Three Glass Phials
Kent Power again involves science and shrewd judgment of human nature in solving a tangled murder mystery
THE dinner was in honor of a distinguished English novelist. As the wife of a leading Canadian bank president. Lady Wilkisson was able to do the thing rather well, and never did a literary lion purr more gratefully. The viands had been sauced and garnished by a master hand, the sparkling wine had lain the right number of years in cellars, the port was mellower than last year’s gossip. The guests listened to the words that dropped from the great man's lips with an eager attentiveness that is more than meat or drink to any lion.
“What I find so divine about Canada is its ruggedness, its cleanness: something cool and austere like autumn on your hills that seems to have seeped into your Canadian soul purifyingly.”
“O Balm of Gilead! O Beauhamois!” Kent Power whispered into the lovely ear of his dinner partner in the lower reaches of the long table.
But the butler, bending between them, spoiled her glance of reproach.
“Beg pardon, Mr. Power, you’re wanted on the telephone.
The gentleman said it was urgent.’’
Kent Power glanced up the table, but seeing that his hostess was being completely ravished by the flow of words beside her, made an unchivalrous getaway.
It was a girl’s voice that came, languorous and compelling, over the wire in the telephone booth under the great hall staircase.
“Mr. Kent Power?”
When he acknowledged the identity, it said more distantly:
“Here he is, Unde Tom.”
And then rough masculinity grunted in the earpiece:
“T. H. Armstrong speaking. You busy. Power?”
Only men who had fought their way relentlessly to the top of the financial ladder talked in that arrogant tone. Tom Armstrong had started life as fireman of a donkey engine, was now chairman of the great Consolidated Copper Corporation.
“That would depend, Mr. Armstrong,” Kent answered. “If the matter is really urgent—”
“It is,” the voice growled back.
‘ I 11 be right along.” Kent clicked the receiver up. Two could play at that brusque game. It was only three-quarters of a mile to the Armstrong residence on Peel Street, but fate made it longer. The taxi in which Kent was being carried swiftly westward suffered a blow-out, then it crashed into a post and bounced over on its side. Extricating himself from the wreckage, he found the driver lying groaning on the curb, bleeding badly from a wrist that had been cut to the bone. When, finally, after having seen the man attended to at the Montreal General Hospital, Kent Power presented himself at the Armstrong house, more than an hour had elapsed.
The girl who awaited him in the drawing-room was tall, and her limbs seemed to smolder
beneath the satin sheen of a long evening dress that wrapped them as smoke does flame. Her hair was black and drawn straight back from a low, clear brow. Her wide-set dark eyes suggested unfathomed, perilous depths. Her generous mouth had its imperious moments, was having them just now as she said with a suggestion of asperity:
“Uncle Tom expected you sooner. I’m afraid he's asleep now. ”
“I’m sorry.” Power said, and gave his excuse.
She shrugged, but did not yield. Still arrogantly, she said:
“Uncle Tom is not in the habit of waiting.”
“Well,” said Kent Power sharply, “if he thinks his time is more valuable than the future function of a taxi driver’s hand, 1 ’ll be bidding you good night.”
It was the right note. She could appreciate a man who talked like that. Before he reached the door she called to him. She was smiling now.
“Would you be U>o cranky to wait while I go upstairs and see if he has perhaps awakened?” “My crankv’ll spare me as long as your Ritz’ll spare you,” he assured her with a grin. “Honors even,” she said, and left him.
THE ormulo ckxk on the mantel ticked off three times sixty, and then Power saw a quick figure pad-padding down the staircase in the hall without. A girl in a nurse's uniform hurried into the room. She was agitated.
"Something has happened to Mr. Armstrong. Miss Armstrong would like you to go
Power brushed past her with a quick sense of apprehension. His long slim legs t;xjk the stairs in twos. Inside a lighted drxirway along the dimmed upper hall he found the girl bending over a motionless figure in a bed, the figure of a big man, lion-headed.
"Mr. Power I'm afraid something terrible has happened!” There was a ]x>ignant cry for help in her voice, in her eyes.
Although a single glance at the hollowed, purplish face told Power the truth, lie Ix nt down and laid an ear over the pyjama jxxkct. Then he straightened up again.
She collapsed into a chair, caught, up one of the gnarled hands.
"O-oh! Uncle Tom!”
Power beat a hurried retreat. There was nothing more he could do there. The nurse was coming up the stairs. “Did you ring for a doctor?” he asked her.
“Yes.” But when she made to pass him he ttxik her gently by the arm. “I wouldn’t intrude if I were you; he’s dead.”
They went down the stairs silently. In the drawing-room the nurse said with the easy pity of her kind:
“Poor Miss Joan! She was his favorite. He was awfully gotxl to her.” She let out a nervous little laugh. “Give’s you a start when they go off like that, even when you’re used to it. My second in the last two months. I got to kind of like the old bear, even if he was a hard one to handle. He was one of you men whft’re used to having your own way all the time.” She gave her little laugh again, let Power have a sideways glance out of her babvlike eyes.
Here was a little fountain of information all ready to bubble over, Kent told himself, and lie began to question her. She had been in attendance four weeks. Mr. Armstrong was suffering from an aflortic aneurism—“That’s when the big artery leading from the heart gets dilated and you have to lx* careful in case it bursts suddenly.” She and Dr. Blake had had the hardest time keeping the old bear in bed and making him give up his business worries. “But it was no use. I gave him a real scolding tonight. Got himself all worked up. First it was old Creighton, his office manager. Then it was Parkyn, his private secretary.” The nurse gave a somewhat scornful toss of her head when she mentioned Parkyn. “And then he had a long talk with Miss Joan. Thank goodness, Dr. Blake came along to give him his injection three-quarters of an hour ago. 1 thought the old dear’d lx* awake all night, but he snoozed off as soon as the doctor'd gone. I was going to undress when I got the queerest feeling. Our rooms adjoin, and 1 leave the door open so 1 can hear if he’s restless.
I went in and S|xtke to him. He didn't answer. He was so quiet 1 switched the light on. 1 could see at once that something had happened. And then Miss Joan came in. Oh, well, if it hadn’t been tonight it would have been some other night. Dr. Blake says these aneurisms always burst sooner or There was a quick ring at. the front doorbell. "That'll lx* him now!” She hurried out of the room.
Burst aortic aneurism. An odd gleam came into Kent Power’s cool grey eyes.
He lit a cigarette, put his back against the mantel and watched the two ligures climb the staircase. Perhaps he'd better hang on. Might lind out why he’d been sent foi.
TWENTY minutes later a car drew up outside. There was some fumbling of a key in the front d;x>r and it presently swung ojx'n, admitting a young man with tousled, straw-colored hair and an unsteady gait. The newcomer was in evening clothes, and he sUxxl for some moments with his back against the door, apparently trying to make up his mind about the future.
"Gilded youth.” Kent Power murmured cynically to himself.
This would lx Jack Armstrong, the girl's brother. Kent had never met him Ixit knew the rumor that he was one of those charming young jxople who are the bubbles on the champagne of lifegay, reckless, spoiled, too much money, too amiable to escape sin.
By this time the youth had plotted a course into the draw ing-r;x)m.
"Ga evenin’,” he said, waving a friendly hand. “Where’s evverbody?” He steadied himself against the chesterfield.
"Upstairs.” Kent answered, and felt suddenly sorry for all drunken young men.
Dr. Blake, the girl and the nurse apjxared on the staircase.
Kent said quickly: “Better get ready for a shock.”
But the youth had not heard, was staring at the three entering the room, more particularly at the nurse. His sister went straight to him. laid a hand on his shoulder.
"Uncle Tom’s dead, Jack.”
“Huh!” The youngster straightened up. rocked as he stared at her. Then I >r. Blake, who was a curt little Napoleon of a man, said:
"That aneurism got him at last, Jack. Too bad; but it was only a matter of time.”
By the mantel Kent Power asked quietly: “You’re sure it was the aneurism. Dr. Blake?”
The physician swung sharply. “I beg your pardon?” He seemed to lxresenting something.
“Oh,” said Joan Armstrong quickly, “this is Mr. Kent Power, doctor.”
The little Napoleon grunted: “Yes: certainly it was the aneurism.”
"Tha’s right,” young Armstrong nodded gravely. “ ’ortie an’r’sm. Very sherioush. Ver—” But the pressure of his sister's hand on his arm silenced him, and she asked the detective somewhat sharply:
“Why did you ask, Mr. Power?”
"I’ve seen two or three jxople die of ruptured aneurisms,” he replied. “I studied medicine for a while. None of them had the jX)st-mortem appearance of your uncle.”
Dr. Blake stiffened as though a bee liad stung him.
“Ridiculous!” he snorted. “When a man with the condition Mr. Armstrong had dies suddenly, there can be only one explanation.”
Kent shrugged, decided to hold his peace. But the girl’s voice smoldered with insistence.
"What did you mean, Mr. Power?”
“When an aortic aneurism ruptures, Miss Armstrong, the jiatient bleeds to death into his chest cavity. Your uncle d;xs not kx)k like a man who has bled to death. On the contrary his features were congested and jiurjile from too much blcxxi.”
“The aneurism might have leaked slowly!” Dr. Blake exjdoded. "It was the jiressure of the slowly effused blcxxi gradually hamjxring his breathing that caused the purple color of his lips and face.”
For a moment Kent Power said nothing. He had seen a quick, uneasy look pass from the nurse to young Armstrong. Some furtive message had passed between them, for a twisted smile was etched about the youth’s lips. Roping in finally his strayed attention, the detective said:
"Why didn’t he waken with the pain, then, doctor? And surely his embarrassed breathing would have warned his nurse. It was his very quietness that first put her on guard.”
“Is that so, Miss Ellis?” Blake snapped at the girl.
"Yes, Doctor Blake,” she answered uneasily.
"In any case,” Kent Power said quietly, "a pxst-mortem would settle the matter.”
A startled exclamation shot to Joan Armstrong’s lips, but died there still-born. She seemed to be thinking hard about something.
"I see no reason for submitting Miss Armstrong and her brother to the harrowing exjxrience of having their uncle mutilated.” snajüjxd the little Najxileon. “If it wasn’t the aneurism, it was something connected with it.”
Kent glanced at the girl who was biting her lips. Suddenly she said :
“You must do it, Doctor Blake, if there’s any doubt at all.”
"But lis’n, sis,” protested the young man beside her. "Pos’ mor’m ain’t gonna bring Uncle Tom back t’ life ’gain. Whassa good—”
"Don’t, Jack,” she said quickly; and then to Dr. Blake; “I insist on it.”
"Very well,” grunted the little Najxrteon with what grace he could muster. He glanced at his watch “I must go. Should have been at the hospital long ago. I’ll arrange it in the morning.” He stumjxd aggressively from the room.
Joan Armstrong said to her brother, “Better go to by-bys, Jack.” He started to protest, but she gave the nurse a glance and the latter took the youth by the arm. When she had turned from watching the two disapjxar up the staircase there was a misty yearning in her eyes that for the second time that night wrung Kent Power’s pity. Then she leaned toward him, breathing sharply:
"Mr. Power, you don’t think—” He knew the swift intuition to which she had leajxd, but shook his head.
“No,” he said. "Just the same. I’d like your jxnmission to attend the jx>stmortem.”
“And I’d like to know why your uncle sent for me tonight.”
A sudden curtain fell in front of her candor as their eyes met. And when she said, “I don’t really know, Mr. Power,” lie was certain she had deliberately closed that door against him. He would have urged her, but just then there came the sound of some one letting himself in at the front dixir.
It was a youngish man about thirty, tall and well-dressed, who ajijxared in the hall outside. The girl called to him suddenly:
“Gene! Come here.”
The man came slowly in, his glance questioning their intimacy. He was tall, dark like the girl, extraordinarily calm-eyed, with a strong, lean face.
“This is Eugene Parkyn, Mr. Power, Uncle Tom’s secretary.” The girl added quietly: “My fiancé.” And then to the other man huskily :
“Gene, Uncle Tom’s dead !”
Parkyn’s swift change of demeanor, the sincerity of his, “I’m sorry, Joan,” seemed to mark him as a thoroughbred.
“He sent for Mr. Power,” she said. “Mr. Power arrived too late.”
Again the expression in Parkyn’s calm eyes changed. A swift suspicion seemed to start in their depths as they came to rest on the detective’s face.
“Oh.” he said. “I see.”
Kent marked the look, but it seemed just then that his further presence here was sujxrerogatory. Walking slowly down Peel Street under the liquid stars that filled Montreal’s sky a few moments later, however, a question tugged at his
Continued on page 46
Three Glass Phials
Continued from page 8
mind with disturbing insistence. Why had the girl refused to tell him what her uncle had wanted him for?
IN THE small laboratory at the back of his flat next morning, Kent Power thrust a slip of paper into the hands of the gaunt Scot who had just been shown in by his man, Hicks, and who happened to be assistant to the professor of pharmacology at McGill University.
“What’s the answer to that. Mac?” he demanded; adding, as MacPherson glanced at the cryptic hieroglyphs scrawled across it: “I may have missed out some radical, but in the main everything’s there.”
“Weel, laddie,” burred the Scot, removing the battered briar from the corner of his ! mouth, “it looks verra like sodium amytal.” “What’s sodium amytal when it’s at j home?”
‘‘The newest fandangle in anaesthetics. Ye inject it into a vein dissolved in distilled water-r-r. The patient g;x?s off to sleep.” ‘‘What else?”
! "It has to be injected verra carefully or there’s liable to he trouble. It depresses respir-r-ration. It’s not on the market yet. Still in the expereemental stage. The manufacturers only send it to reputable members o’ the profession, mostly anaesthetists.”
I “Could you get me a sample within the next half hour?”
i “Ay.” Suddenly the Scot leaned forward, j suspicion in his green eyes. “Dinna tell me ‘ ye’re doing some wur-r-rk on it yersel?”
! It was one of the flics in the ointment of the younger scientists at McGill that Kent Power, working in this small laboratory, was i constantly making discoveries which they, with their larger facilities, seemed unable to stumble upon. Kent Power’s luck, they called it; though many a one had reaped credit in the scientific world through tips received in just such conversations as this. MacPherson was obviously agog after some such largesse.
Kent shook his head, grinning. ‘‘No, Mac, I’m not invading the pharmacological field this year. But watch out in 19M.T”
When the Scot finally tore himself away, the detective picked up his desk phone and rang police headquarters. A moment later Sergeant Papineau’s mellow Gallic voice boomed into the earpiece, j "Bo' jo'. Pap. How’s the crime wave?” Power asked.
“There is no crime wave in Mo'real. Kent Power. The efficiency of our police force—”
I “ which the green grass grows all round, all round. Climb down off the high horse and 1 ’ll put you wise to as neat a bit of crime as ever got committed under the nose of a sleeping department.”
"Alors, you have somet’ing!” Pap’s voice crackled with excitement.
“And then somet’ing. Meet me at T. II. Armstrong’s residence. Peel Street, in half an hour."
Forty minutes passed before Kent joined the sergeant in the Armstrong driveway.
“Dites moi," exclaimed the latter at once twirling the upturned ends of his heavy
black mustache, “what have we here in this house?” ¡
“Crime,” Kent answered with a grin, and without further enlightenment led the way up the steps.
Joan Armstrong was waiting in the drawing-room, the nurse with her. There were dark rings under her eyes that spoke of a bad night. Introducing the sergeant as “Mr. Papineau, an associate of mine,” Kent asked :
“Are Dr. Blake and the others here yet?” “The doctor hasn’t arrived, but the others are upstairs with Jack. Ted Creighton is ! here. He was Uncle Tom’s office manager; he’s been away convalescing. I thought he should be here, too.”
“Good. Do you mind if I have a few words with Miss Ellis?”
“Of course not.”
He turned to the nurse. “We’ll go up to Mr. Armstrong’s room.” And then to the still highly mystified Pap: “You can stay with Miss Armstrong.”
When he had shut the d;x>r of the dead i man’s bedroom behind them, Kent turned ! to the nurse.
“You told me last night that Dr. Blake j was giving Mr. Armstrong some sort of ; injections. Miss Ellis?”
“Yes; trvparsamide. He injected if intravenously. Of course he didn’t expect a cure. It was only—”
“He injected the trvparsamide last night?” “Yes. It was the fifth dose. He gave it once a week.”
“You were there while it was being given?” j
“And stayed with your patient until he j went to sleep?”
“Didn’t leave the room for a minute?” “No.”
“He couldn’t have swallowed anything, j given himself a hypodermic?”
“Why, of course not.” She fairly bristled at the suggestion. “Are you hinting that “Not hinting at anything, girlie. How soon after the injection did he go to sleep?” ¡ “What is this, a question and answer contest?” she exclaimed with a somewhat ! angry laugh. “You hardly give me time to get my breath.” And then, when he continued looking at her with that quiet unsettling stare, she said irritably: “He
went to sleep almost immediately.”
"Did the trvparsamide injections usually send him off to sleep?”
"Didn’t it strike you as odd that last night’s injection should have done so? I understood you to say last night that he was pretty well wrought up.”
“It did seem queer. But I thought it was because he was so tired.”
”1 see. By the way, what’s trvparsamide look like?”
She turned toward the table. A small cardboard box lay there among the other paraphernalia. Picking it up, she handed it to him in a somewhat disdainful manner.
“This is what’s left. The ampoules are inside.” )
HE TOOK the cover off the box. Two glass phials, each containing a white, crystalline powder, reposed inside. He lifted one of them out, thrust it into his vest pocket. Then he said to the nurse: ‘‘You've been mighty helpful. I guess we can go downstairs now.”
She went through the door which he held open, with a toss of her blonde head. She was really quite annoyed. Men who treated her as though she were simply a minor link in the chain of circumstance gave her a pain. And that, “You’ve been mighty helpful.” The condescending thing !
In the meantime Dr. Blake had arrived: and the others. Jack Armstrong, Park y n and another man, had joined Joan Armstrong in the drawing-room. The girl had her hand through the stranger’s arm, seemed on terms of considerable intimacy with him.
“This is Ted Creighton, Mr. Power,” she said by way of introduction.
Creighton was in the fifties, and had the slightly overdressed look of the fattish, elderly bachelor. At this hour of the morning he still exuded the odors of his daily shave. His slight mustache was waxed at the ends, his somewhat overhanging chaps were as smooth and pink as a baby’s cheeks, a double-breasted coat snugged his comely girth, and his shoe-caps gleamed like a nigger’s eye.
“Very sad business, Mr. Power,” he exclaimed with a naive seriousness. And then Joan Armstrong said, “Can’t we all sit down?”
All did so except Kent Power, who remained standing in front of the mantel.
“I suppose Dr. Blake has told you”— Power addressed the girl—“that the postmortem he did this morning failed to prove that your uncle died of a ruptured aneurism?”
She nodded; and it was evident the three men had also been informed.
“In fact,” Power went on, “Dr. Blake was able to find no cause of death.” And then he said to the little Napoleon, who was obviously nursing an outraged professional pride: “Have you ever used a drug called sodium amytal?”
Blake gave a start of surprise and then growled: “Yes; new anaesthetic. I give a lot of anaesthetics.”
“You keep some of it in stock?”
“Yes; manufacturers sent me a trial lot.” “Comes in phials like this, doesn’t it?” Kent Power drew from his vest pocket the ampoule which MacPherson’s messenger had brought him before he left his flat.
“Yes. But what’s all this got to do with—” “Your patient died of an overdose of sodium amytal, Blake,” Kent cut in grimly.
“What?” The question came in a startled gasp from the little Napoleon, who shot to his feet while the circle of onlookers stared wide-eyed.
“I took a sample of blood with me from the post-mortem,” Kent Power went on quietly. “After analyzing it in my own laboratory I took the precaution of having Dr. MacPherson, of McGill, check me up. He tells me it was undoubtedly sodium amytal I found in Mr. Armstrong’s blood.” “Are you trying to insinuate that I injected sodium amytal into Mr. Armstrong?” Blake demanded truculently.
“I’m afraid you did.” came the detective’s astounding reply.
“You lie!” The little Napoleon sprang forward with clenched fist.
The others were on their feet, too. Joan Armstrong leaned weakly on Parkyn’s arm. It was Creighton who thrust himself between Kent and the doctor.
“My dear chap,” he exclaimed, facing the former, “you’ve made a deuced serious charge. I hope you have your proofs.”
“I think so,” Kent replied coolly. “I’m not accusing Dr. Blake of murdering his patient. I’m merely saying that he administered the drug that killed him. There’s a difference; quite a—”
“He’s crazy, clean crazy!” Blake shouted, livid with indignation. “I’ve administered nothing to Mr. Armstrong but tryparsamide. Nothing whatsoever !”
“Really, Power”— It was Parkyn speak-
ing this time, and he alone seemed to have kept control of himself—"the thing’s impossible. Blake's a friend of mine. I’ve j known him for years. He couldn’t-—” !
“Please.” Kent Power held up a protesting j hand. “If you'll all calm down a minute and give me a chance, I’d like to go on with this investigation.”
“Investigation!” cried young Armstrong, who suddenly seemed to realize that he was now head of the house. “Who gave you permission to hold an investigation?”
Kent pointed at the city detective, who was twirling his mustache with considerable excitement on the outskirts of the group: “That, gentlemen, happens to be Sergeant Papineau of the Montreal detective force. 1 think I can say that I have his permission to hold an investigation. Am I right, sergeant?”
As the taut figures relaxed one by one into their chairs again, Kent Power drew from his vest pocket yet another phial and held it alongside the sodium amytal.
“This,” he went on quietly, “is an j ampoule of tryparsamide—the drug that [ Dr. Blake was using on his patient. You ¡ will notice that both ampoules are about the same size, though of a different shape, j Both contain a white crystalline powder. There’s this difference, however: the tryparsamide phial contains three times as much powder as the sodium amytal one. Suppose that by accident—or design—the contents of three sodium amytal pifiáis were substituted for the tryparsamide in one of the tryparsamide phials. Supposing some one bored a small hole in a tryparsamide phial, emptied its contents, replaced them with the contents of three sodium amytal phials, and then sealed the hole over carefully in a bunsen flame. You would then have a phial labelled tryparsamide, filled to the proper level with a white powder practically indistinguishable from tryparsamide. Now suppose such a phial were placed in the cardboard box upstairs where Dr. Blake kept his tryparsamide. Do you see how he would inevitably come on that phial and inevitably inject it? What we must discover is whether Dr. Blake himself made the substitution or some other person.”
Blake was on his feet again, deadly pale. “I can swear before God that I had nothing to do with this foul thing!” he declared agitatedly, and very un-Napoleonically. “I believe you, doctor.” exclaimed . Ted Creighton. He swung round on the detective. “Power, you must clear Blake of this horrible suspicion. He couldn’t possibly have done it.”
“I’ll do my best,” Kent said brusquely. “Sergeant Papineau and I will conduct a search of the house. I’m going to ask you all to stay in this rcxmi until we return.”
TAN THE way up the stairs Papineau panted excitedly: “Sacré, you are not human, Kent Power. How have you discover this t’ing?”
“I’m human enough to realize we’re up against a nasty situation,” Kent grunted. “It’s clear that Blake injected the sodium amytal, but is he the real murderer? Unless we can find the real murderer you’ll have to arrest him, and on the present evidence he’ll hang as sure as you’re a foot high. We’ll start with the dead man’s bedroom.” j
It was a full hour before they came to j Jack Armstrong’s room, and it was not until he pulled open a small drawer in the low wall.desk that Pap cried out:
His pudgy forefinger was pointed dramatically at three empty glass phials that1 had lain beneath a bunch of papers on the bottom of the drawer. Kent snatched them up. The little glass heads had been filed off; their labels read. “Sodium Amytal.” “Always they make the slip.” Pap exclaimed with a characteristic shrug. “Because he has think of a clever idea he is careless of a little detail. He thinks, ‘No one will ever discover this brilliant affair; it does not matter what I do with the evidence.' He has forgotten Kent Power.”
Kent was frowning at the phials. He had keyed himself up to a long, difficult search, liad never for a moment expected this easy j
find. He had a sense of let-down. Young Armstrong did not look the sort of person who might have worked out so clever a poisoning. And yet there was more motive i in his doing it than Blake could have. He j would inherit the estate equally with his j sister. Perhaps he had got into some financial jamb.
Suddenly a shrewd gleam came into Power’s eyes. Perhaps the boy’s arrest would open the daughter’s lips as to the dead man’s reason for having sent for a detective the previous night.
“Okay,” he said sharply, and he and Papineau went downstairs.
A sudden hush fell as they re-entered the drawing-room. Young Armstrong and the nurse, who had been talking over by the window, moved toward the chesterfield, where Ted Creighton sat between Parkyn and Joan Armstrong. Dr, Blake swung his chair sharply around.
“Well?” he snapped, dry-lipped.
As Kent held out the three empty phials in the hollow of his palm a gasp broke from the group. It was Ted Creighton who recovered his voice first:
"Wh-where did you find them? My dear chap—”
The detective turned to young Armstrong.
“They were in your desk,’’ he said. “I’m afraid Sergeant Papineau will have to put j you under arrest.”
“Jack!” The swift cry of horror did not I come from Joan Armstrong’s throat. It was the nurse who caught suddenly, frantically at the boy’s arm, cried out in shrill protest: “He didn’t do it. I know he didn’t!”
Kent nodded to Papineau, who moved toward the youth. Parkyn and Creighton, the latter apparently crushed with amazement, stared blankly at the drama of arrest. But in Joan Armstrong’s eyes, as she stood with both hands clenched to her breast staring at her brother’s pale, agitated face, something struggled palpably.
Young Armstrong was saying with the fierce overemphasis of youth: “I tell you, I j didn’t do it. This is crazy.” I íe kept saying it over and over as Pap. not unkindly, urged him toward the door.
i Suddenly Joan Armstrong swung on Kent, rigid, quivering.
"He couldn’t have, Mr. Power. It’s all a ghastly mistake.”
"I’m sorry,” Kent said. “We can do nothing else under the circumstances.”
“You must do something!”
His eyes narrowed on her agitated face.
“Perhaps I could.” he said in a low voice, i "if you’d tell me why your uncle sent for j me last night.”
She shrank before the challenge, but only for a moment.
“I don’t know.” The answer tumbled from her tremulous lips. "1 told you that.” "In that case I can do nothing,” Power said, and strode into the hall after Papineau and his prisoner.
KENT POWER had work to do in his laboratory that afternoon, but found himself unable to concentrate on it. The sensation of let-down remained with him. Test tube and retort kept fading before questions that continued to thrust themselves at him. Where had young Armstrong obtained the sodium amytal? Was there something between the boy and the nurse that had any bearing on the case? What did Joan Armstrong know that she wouldn’t tell?
And then his mind went back stubbornly to Blake. Given a motive, Blake was more logically the murderer than any one in spite of the finding of the three empty phials in the boy’s room, Blake was the only one who knew of the action of amytal, the only one likely to have access to a laboratory where the substitution of drugs in the phials could be carried out. He must have had opportunity in the course of his visits to slip the empty phials into the boy’s desk.
It was shortly after three o’clock when the detective finally flung his work aside and rang Blake up. A quarter of an hour later he was in the latter’s office in the Medical Arts Building.
"I've come to ask you some more ques-
tions about sodium amytal.” he announced.
Blake had become Napoleonic again. “Right. Go ahead.”
“Have you missed any of your stock?” “No, I haven’t. And I took care to count my supply when I came home this morning.” “Why?” Kent shot the question in the sudden, disconcerting way which he sometimes had.
“Just to satisfy myself,” the medico said after the barest hesitation.
“Could you prove that your supply hadn't been tampered with?”
“I think so. The manufacturers sent me two dozen ampoules. I can produce the case histories of eight patients to whom I’ve administered it. There are sixteen left.” “It wouldn’t be possible for any one but a doctor to obtain the drug?”
“No. So far the manufacturers have only put it in the hands of the profession, and then only on application. I had to write them for my own supply.”
Kent rose to his feet.
“You won’t tell me why you were so keen on making sure your supply hadn’t been tampered with?” he asked with a slow smile.
‘Tve told you quite frankly," Blake replied with brusque insistence.
On his return home his man, Hicks, informed Kent that Joan Armstrong had rung him up twice, wished to speak with him as soon as he came in. Her voice was ¡ edged with urgency:
“Could I see you, Mr. Power, this' afternoon?”
“Certainly; I’ll come right away.”
“I’d rather not meet you here. Isn’t there—”
“Better come here, then. I can promise no interruptions.”
Hanging up the receiver, he paced the living-room floor. She had decided to tell him what she knew. Funny about those 1 two, she and Blake. Both keeping something back. Why had Blake counted his stock of sodium amytal so promptly this morning? Had he expected to find some of it gone? Had he a suspicion of who might have taken it?
An exclamation shot to Power’s lips, i Dashing at the phone again, he rang ' T. IT Armstrong’s private office and asked j to speak to Creighton.
"Kent Power,” he said when the other’s ¡ voice came over the wire. “Wanted to ask you a little question. Just how friendly were Parkyn and Dr. Blake? Parkyn said something this morning about their being old friends . . . Roommates at McGill, eh? Thanks . . . No. nothing like that; the young man’s arrest ended the case.”
Parkyn and Blake had been roommates at »college! Was that why the latter had counted his supply of amytal so anxiously? Had he suspected his old roommate, who probably had the freedom of his house and to whom he had doubtless talked about the new anaesthetic? Parkyn was Joan Armstrong’s fiancé. He could benefit through her inheritance. Was she also trying to shield him with her silence?
But he mustn’t let his suspicions run away with his judgment. There was another gentleman to whom he hadn’t yet given much consideration—Ted Creighton. The dead man’s chubby office manager looked and acted anything but a clever poisoner, but one never knew. It might be worth while to make some enquiries.
A buzz at the hall bell. A moment later Hicks showed the girl in. Beneath the little black hat whose feather curled miraculously about one ear. she was pale, but her face was set with purpose.
“Mr. Power,” she began immediately they were seated, “Miss Ellis is certain those phials were not in Jack’s drawer at ten o’clock this morning; a half hour before you came into the house.”
It sounded as if something had been cooked up.
“Funny she didn’t mention it at the time of the arrest,” Power said sceptically.
“Not under the circumstances,” the girl exclaimed earnestly. “You see, she has fallen in love with him. Knowing that she was leaving us today and that she’d probably never see him again—Jack is that
way—she wanted a snapshot. She found one in the top drawer of his desk, after going through them all. She is certain the phials were not there then. She was afraid to say so this morning for fear she'd be suspected of having put them there. After all, she could have made the substitution. Finally, this afternoon, she could hold it no longer and came to me.”
“You don’t think she’s lying?” Power asked. “Some women will do a lot to shield the man they love.”
UNDER his significant scrutiny. Miss Armstrong’s eyelids barely flickered. She replied quite promptly :
“I’m sure she’s telling the truth.”
“If she’ll swear to her story in the witnessbox it might get your brother off. I’m afraid, though, her reason for going to the desk will discount her evidence with the jury. Even the feeblest crown prosecutor would make a lot of the fact that she was in love with Jack, would do anything to save his life even to swearing falsely. Crown prosecutors are pretty hard-boiled gents as a rule.”
He was playing down the information purposely; he wanted to wring a further
confession from her. He succeeded: for she said almost at once;
“I wasn't telling the truth when I said l didn’t know why uncle Tom sent for you."
“I'm afraid you weren’t." Power said with a wry smile.
“Uncle Tom discovered a few days ago that two hundred thousand dollars in bearer bonds were missing from his private account. He wanted you to investigate their loss.”
Power showed his surprise and his dis; appointment. He had expected something i decidedly more vital to the case.
“Funny he didn't have Parkyn or old j Creighton look into it. Or even your brother. They all have access to his office safe, haven’t they?”
“Y-yes. But I’m afraid he suspected one of them; wanted to make sure without letting them know. He wouldn't have told me if I hadn’t bullied it out of him. I could see he was worrying about something and ; made him tell me.” She added diffidently: ' “He confided in me a lot.”
Kent could see why. This girl could keep a whole world of secrets behind those dark, perilous eyes of hers.
Continued on page 58
Three Glass Phials
Continued from page 49
“Miss Ellis told me he had Parkyn and Creighton in to see him that night,” he said. “You don’t think he let the cat out of the bag?”
She shook her head. And then, leaning toward him agitatedly, she said:
“Mr. Power, you can use this information in any way you like. But you must clear Jack. I know he didn’t do it. I’m sure he didn’t!”
He could see what it was costing her. and his admiration quickened. She was willing to have suspicion fall on Parkyn to save her brother.
“I’ll do what I can,” he said.
When she had gone he hurried to the telephone and dialled a number.
“Take a telegram,” he said curtly into the mouthpiece as a voice crackled in his ear. . And then, for the next three-quarters of an hour he kept the wires hot. ringing up brokerage houses where friends of his were trying to think bullish in a bearish world. It was after five o’clock when he finished a very interesting conversation with his friend, Dr. John Corday, of the Montreal Victoria Hospital staff.
THERE are one or two more things I’d like to know, before the others arrive,” he said that night as he stood with Joan Armstrong on the hearth rug in the Armstrong drawing-room. “Did any one beside yourself know the result of the post-mortem before I sprang my surprise this morning?” “Oh, yes,” she exclaimed. “When I rang them up I told them what the doctor had phoned.”
“When you rang whom up?”
“Gene and Ted Creighton.”
“They were at your uncle’s office?”
“Where was your brother?”
"He was just getting up. I told him, too. I think it cleared his head more than the black coffee he had been drinking.”
"They went up to his room after they arrived here, didn’t they?”
“One other question: Who recommended Miss Ellis to your uncle?”
Miss Armstrong gave him a queer kx)k. “Why, Dr. Blake. Mr. Power, you don’t—”
A stir in the hallway stifled the halfuttered question. Dr. Blake and Gene Parkyn came into the r;x>m. The latter gave Kent the barest ncxi of recognition; seemed to resent his presence there with the girl. Then Miss Ellis came downstairs, red-eyed though a little defiant, and a moment later the butler ushered Ted Creighton in. Creighton wore a dinner jacket, looked more cherubic than ever.
“Something new turned up?” he enquired, rubbing his scented hands together.
“Yes,” Kent replied.
Blake broke in: “My time’s short, Power. I’d like to get away as soon as possible. Several patients to see.”
“I was going to wait for Sergeant Papineau,” Kent replied, glancing at his watch. “But perhaps we can start without him.”
They seated themselves; Creighton between Parkyn and Joan Armstrong, Blake and Miss Ellis in separate chairs, the latter somewhat pathetically removed from the general group.
“I’ve asked you to meet me here tonight,” the detective proceeded, facing them, “to tell you that the mystery of Mr. Armstrong’s death has been finally solved.”
The three men gaped at him; the nurse caught suddenly at her breast with startled hands.
“But I thought you had it solved this morning,” Blake exclaimed.
“I didn’t,” Kent said grimly.
“Then it wasn’t Jack,” exclaimed old Creighton. “The poor young devil. How perfectly ghastly for him.”
“Not so ghastly as it might be,” Kent replied, and glanced at his watch again.
What the dickens was keeping Pap? “Some months ago.” he went on. “a certain gentleman decided that the stock market could go no lower and acted on the hunch. Unhappily it did go lower, and it then became necessary for our friend to lay hands on two hundred thousand dollars or thereabouts.”
He paused. They were staring at him oddly, particularly the men; puzzledly. as though they were not quite able to follow him.
“Our friend proved resourceful. He simply lifted two hundred thousand dollars ¡ worth of bearer bonds that belonged to his ! employer and handed them over to the clamoring brokers. Realizing, however, that sooner or later he would be found out, he decided to put to use certain know ledge he had gained concerning sodium amytal. ! Unable to obtain the drug locally, he wrote to the manufacturers in the guise of a medical man and was sent a supply. Having ! free access to this house, it was very easy ' for him to substitute the drug for the tryparsamide Dr. Blake was using on his employer, and everything proceeded to work out according to schedule. Dr. Blake ¡ became the unfortunate instrument of i destiny, Mr. Armstrong passed away ostenj sibly of his aneurism, and it looked as ; though there would never be a reckoning. Then the murderer learned that an autopsy j had been made. Once more resourceful, he j came to this house and planted his empty ' ampoules where they would do him the least ; harm, where they would throw the blame on some one else—”
Another arrival in the hall without. This time it was the rotund figure of Sergeant Jules Papineau that waddled into the room.
“Find anything?” Kent asked him.
“A bunsen burner, disconnected, in a drawer. Not’ing else.” the other replied.
Jxent turned on the silent group.
“Sergeant Papineau has just found a bunsen burner in the house of our friend: the sort of burner with which a hole in a j glass ampoule might have been sealed.”
Kent swung sharply on that old cherub, ¡ Ted Creighton.
“1 understand you were quite delighted j with the effect of the sodium amytal you were given when you had your appendix out some weeks ago, Mr. Creighton? Or should 1 call you Dr. Creighton? It was under that ! name that you had a certain drug manufac-¡ turer send you samples of amytal, wasn’t it?’!
“What do you mean?” snapjxxl the man. his face decidedly uncherubic now. “This is j positively grotesque.”
“Oh, no, it isn’t.” Kent assured him : grimly. “I have a wire in my p;x:ket containing a list of the doctors in Montreal to j whom sodium amytal has been sent for trial in the last three months. Among them appears Dr. Theodore Creighton, Almeda Apartments, Peel Crescent. That’s your address, isn’t it? You did have your
appendix out with the help of sodium amytal, didn’t you? I was told as much tonight. And you did put up two hundred thousand dollars worth of bearer bonds j with a certain brokerage house some weeks j before the operation, didn’t you?”
The fight had gone out of the old cherub; his pink, well-filled cheeks were now a ghastly, flabby, greyish green. The babylike, naive eyes that had screened so shrewd a brain, stared into a blank horror.
“Ted!” the girl beside him cried. “Ted, how could you !”
Blake and Parkyn said nothing, stared hypnotically at the man they had all their lives regarded as a jovial and harmless satyr. Miss Ellis sobbed relief into her cupped hands. Yet it was almost with pity that Kent Power said:
“Take him away, Pap.”
And then, before Joan Armstrong, who seemed on the point of saying something, could speak, he swung abruptly on the little medical Napoleon.
“Let’s go, doctor. Nous sommes à nos affaires.”