The mystery of a blackened camera film and a man who hid a bottle
DISINCLINATION on the part of a great number of people to go to the police with their troubles and temptations brought suppliants on strange missions to Kent Power’s Drummond Street flat. Perhaps it was as much the air of downright competence and cleverness that radiated from his tall, slim figure and straight grey eyes as his success as a private investigator, that drew more and more the confidence of the distressed citoyens of Montreal. Here was Miss Helen Mawson seated before him on an extraordinary quest.
“I’ve brought these six negatives." she said, holding out the squares of celluloid, “to see if you know any way in which the spoiled pictures on them could be brought to light again. They say that you are somewhat of a w izard in chemistry and physics.”
Power deprecated that with a rather overdone wave of his hand, eyeing not the things she held toward him but herself. She was a lovely dark creature, sitting there in a sleek business suit and the Russian toque that brought her face out so vividly. Not unlike, he felt, a historic Helen who had set certain topless towers aflame. He forced himself finally to examine the negatives. They were so hopelessly overexposed that the gelatine formed a black coat.
“Thanks for the kind thought.” he said, shaking his head, “but I gave up performing miracles last Thursday.”
“You mean there’s no way of finding what was on them?" When he shook his head again she said, “Oh!” with such regret that he was constrained to suggest: “Can’t you
reassemble the cast?”
“No,” she replied, staring into troubled distance in a way that made even more appealing her dark loveliness. “My late employer, Mr. Richard Hammond, took them—the daybefore he died.”
“So you,” he exclaimed with suddenly increased interest, “were Devil Dick’s secretary?”
“You knew him?” she asked eagerly.
“As a kid I used to raid his cherry trees with the neighborhood gang. He caught me once—a painful memory. Even when I read,about his death last month in the papers. I had to get up and walk around. What’d he die of? Sick quite a while, wasn’t he?”
“Yes,” she replied, with a tristesse, which showed that the old freebooter of St. James Street must also have had his softer side, “some peculiar bone disease. He gave me the film to develop the day before he died. I íe seemed concerned about it; made me take it to a professional photographer. I’m quite certain there was something of the utmost importance on it. For the last three weeks I’ve kept asking myself why it turned out like that. It's given me no peace.” “Afraid someone may have tampered with it?”
“Yes.” she confessed, and then, rising quickly: “But I won’t go into that. I thought you might have been able to do something to restore the pictures.”
“I’m afraid only Death’s Dark Angel can do that.” “Then I'll just have to forget about it.”
He gave her a shrewd look. “Can you?”
She shrugged. “What else?”
“Reveal a background.”
“I’m afraid not.” She said it with the determined air of one shutting a door against a draught; and then with outstretched hand: “It’s been very kind of you."
And so she departed—a trig, elusive figure of mystery— leaving him to ponder on the mainsprings of human reticences.
But she came back. Three days later it was, and she said with a wry smile: “You were right : there's no forgetfulness.” And presently: “Mr. Hammond had two callers that afternoon. Before they arrived he got his man. Davidson, to bring him his camera—photography was his hobby. He sent for me after they left, but 1 had gone to his office on St. James Street and did not get back until evening. It was then he gave me the film. I’m certain he used the camera while his visitors were there—to snap some document he knew wouldn’t be allowed to remain in his hands—something like that.”
“Who were the sinister gents?” Power asked lightly.
She said after a moment’s hesitation: “J. D. Crane and Traill Malcolm.”
“Phew!” he whistled, his brows rising. “Them’s big fish!”
r"PHEY WERE big fish: Crane, director of a bank and a dozen of the largest corporations in Canada: Malcolm only a slightly lesser financial Olympian. Power said, frowning: "Suppose Mr. Hammond did use the camera to snitch something they showed him, how could they have
tampered with the film without his seeing them? I take it he was in bed. That means that as long as they were in his bedroom he was there with them.”
“He was on the balcony outside. We’d been moving him there during the hot weather.”
“Makes no difference. I f he took pictures while they were there, he left the film in the camera until they were gone. In order to have got at it, they’d have had to open the camera. I low could f hey have done that under his very eyes? What about his man Davidson, didn’t you call him?”
She shook her head immediately. “Davidson had been with him for years. You’d only have to see him to realize that he—”
“Did he get anything under the will?”
“Why. yes. Twelve hundred dollars a year and an immediate gift of a thousand.”
"Quite a sum if you needed it badly enough.”
“But, Mr. Power.” she protested incredulously, “I’m quite certain Davidson
“If I’ve learned one thing. Miss Mawson.” Power interrupted. “it's that flesh is weak. Suppose Davidson had been indulging in petty pilfering. Suppose Devil Dick snapped him at it through the balcony window— it would march with his sardonic type of humor. Then suppose Davidson suspected he'd been caught. Mightn’t that give him reason for wanting to blank the evidence?”
“But he never handled the film. He told me he saw the roll in Mr. Hammond’s pyjama pocket. It was from there that Mr. Hammond took it to give it to me.”
“You’re a great little whitewashes Miss Mawson,” Power declared, grinning at her. “What other visitors did Devil Dick have that afternoon?”
She considered a moment, seemed tugged at by some warning hand. But finally she said: “His lawyer, Mr. James MacFarlane.”
Something still unyielded in her eyes caused Power to insist: “Anyone else?”
“Only,” she said in a low, uneasy voice, “his nephew, Tom Hammond.”
The barest flicker of a smile twisted his mouth. Why was she afraid for Tom Hammond? Love made women fearful; was her fear’s flame feeding on some knowledge of young Hammond’s more sinister recklessness?
He said: “I know old James MacFarlane—a gentle
creature. Was he alone with Devil Dick?”
“Lives next door, doesn’t he?”
“Yes; they were old friends.”
"You don’t suppose it was something MacFarlane showed him that Devil Dick tried to snap?”
She shook her head. “Pm quite sure it wasn’t. Mr. Mac-
Farlane was likely to drop in at any time. Mr. Hammond asked for his camera immediately he made the appointment to see Mr. Crane and Mr. Malcolm.”
“And, of course, it could have been nothing along Tom Hammond’s beat?”
The faintest color crept into her face, but she looked him straight in the eyes. "I’m quite sure it wasn’t. Mr Power.” But he had intimations that she was not quite sure; that seme mental reservation hung like a suspended sword above her taut emotions.
“So what?” he asked, shrugging.
She leaned toward him with impulsive loveliness. “Mr. Power, would it be possible for you to investigate this business? It would have to be done quietly—and my name mustn’t under any circumstances come into it. But I really think it should be done. I can’t satisfy myself there wasn’t something on that film that should be known.”
Staring at his fingertips, he felt that it w'ould be a sleeveless errand, yet he could not refuse. "I’m your man,” he said, smiling wryly at his own weakness, “for what I’m worth.”
JOB FOR YOU,” Pow'er said to Sergeant Jules Papineau at the latter’s headquarters. “It’s time someone set you burning up your oats.”
“Sacre!” declared the rotund detective indignantly. “All day I ’ave walk the pavements. Sometime I must rest my feet.”
“1 want you to put someone on the trail of a gent called Davidson, an employee of the late Richard Hammond. Say for a week. Like to know what he does in his lighter moments.”
Papineau’s large dark eyes gleamed with quick interest. “Comment? You ’ave somet’ing on ce tn'sieu, non?”
“Not unless you can put it there.”
Power then journeyed to the brokerage office of his friend, Jerry Bayne. “Jerry,” he said, “I want you to buy ten shares of Consolidated Gold.”
The broker laughed hollowly. “Quit kidding,” he said. “C. G. has ceased to be a source of merriment.”
“Not advising it to your clients, eh?”
“Dirtiest stock on the board. If you’ve got any loose change, buy a post office pension and secure your old age.” “1 happen to want Consolidated Gold.”
“If you’re not open for business, I’ll consult a real broker.” Jerry shrugged. “It’s not my funeral; you can have a carload.”
“Ten shares’ll be enough. When do I get the certificates?”
“Tomorrow,’ it is. By the way, what’s wrong with C. G.? I thought anything old Devil Dick Hammond handled was Aladdin’s-lamp stuff.”
“So it was while he handled it. But what J. D. Crane and Traill Malcolm have done to it is nobody’s business.” “Smooth guy, Malcolm. Where was he spawmed financially?”
“Know anything more?”
“No.” And then with sharp suspicion: “What are you nosing after him for?”
“Merely a yen to become one of his stockholders.”
“In other words, it’s none of my business.”
Pow'er grinned as he moved tow-ard the door. “See you tomorrow,” he said.
Presenting himself the following afternoon at the business place of Crane and Malcolm, he was kept waiting only half an hour before being admitted to the holy of holies. There lie found both partners. Crane w'as a hardbitten little man with a bulldog jaw and baleful grey eyes, his whole manner carrying a defiant motif. Traill Malcolm, w'hom Power had met at various social functions chez les riches, was another kettle of fish—tall, dark, with the sleek contour of a streamlined w'alrus; large, almost Semitic eyes, a black mustache and gleaming white teeth.
Power did not beat about the bush. Flinging on the large mahogany table his recently acquired stock certificates, he said: “I’m a holder of Consolidated Gold, gentlemen. I demand an investigation of the company’s affairs.”
“You what?” snapped Crane like an angry terrier.
“You heard me,” Power replied, equally curt.
Crane glanced at the certificate. ‘Ten shares !” he snorted. “You’ve got a nerve to demand an investigation on that piking stake.”
“A stockholder is a stockholder.”
"My dear Power”—Traill Malcolm swung the full incandescence of his smooth personality into action—“your
losses are a trifle compared to ours. If anything could have been done with C. G., we would have done it. I hat s my point, said Power blandly. “What the devil game are you playing?” sputtered Crane. “Trying to blackmail us?”
“I’m merely interested in a certain document to which I have a shrewd suspicion the late Richard Hammond refused to put his signature,” Power answered.
For a moment there was a sickly silence. And then, leaping to his feet. Crane shot a bony forefinger at the investigator. “Get out of here!” he choked. “Get out, or by the eternal, I’ll throw you out!”
Power chuckled at the little lion. “Okay,” he said, rising, “but you can’t say I didn’t warn you. Get ready to sit on a hot grid, gentlemen.”
Outside, striding down St. James Street, he chuckled again. “Touche!” he murmured.
Perhaps the girl’s intuitions were correct. Only on such a conjecture could Crane’s apoplectic outburst be explained— or the somewhat greenish change of hue that had come over Traill Malcolm’s suave features.
"V^ET DESPITE this, Power made it his business to investigate further the man, Davidson. Concerning this gentleman, Papineau reported finally: “There is not’ing— rien! He ’as go to the movies; to visit friends; to a beer parlor.”
It was in a beer parlor that Power interviewed Davidson. Hammond’s old servitor was one of those lean, self-effacing fellows in the fifties who have trained their faces and their souls to servience. Perhaps it was that training which accounted for his wariness in answering questions. But what with beer and persistence. Power did manage to confirm all the girl had told him; and the man’s story rang true enough.
“You didn’t hear Mr. Hammond mention anything about his business affairs in the last two days he was alive?” Power asked the man finally.
“Mr. Hammond never spoke of his business to me," replied the other coldly.
“Did he seem upset after Mr. Crane and Mr. Malcolm left him that afternoon?”
Davidson hesitated. “He was rather short, sii . I thought the interview had tired him.”
“And that’s all?”
“Apart from yourself, Miss Mawson, Mr. MacFarlane and Tom Hammond, he saw no one else that day?”
“Only Dr. Parkinson.”
“Dr. Ralph Parkinson?”
“Yes. sir. He attended Mr. Hammond throughout his illness.”
Next, morning Power went to the general hospital and sought an interview with the well-known interne. Dr. Parkinson came curtly from a bedside, resenting the interruption of his morning’s work, and his impatience added pomposity to a large, imposing presence.
“Sorry to trouble you, doctor,” Power began, in no way overborne. “I understand you attended Richard Hammond during his last illness. Something happened in the thirty-six hours before he died which I am trying to clear up. He died on the 26th. You saw him on the evening of the 25th. Did he mention anything to you that had, let. us say, a nonclinieal bearing?”
“You should know. Power,” the other replied curtly, “that what a patient says to his doctor is as sacrosanct as the confessional.”
“There was nothing then you’d care to divulge?” Power asked with an amiability that disguised his inner yearning to kick hard at the seat of a pair of pompous pants.
“No, sir—and I’m afraid I’m rather busy tins morning,” Dr. Parkinson moved toward the door, which he held open with curt invitation.
Continued on page 52
Continued from page 13—Starts on page 12
Power said as they moved down the long corridor: “I suppose it was cancer that
For all his high-and-mightiness, the clinician could not forbear to brag his lore, albeit grudgingly. “No—-rare condition—in fact, the first case I’ve seen. Toxic osteitis. Brücker of Berlin has had only two cases. All the bone tissues underwent a slow necrosis, even the jawbones. Had to keep him alive with milk and vichy water at the end.” “Not unlike phosphorus poisoning,” Power murmured.
“Extremely unlike it!” was the retort. Power left the hospital chuckling, but his amusement was tinctured with contempt. Parkinson was a big shop-window—blustering from patient to patient with the profound air of a deus ex machina, but scientifically hollow.
“Toxic osteitis!” Power muttered scornfully on the steps of the hospital entrance.
And then suddenly, through his scorn and scepticism shot a (lash of startling conjecture. Springing down to the pavement where a taxi liad just ridded itself of pathologic burden, he leaped inside and cried: “McGill Medical Library!”
AÍ' 2 P. M. Power called Papineau on the - phone. “Come up and see me some time,” he said. He was hanging up the receiver when his man, Hicks, came in to announce: “A Mr. James MacFarlane and a Mr. Hammond to see you, sir.”
Power’s shrewd grey eyes lit with a quick eagerness. “She moves!” he murmured. “Show ’em in, Hicks.”
James MacFarlane was a tall spare man whose longish silken white hair rode like a plume above an ascetic face. An aura of other-worldliness emanating from him made it difficult to believe that he was a successful corporation lawyer with an almost exclusively millionaire clientèle. As for Tom Hammond, he was one of those proud, not to say arrogant, young men whose upbringing amid richesse had given an air of spurious mastery
MacFarlane said in gentle reproach: “We understand, Mr. Power, that you are interesting yourself in the affairs of the late Richard Hammond. As executors of his estate, we are naturally concerned about it.” “On whose authority are you busying yourself?” Tom Hammond demanded truculently.
“Perhaps it’s just my idle curiosity,” Power answered with a shrug.
“That’s not it,” retorted Hammond.
“So what?” Power asked him.
“We must ask you to desist,” MacFarlane said in his gentle way. “Your activities are proving embarrassing to us in settling Mr. Hammond’s estate. I might go further and say that the estate will suffer grievously if they continue.”
“Which means, I suppose,” Power drawled, “that Messrs. Crane and Malcolm have put the screw on. I seem to have put the wind up them after all.”
“You can suppose what you like,” said Hammond angrily. “We’re here to tell you to stop it.”
Power’s face went suddenly hard. “Then you’re wasting your timeand mine.” He rose to his feet in dismissal.
“But surely. Mr. Power,” MacFarlane interjected, “Hammond and I have a right to your confidence in this matter.”
“Sorry, gentlemen.” Power bowed them relentlessly into the hall, where the rotund bulk of Sergeant Jules Papineau stood waiting.
For a quarter of an hour thereafter the good Pap listened to an unfoldment that fairly set his eyes popping. And when, in the end, Power suggested a modus vivendi. he rose to his feet impetuously and cried: “Sacre nom. nous marcherons!”
They taxied to a suburban crematorium. Its proprietor, after hearing them without enthusiasm, shook his head. “It is our
unbroken rule,” he declared, “never to allow visitors to the crypts without permission of the relatives of the deceased.”
Power gave Pap the signal for pressure. “You shall know, m’sieu,” declared the latter, “that I am of the police. Permit us this request or we return with the coroner. It will not be nice, that, for yourself or the relatives, non? But you listen to reason and perhaps we make not’ing of this. No one is then wise—c’est bon, ça—non?”
“But you have only to ring the relatives on the phone and have them instruct me,” protested the funereal specialist.
“Non,” Pap declared firmly. “They must not know; no one must know. Alors—do I bring the coroner?”
The gentleman yielded, conducting them with the air of a man who has a gun to his back, to solemn and sepulchral regions rearward. A shelf, an um. A gold plate bearing the simple inscription: Rickard Howard
Hammond, 1870-1935. Power lifted the urn’s lid and placed two fresh rolls of unexposed film upon the ashes. Two further rolls lie laid on the shelf close by.
He said to the proprietor: “These must not be disturbed. In fact, I’ll have to ask you to lock the crypt and give Sergeant Papineau the key until we return tomorrow. If it’s absolutely necessary for you to get in here in the meantime, he’ll come and let you in.”
THE FOLLOWING morning at eleven o’clock Power stepped out of the small closet, rigged temporarily as a dark room, that opened on his little laboratory, and held out four rolls of wet film to the gaze of Papineau.
“Voilà!” cried the latter eagerly. “Il a fait quelque chose!”
Two of the films were intensely overexposed; the other two merely .showed streaks of dark against the clearer celluloid. “The ones I placed in the urn are completely blackened,” Power pointed out. “In other words, Pap, my hunch was correct. Old Devil Dick died of chronic radium poisoning.”
“I’m not surprised,” agreed the other. “Another of life’s ironic twists,” Power exclaimed, grinning. “That girl brought me her negatives hoping I could work a miracle of restitution. Instead, we get a solid clue to murder. Some way and somehow, Richard Hammond was slowly poisoned by radium. He had enough of it in his system the day before he died to ruin a film in no closer contact to him than his pyjama pocket. There’s enough of it in his cremated remains to do the same thing. What was on the girl’s negatives no longer matters. We’re looking for a murderer—a cold-blooded, deliberate murderer.”
“Sacre nom!” declared Pap, throwing out his hands. “I do not understand how these t’ings come to you.”
“Vanity, in this case,” Power replied, chuckling. “Dr. Ralph Parkinson’s pompous vanity. It was his sententious diagnosis of toxic osteitis that set my mind working. I doubted him out of pure cussedness. Then I remembered that radium acts powerfully on photographic film, and that somewhere I’d read an account of the effect of the element on human tissues when taken internally. What we’re looking for is someone who has been handling radioactive waters.” “That young man, Hammond !” Pap cried. “He ’as ’ad the most to gain. I ’ave hear of him before this—a reckless young devil.” "He’s on the list, laddie. So’s your quarry, Davidson. He could have tamjiered with Hammond’s food and drink better than anyone else. And then there’s James MacFarlane.”
Pap was not able to swallow that whale without a gulp; but after a moment’s pondering, he said: “He lives next door, for
sure. He is an old friend; he will know his way about the Hammond place. Oui, there is reason to suspect him.”
I wonder whether it was he or young
Hammond who inspired that attempt on
their part to stall me off yesterday after-
noon,” Power said musingly.
“Änd we do not forget the Messieurs Craree and Malcolm. From what you ’ave say, they ’ave not been unhappy in his
“I think we can narrow that pair down to Malcolm, Pap,” Power said thoughtfully, “Crane’s a ruthless little tiger, but he’s not the üype to instigate the subtler forms of death. He’d use a gun or a club and be done with it. Let’s mosey. We’ll call first at
the Physics Department at McGill, and then the Hammond home, Allons!"
TNAVIDSON ADMITTED them to the •*-' big house in Westmount. When his
protest against the house being searched in the absence of Mr. Tom went unregarded, he adopted an aloof and not very helpful attitude that began slowly but surely to get
Sergeant Papineau’s goat. Finally, when the man’s grudging answers could no longer be tolerated, Papineau thrust his jaw into the fellow’s face and cried: “Sacre nom,
m’situ, you will prefer perhaps to answer these questions in jail? Non? Then inform
usdid you prepare and serve the food for M’sieu Hammond when he is sick?”
But Davidson’s long training could not be broken down so easily. Without loss of countenance, he replied: “I did, sir.”
“What sort of diet was he on?” Power asked.
“Practically nothing but vichy and milk, sir, at the end.”
Vichy and mVik. Dr. Ralph Parkinson had let that same information drop.
“Where do you keep your supply of vichy?”
“In the cellar, sir.”
They passed along a hall and down a flight of steps. Davidson unlocked a door which opened on shelves whose glistening array of cos,tly wines and liquors set Papineau’s eyes gaping. He pointed to several cases against the far wall and said to Power; “There it is, sir.”
“Was that stock purchased before or since Mr. Hammond’s death?”
Power set on the nearest shelf the small wooden box he had brought from the Physics Department at McGill. From it he took a small, delicately constructed piece of apparatus that held, clawlike, on one of its metal limbs a square of gold leaf. Taking the
thing up gingerly, he held it out in front of
him and slowly approached the wooden cases Davidson had indicated. He was about six feet from these when the gold leaf began to quiver. As he moved closer, it swung
forward as if drawn by a magnet toward the
bottled vichy. Backing away, he repeated his manoeuvre. The same phenomenon recurred. He said to Pap: “Slip a couple of bottles of the stuff into your pocket.” Then, turning to Davidson : “Where did Mr. Hammond get his vichy?”
The serving man named a large wholesale drug house. ^
“When did he buy his last supply?”
“He was in the habit of laying it in twice a year, sir. I think it was in May I purchased last.”
“You did the buying, eh?”
The man gave him a queer, apprehensive glance. “Y-yes, sir.”
“He was in the habit of drinking vichy even before he took sick, then?
“Yes, sir. He preferred it to soda with his whisky.”
An hour later, after a painstaking examination of the premises, Power said to Papineau on the steps outside the house:
“We know how he was poisoned now. Pap. That little instrument I used is one of the most delicate detectors of the presence of
radium known to science. In other words, someone tampered with Devil Dick’s vichy
Pap scratched his head. “Me,” he dedared, “I t’ink she is an inside job. How else is it arranged except by someone who ’as know the house?”
“Whoever did it,” Power said, frowning,
“must have had some sort of contraption for
uncorking and recorking the metal caps on
those bottles. We’ve got to find it. You’d
better get a couple of men out and dig
around in the likely spots. Give me a ring if you strike oil.”
Y\7T1EN. HALF an hour later, Power
W called at the address Helen Mawson had given him, he found the girl at the door of her flat, drawing on her gloves. “Oh,” she exclaimed, “1 was just going out,” and then in the next laughing breath: “I thought you’d given me up.”
“Power never gives up,” he replied grinning. “In a hurry?”
She glanced at her wrist-watch. “I’m supposed to be lunching at the Ritz in five minutes.”
“I’ve got a chariot below,” he said, taking her arm. “We’ll discourse en route; and I’ll be doing a good turn to some impatient wight.”
She laughed as they trooped down the steps, but the laugh erased itself when he asked in the taxi: “Was there any trouble between Tom Hammond and the old boy?”
She answered quickly, her lovely face perturbed: “Mr. Power, I’m sure Tom
Hammond was not concerned with that film.”
“Then there was trouble?” She yielded before his glance, though the answer seemed dragged from her. “Yes.”
“Money?” “No, no. Not that.” She gazed distres-
sedly through the taxi window for a moment, Then she turned to him again, unburdened
herself frankly. “Tom wanted his place in the sun; wanted more control of the affairs
he was to inherit. Mr. Hammond kept him down—you know how exasperating he could
be. I think that explained a lot of Tom’s
behavior. I know it did.”
“You mean his playboy recklessness?” “He gave all that up immediately Mr. Hammond took sick and he was given more responsibility,” she cried at once, “Was that the only reason he settled down?” Power asked her, with a gleam in his eye. And then, laughing as she colored:
“Tell me one more thing: How big a part did James MacFarlane play in Devil Dick’s
business operations? Or was he merely a
legal adviser?” She shook her head. “I don’t know. They were very close. I always felt that Mr. Hammond used him to pull a lot of his chestnuts out of the fire. But I was never allowed to learn anything definite.”
The taxi drew up before the Ritz. Beyond
the rotunda' door, Power saw the waiting figure of Tom Hammond. As he had handed her out, he remarked slyly: “And now for ‘a loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou’ !”
Arrived back at his fiat, Hicks informed
him that Sergeat Papineau had aing twice anc] wished him to call the Hammond house immediately he came in. A few moments later the familiar voice boomed over the wire: “Rien! We find not’ing here.” “Did you search the outhouses and the
garage’” “Oui; everyt’ing.”
“Didn’t give neighbor MacFarlane’s
place the once over, by any chance?” “I ’ave t’ink of that. But I ’ave no papers, He is a lawyer. It might be a hornets’ nest,
“Let ’em sting!” As Power turned from the phone, Hicks
came in to announce that luncheon was ready. Barely was the meal over when the
doorbell rang. It was James MacFarlane. The lawyer’s mien had become ungentled.
“I must protest again, Mr. Power,” he declared, “against the free and easy way in which you are behaving over the Ham-
monds’affairs. Tom Hammond tells me you searched his house this morning. Did you have a warrant?”
“Frankly, I didn’t,” Power replied, with a twisted smile.
“Then I must ask you to desist or I’ll be
forced to—” “You might as well know it now, Mr. MacFarlane,” Power cut in grimly. “Richard Hammond died of chronic radium poison-
The lawyer stared at him aghast. “Good heavens!” he exclaimed incredulously. And then: “But it’s incredible. He was sick for weeks. You don’t mean to say—”
“I can prove it beyond the shadow of a doubt. Somebody mixed his supply of vichy with a radioactive water.”
“This is terrible—terrible!” MacFarlane mopped his forehead. “My oldest and best friend !”
“We’re looking for someone who knows something about radioactive waters. You wouldn’t be able to help us, would you?” Something pierced through the elderly lawyer’s agitation. With a start he straightened in his chair, stared hard at Power for a moment, and then gasped again: “Good
heavens!” He had the look of a man trying to credit the incredible. And then he said in a voice that trembled: “Yes; I believe 1 can help you!”
TT WAS a quarter to three before the party finally assembled in the large library of the Hammond home. Power sat behind the heavy oak table upon which certain exhibits lay. Beside him stood Jules Papineau, a grim and rotund symbol of the law. Messrs. Crane and MacFarlane sat at the two ends of a half-circle facing them, with Tom Hammond and Traill Malcolm on the chesterfield between. The man, Davidson, guarded the closed door.
“Some days ago, gentlemen,” Power began, addressing them, “Miss Mawson came to me with a matter that was distressing her. The day before he died, Richard Hammond gave her a roll of film to have developed on which he seemed to set considerable store.”
The little figure of J. D. Crane stiffened. Traill Malcolm made a quick movement with his shoulders as if his collar had suddenly got too tight for his neck.
“When developed,” Power went on, as though he had not noted these phenomena, “it proved to be hopelessly overexposed.” Did the two partners seem to relax, to breathe an easier air?
“But because she was certain of its importance, she brought it to me in the hope that I might be able to recover the irrecoverable. Of course I was not. But through it I was able to unearth the fact that Richard Hammond did not die of natural causes; that he had been slowly poisoned over a considerable period with some preparation of radium.” A gasp broke from his hearers. With the exception of MacFarlane, who was alone privy to the information, they stared at him with blank incredulity.
“I’ll not go into the details of proof just now,” Power went on gravely. “I’ll merely state that I have incontrovertible evidence of the fact. The radium was administered in the following way: Mr. Hammond’s
.supply of vichy water—kept in the cellar below—was uncorked, some of its contents poured out of each bottle, and the bottles refilled with the radioactive water. I have invited you gentlemen here because one of you pulled the job.”
There was an outburst of protest like muttering thunder. Power brushed it aside with a categorical wave of his hand. “But radium,” he continued, “is a hard element to come by. You don’t go into a drug store and buy it as you do arsenic, morphia, strychnine j or such poisons. Apart from the precious 1 supplies kept closely guarded in a few large I hospitals and used there mainly in the cure I of cancer, it is available only in the so-called \ radioactive waters. I have here”—he lifted ; a sheet of paper from the table in front of ! him—“a certain dossier handed me just now by Mr. MacFarlane and prepared by him for the late Richard Hammond. It appears that Mr. Hammond always investigated his financial associates before doing business with them. In this case”—he turned to Traill Malcolm—“it happens to be a sort of biography of your earlier financial life.” Malcolm, who was now the focusing point of every eye in the room, had turned a nasty green. “Y’ou started out in business,” Power went on, “as a patent-medicine vendor in the United States. In 1917 you were the proprietor of a company that bottled and sold a radioactive water railed Radiotone.
Shortly after you disposed of it— at a considerable price. 1 understand—three persons died from taking it. All of them in a similar manner to Richard Hammond. Despite the Pure Food and Drugs Act, it is still obtainable south of the line.”
Malcolm said, his face livid: “I’ve had nothing to do with Radiotone since I came to Canada.” He swung on James MacFarlane: “Are you trying to railroad me to
“I’m merely acting to the best of my capacity to clear up the murder of a friend,” replied the lawyer coldly.
Malcolm turned to the others, to Power: “Mow in heaven’s name,” he cried, flinging out his hands, “could I have got into this house to tamper with its cellar? The whole thing’s crazy.”
“I’m inclined to agree with you,” Power said. “The idea that you could have entered the cellar of this house carrying two or three cases of your Radiotone, and unbottled and rebottled probably a dozen cases of vichy after mixing the two, does imply something of the technique of a miracle.”
The little tiger, Crane, shot forward in his chair and snapped: “Malcolm’s no more
a murderer than I am.”
“We’ve got to deal with the facts, Mr. Crane,” Power said coolly. “You and Malcolm both had a motive for that murder. What has happened to Consolidated Gold since Mr. Hammond’s death seems to show quite clearly that you and he had different ideas concerning its management. The evidence all goes to show that even on the day before he died you were trying to doublecross him. In any case, I believe it is necessary to bring out these facts in order to arrive at a proper conclusion. Mr. Malcolm has not been accused of murder yet. In fact, I don’t believe he is the murderer. The difficulties he would have had to overcome in achieving the technique of this crime are
too great. But”—he swung sharply— j
“those same difficulties would not have , beset you, Mr. MacFarlane. You live next ! door. You know the workings and geography of this household as only a neighbor and i constant visitor could.”
’ PHE LAWYER was on his feet, his face taut with protest: “How dare you insinuate that I, his oldest friend—”
“But it happens that you are the only one of us outside of Mr. Malcolm with a knowledge of Radiotone. You became possessed of that knowledge when you investigated Mr. Malcolm for Mr. Hammond some years ; ago. There was nothing to prevent you ! obtaining a supply of the water. Other bottled goods have been smuggled across the border.”
Tom Hammond leaned tensely forward. “But it’s ridiculous,” he cried scornfully. “Mr. MacFarlane was my uncle’s oldest and best friend. He had no motive for—”
“Hadn't he?” exclaimed Power.
“No, and you’ll never find one!” cried the indignant lawyer.
“That remains to be seen,” said Power. “What I do know is that a year ago you owed a brokerage firm in this city over fifty thousand dollars. When they threatened to crack down on you, you put up certain stock as collateral. In fact it was Consolidated Gold you put up. I’ll admit that Richard Hammond’s signatures on them look genuine. But not quite genuine enough. I’m having them looked over by an expert. It’s my opinion that they were stocks held by you for him; that you forged his name to them for the purposes of saving yourself from bankruptcy; and that in order to prevent it ever being discovered, you poisoned j him.”
“Bosh!” exclaimed MacFarlane, his face ashen grey. “Y'ou’ve let your imagination i run away with you. There isn’t a single vital ' fact linking me to this dastardly crime.”
“It’s merely a matter of time before they’re unearthed,” Power said with a shrug; and then turned toward the door as a knock sounded on it.
Davidson opened it to disclose one of Sergeant Papineau’s men. The sergeant crossed the room, held a short whispered conversa-
ttion with his minion and. returning, placed something on the desk in front of Power, at the same time hissing a message into his ear.
Power held the object out toward the Sawyer. “Sooner than we expected, Mr. MacFarlane,” he said. “This happens to be an apparatus for attaching clip-corks to
bottles. You buy them, I .believe, at t.he hardware stores. It was just dug up in your garden. I haven’t a doubt that further excavations will unearth a series of empty Radiotone bottles.’’
He turned to Papineau: “Take him!” he said.