time perfectin’ that. He’s handy, the doctor is. I always say, whether in a mouth or a workshop Gladwin knows his way about. Best dentist in Canada; probably in the world.”
Kent chuckled. The old bird was a character. He was about to address another remark to him when the door behind them opened and Dr. Gladwin himself stepped in.
“Connors showing you the works?” Gladwin asked, smiling. “We’re very proud of our studio, aren’t we, Connors?” He laid an affectionate hand on the mechanic’s thin, bent back.
“Best dental workshop in America,” Connors declared.
“Now, Mr. Power,” said the dentist, “you wanted some information about poor Bannister.” As Kent glanced questioningly in the direction of the mechanic, who had gone discreetly back to his modelling, he exclaimed: “You can speak freely before
Connors. He knows all my secrets.”
The old man chuckled.
"In one ear an’ out the other, doctor.”
For the fifth time that afternoon Kent put the same question—and got very much the same answer.
“Henry Bannister was a hard man, Mr. Power,” the dentist declared, “and perhaps a sharp one, but I never heard of him having an enemy or enemies. Certainly he never spoke of such to me. You think someone poisoned him?”
“Yes, doctor. At least that’s the idea I’m entertaining at present.”
“No. I believe he committed suicide, Power. I mentioned it to the family as delicately as I could, but they scouted it—all but Mrs. Bannister. Cy and Mary seemed to have some strange reason for believing otherwise. What it was I can’t imagine. But look the thing fair in the face. Bannister wasn’t well; hadn’t been for some months. I think he was brooding a good deal. His doctor sent him to me about a month ago to have his teeth X-rayed. I extracted two a fortnight ago and was treating another. I don’t believe, however, that his teeth were responsible for his depressed state of mind. There was some other cause. But the point is, he was depressed—in that state where men and women do take themselves off. Here’s another point. Cyanide acts almost instantly. He must have slipped it into his mouth without Mrs. Bannister seeing it. She is sure he took nothing to eat or drink within an hour of his death.”
“You make it sound mighty reasonable, doctor,” Kent replied. “But wasn’t it queer they found no paper or capsule that might have contained the drug either on his person or about the room? I understand the coroner particularly took solutions from his fingers and lips in the hope of discovering traces of the drug. Of course it might have been suicide. I admit I’ve entertained the idea surreptitiously. I’ll accept it finally only when I’ve exhausted all the other possibilities.”
“I can see no other way to account for it,” exclaimed the dentist, shaking his head. “Can you, Connors?”
Appealed to, the old mechanic turned from his waxworks. There was a quaintly wise look on his wrinkled face.
“It’s often things we don’t see that are starin’ us in the face, doctor. Adam must of seen apples failin’ in the Garden of Eden, but it wasn’t till Newton come along that the law of gravitation got discovered.”
The dentist laughed; even Kent had to chuckle.
“Well,” said the latter, “I won’t trouble you any further just now, doctor. Thanks very much for your information. Good-by, Mr. Connors.”
“So long, son,” said the old man.
Dr. Gladwin saw the detective to the waiting-room door.
SERGEANT PAPINEAU’S enquiries gathered no moss. According to some of his informants, Bannister and Brown were in as good shape as any of the brokerage houses; according to others they were practically in the ashcan. The night letter to the West proved a complete blank. As to the identity of the old crank who had sued Henry Bannister over the invention or his whereabouts, only a name—Ellery Coghlan —was the result. Nor did the coroner’s court next morning plough any virgin soil. Henry Bannister, according to the verdict of the twelve good men and true, died of “poisoning by cyanide of potassium administered either by himself or some person unknown.” The afternoon papers added the information that the body had been taken to the Elite Undertaking Salon for burial preparations and that the funeral—“No flowers requested”—would take place the following day
Sergeant Papineau, who lunched with Kent after the inquest at the latter’s flat, complained into his soup cup:
“Not’ing marches ! Rien!”
"Except a few motives,” the younger man replied.
“Oui!" Pap shrugged disinterestedly. “The widow, Cyrus Bannister. But how could he have adminstered the poison? The woman, though, I do not like. What did she do during that hour they sat alone, eh?”
“If she’s the guilty one, we might as well fold up, Pap. She’s cool and clever enough to have destroyed every scrap of evidence. She had the strongest motive, too—the prevention of Cyrus Bannister inheriting under that codicil. I wouldn’t say there had been much affection between her and the dead man, certainly not on her part. And none at all for Cyrus and the girl.”
“But I do not forget Cyrus. For sure, he needs that hundred thousand. He was upset when he found out the codicil was not signed.”
“He’s certainly worrying about something,” Kent agreed; and then a twinkle came into his eye. "There’s still the daughter. She might have had a motive.” “What !” Pap exploded, protest and incredulity struggling with the jovial features. “ Nom d’un nom, Kent Power, that beautiful mademoiselle would not—”
“Listen, Pap,” Kent said gravely; “she says she didn’t know whether the codicil was signed or not until Mrs. Bannister told her. But supposing she did know. What if she had some urgent reason for not wanting her share of the estate to shrink?”
“Impossible! Sacre, I would not believe it from St. Peter himself!” Papineau cried vehemently. “That face—non, non."
“That’s just the point, Pap—her face. It’s faces like hers that launch a thousand ships; make fools out of sentimental old detectives.”
“Bah!” Pap stuffed a forkful of fish into his mouth. “You pull my leg.”
Kent threw back his head and laughed merrily.
“I only hope I’ll be as successful pulling some more legs today, old dear. I can’t really hope for it, though.”
BECAUSE the sergeant was called back to headquarters immediately after the meal, Kent went alone to the Bannister home. From the first moment of his interview with Dr. Weems Gladwin, a vague uncertainty regarding the latter had kept buzzing along the fringes of his brain. In spite of an outward manner of frankness the dentist had been wary. 'Wariness had hovered under his behavior like a dark, fluttering wing. And his suggestion of suicide had had the patina of something well polished up beforehand. It was just possible that Miss Bannister might be able to throw some light on Gladwin’s friendship with her father.
A maid ushered him into her drawingroom, left him there. Waiting, he wandered slowly about the room. His movements appeared casual; nevertheless his steady grey eyes covered everything—the chair in which the dead man had sat, the table close by and the articles on it, the ornaments on the mantel, distances between various pieces of furniture.
A slightly open door at the far end of the room invited scrutiny. He had not noticed it before because of the portière that hung in front of it. Moving toward it, he saw the greenery beyond; it led into a conservatory. He was about to draw it open and step through when the sound of a familiar voice halted him.
“It means a happier life, Helen—for us both!”
He craned his neck slightly. Some distance along the conservatory, just this side of a potted palm, stood a man and woman close together, hand in hand. He got a look at their faces. Mrs. Bannister’s eyes were no longer hard; there was something amazingly intimate and tender in their glance that just now was surrendering much to Dr. Weems Gladwin.
Power stepped back, started slowly across the drawing-room floor. He bore a chastened look, a look compounded of concern and wonder. Gladwin and the woman loved each other! “It means a happier life.” That meant that Weems Gladwin had a motive for murdering the dead man !
Suddenly, halfway to the window, Power halted and let out a startled exclamation. “Holy tomcats!” Grabbing up his hat, he dashed out of the house.
VOILA, I am here! You have discover something?” Papineau waddled eagerly into the laboratory.
“Plenty,” Kent replied grimly. Picking an object up from the bench, he held it out to the other man. “Regardez, mon vieux."
“A tooth!” Pap exclaimed, seating himself. “For the moment I expect something else. Now I know you try the leg-pull again. When you lose a few more of those, Kent Power, you will wear crockery in your mouth, comme moi!"
“It’s not mine. I extracted it an hour ago at the undertaker’s from Henry Bannister’s lower jaw.”
“Sacre nom!" gasped Pap. “For why have you done so?”
Kent described the touching little tableau he had witnessed at the Bannister home.
“I suddenly remembered Gladwin telling me he had treated a tooth for the dead man several days ago. I decided to take a dekko at that tooth. Call it a hunch. Look at Peter Pan.” He pointed at the wire cage on the bench in which lay a dead guinea pig. “Poor little Pete drank some of the solution I made from the cavity of that tooth mixed with milk. He had all the symptoms of cyanide poisoning. Take a dekko.”
He held the tooth closer to Papineau, whose eyes were saucers.
“Note the temporary filling. Part of it has dissolved away—as was intended. See!” With a fine probe he picked at a spot in the eroded cavity. “Cotton wool. That cotton wool was soaked in a solution containing oil of cloves and cyanide of potassium. It was then covered with the temporary cement. The cement dissolved slowly, allowed the cyanide to escape into the saliva—and Henry Bannister passed to his fathers.”
“Mo’ dieu!” gasped Pap. “Gladwin is the murderer!”
“Or I’m a Dutchman. Pretty neat, eh? We’d never have stumbled on it in a thousand years except for my fluke visit to the Bannister home this afternoon.”
“We go now to arrest him.” Pap rose solemnly, pulling his hat forward from the back of his head.
“We do,” Kent agreed.
There were several patients in the dentist’s waiting room when they arrived there twenty minutes later. Dr. Gladwin, the nurse informed them, was busy with a treatment.
“Okay,” said Kent. “We’ll wait in the workshop. Tell him there’s no frantic
He led the way into the “studio.” “Afternoon, Connors,” he said to the mechanic who sat at the bench as if he had not moved from it since yesterday. “How're teeth today? Meet Sergeant Papineau. Friend of mine.”
The old man acknowledged the introduction and smiled quizzically at Kent.
“My teeth go marching on like soldiers," he said. “A pretty figure, eh, Mr. Power? I place them so !” He held up the wax model on which he was working. “Thirty-two in a company. On they march, hacking their way through the enemies of digestion, animal, vegetable and mineral. Brave soldiers; never flinching or disobeying orders like the teeth we’re bom with.” He chuckled appreciatively over his own fancy.
Dr. Gladwin came in.
“Well, Mr. Power,” he exclaimed, “you’re getting to be a daily visitor.”
Papineau scowled, was on the point of rapping something out when Kent gave him a nudge.
“Do you recognize this, doctor?” The detective held out the tooth.
Gladwin stared at it. Then his face fell, his hand shook agitatedly.
“Yes, Henry Bannister’s—the tooth you were treating. I took the liberty of extracting it. You’ll be interested to know that I discovered cyanide of potassium in the cotton-wool packing.”
“Y-you what?” gasped the dentist.
“I discovered that the packing you put
under that temporary filling contained more than oil of cloves,” Kent replied coolly.
Gladwin suddenly took hold of himself. The blood flowed back into his ashen face.
“You lie !” he choked, raising his clenched fists. “You lie ! How dare you try to pull a foul thing like that on me”
The old mechanic, Connors, turned away with a shrug of resignation, began to make figures on the desk pad with the stub of a pencil. Perhaps the years had taught him more than he appeared to have learned— that divine nonchalance, that godlike acceptance of fate that so few even begin to achieve.
“I’m not trying to pull anything on you, doctor,” Kent said quietly. “You put the cyanide into Henry Bannister’s tooth that killed him. I can prove it in any court of law. Sergeant Papineau has seen the proof.”
“Oui, for sure!” panted Pap, his mustachios bristling aggressively, his fingers itching about the metal bracelets in his coat pocket.
Gladwin was calmer now.
"Listen to me, Power,” he said in a low, husky voice. “You’re making a ghastly mistake. I didn’t kill Henry Bannister. I swear I didn’t!”
Kent shrugged, then became aware now of something that had been impinging against the corner of his eye. He moved slightly, softly, a mere step. Pap, with curiosity, the dentist half-dazedly, stared at him. He let his hand drop on the old mechanic’s shoulder.
“You killed Henry Bannister, didn’t you.
The man’s body gave a convulsive twitch under the pressure of the hand. He turned. There was a queer faraway look in the faded eyes, as though something had snapped behind them that was flooding his being with peace. Beneath the faded, unkempt whisker, the lips moved in a faint, untrammelled
“Fate chases after a man,” he said in a soft, thin voice. “Dogs him. I heard his voice outside the first day. It came to me all of a sudden—why should he go on forever, sittin’ in his high place on my brains? Ellery Coghlan’s brains. When the doctor sent Miss James for a temporary cement mixture I knew it was my moment. No one saw me substitute the cyanide. It was so easy, son, after all those years.”
There was a glass of water beside the wax model which Connors had used for cooling his hot molding probes. He took it up. Papineau called out too late. Connors’ other hand had come up suddenly from his vest pocket. He shoveid something quickly into his mouth, washed it down with the water.
When he turned to Kent there was an ironic smile on the wrinkled old face.
“Just to save you the bother, son,” he said gently.
MO’ DIEU! How did you know, Kent Power?” Pap gasped.
They stood the three of them, glancing down at the body on the floor, the body of him who had once been Ellery Coghlan who had invented something that had gone to buy place and power for another man.
Kent picked up the scribbling pad from the bench. There was printing on it; fine, concise printing.
“Though one were strong as seven,
He too with death shall dwell,
Nor wake with wings in heaven,
Nor weep for pains in-”
From his inner pocket Power drew three other sheets of the same material and held the four fanwise to the other two men.
“He said it—fate dogs a man. Perhaps he couldn’t help saying on that piece of paper what was in his heart. He wasn’t to know that any of us had ever seen the other three —or that I’d recognize the printing.”
“What shall I do without him?” broke from the dentist, who had collapsed limply on a stool and was staring blankly at the crumpled figure. “My whole success was built on his marvellous ability to make teeth that—”
“Allons!” said Pap solemnly. “Teeth that went marching—like soldiers !”