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First published in Cosmopolitan, June 1914

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Cosmopolitan, June 1914, with "The Curio Shop"


Is it true that, following the recent remarkable progress in scientific research, crime is increasing? In any case, it is certain that murder is becoming if not a fine, at least a finer art. Nowadays, in the commission of some crimes, even the subtle poison-methods of old Italy seem clumsy. Here, Craig Kennedy is called into a case which literally brims with mystery. It is a murder case in which there seem to be neither motives nor clues. Even when his deductions seem correct, fellow scientists tell him he can prove nothing. But he uses his own ideas in crime-detecting, and once more the new, up-to-the-minute method of applying the latest thing there is to know in science wins out.

"WHY, what's the matter, Mrs. Northrop?" asked Kennedy, as he opened our door one morning and admitted a young woman who greeted us with nervous, wide-staring eyes.

"It's—it's about Archer," she cried, sinking into the nearest chair and staring from one to the other of us.

She was the wife of Professor Archer Northrop, director of the archeological department at the university. Both Craig and I had known her ever since her marriage to Northrop, for she was one of the most attractive ladies in the younger set of the faculty, to which Craig naturally belonged. Archer had been of the class below us in the university. We had hazed him, and out of the mild hazing there had, strangely enough, grown a strong friendship.

I recollected quickly that Northrop, according to last reports, had been down in the south of Mexico on an archeological expedition. But before I could frame, even in my mind, the natural question in a form that would not alarm his wife further, Kennedy had it on his lips.

"No bad news from Mitla, I hope?" he asked gently, recalling one of the main working-stations chosen by the expedition and the reported unsettled condition of the country about it. She looked up quickly.

"Didn't you know—he—came back from Vera Cruz yesterday?" she asked slowly, then added, speaking in a broken tone, "and—he seems—suddenly—to have disappeared. Oh, such a terrible night of worry! No word—and I called up the museum, but Doctor Bernardo, the curator, had gone, and no one answered. And this morning—I couldn't stand it any longer—so I came to you."


"Didn't you know—he—came back from Vera Cruz yesterday?" she asked slowly.

"You have no idea, I suppose, of anything that was weighing on his mind?" suggested Kennedy.

"No," she answered promptly.

In default of any further information, Kennedy did not pursue this line of questioning. I could not determine from his face or manner whether he thought the matter might involve another than Mrs. Northrop, or, perhaps, something connected with the unsettled condition of the country from which her husband had just arrived.

"Have you any of the letters that Archer wrote home?" asked Craig, at length.

"Yes," she replied eagerly, taking a little packet from her hand-bag. "I thought you might ask that. I brought them."

"You are an ideal client," commented Craig encouragingly, taking the letters. "Now, Mrs. Northrop, be brave. Trust me to run this thing down, and if you hear anything let me know immediately."

She left us a moment later, visibly relieved.

SCARCELY had she gone when Craig, stuffing the letters into his pocket unread, seized his hat, and a moment later was striding along toward the museum with his habitual rapid, abstracted step which told me that he sensed a mystery.

In the museum we met Doctor Bernardo, a man slightly older than Northrop, with whom he had been very intimate. He had just arrived and was already deeply immersed in the study of some new and beautiful colored plates from the National Museum of Mexico City.

"Do you remember seeing Northrop here yesterday afternoon?" greeted Craig, without explaining what had happened.

"Yes," he answered promptly. "I was here with him until very late. At least, he was in his own room, working hard, when I left."

"Did you see him go?"

"Why—er—no," replied Bernardo, as if that were a new idea. "I left him here—at least, I didn't see him go out."

Kennedy tried the door of Northrop's room, which was at the far end, in a corner, and communicated with the hall only through the main floor of the museum. It was locked. A pass-key from the janitor quickly opened it.

Such a sight as greeted us, I shall never forget. There, in his big desk-chair, sat Northrop, absolutely rigid, the most horribly contorted look on his features that I have ever seen—half of pain, half of fear, as if of something nameless.


There, in his big desk-chair, sat Northrop, the most horribly
contorted look on his features that I have ever seen.

Kennedy bent over. His hands were cold. Northrop had been dead at least twelve hours, perhaps longer. All night the deserted museum had guarded its terrible secret.

As Craig peered into his face, he saw, in the fleshy part of the neck, just below the left ear, a round red mark, with just a drop or two of now black coagulated blood in the center. All around, we could see a vast amount of miscellaneous stuff, partly unpacked, partly just opened, and waiting to be taken out of the wrappings by the now motionless hands.

"I suppose you are more or less familiar with what Northrop brought back?" asked Kennedy, of Bernardo, running his eye over the material in the room.

"Yes, reasonably," answered Bernardo. "Before the cases arrived from the wharf, he told me in detail what he had managed to bring up with him."

"I wish, then, that you would look it over and see if there is anything missing," requested Craig, already himself busy in going over the room for other evidence.

Doctor Bernardo hastily began taking a mental inventory of the stuff. While they worked, I tried vainly to frame some theory which would explain the startling facts we had so suddenly discovered.

Mitla, I knew, was south of the city of Oajaca, and there, in its ruined palaces, was the crowning achievement of the old Zapotec kings. No ruins in America were more elaborately ornamented or richer in lore for the archeologist.

Northrop had brought up porphyry blocks with quaint grècques and much hieroglyphic painting. Already unpacked were half a dozen copper axes, some of the first of that particular style that had ever been brought to the United States. Besides the sculptured stones and the mosaics were jugs, cups, vases, little gods, sacrificial stones—enough, almost, to equip a new alcove in the museum.

Before Northrop was an idol, a hideous thing on which frogs and snakes squatted and coiled. It was a fitting piece to accompany the gruesome occupant of the little room in his long, last vigil. In fact, it almost sent a shudder over me, and if I had been inclined to the superstitious, I should certainly have concluded that this was retribution for having disturbed the lares and penates of a dead race.

Doctor Bernardo was going over the material a second time. By the look on his face, even I could guess that something was missing.

"What is it?" asked Craig, following the curator closely.

"Why," he answered slowly, "there was an inscription—we were looking at it earlier in the day—on a small block of porphyry. I don't see it."

He paused and went back to his search before we could ask him further what he thought the inscription was about.

I thought nothing, myself, at the time of his reticence, for Kennedy had gone over to a window back of Northrop and to the left. It was fully twenty feet from the downward slope of the campus there, and, as he craned his neck out, he noted that the copper leader of the rain-pipe ran past it a few feet away.

I, too, looked out. A thick group of trees hid the window from the avenue beyond the campus wall, and below us, at a corner of the building, was a clump of rhododendrons. As Craig bent over the sill, he whipped out a pocket-lens.

A moment later, he silently handed the glass to me. As nearly as I could make out, there were five marks on the dust of the sill.

"Finger-prints!" I exclaimed. "Some one has been clinging to the edge of the ledge."

"In that case," Craig observed quietly, "there would have been only four prints."

I looked again, puzzled. The prints were flat and well separated.

"No," he added, "not finger-prints—toe-prints."

"Toe-prints?" I echoed.

Before he could reply, Craig had dashed out of the room, around, and under the window. There, he was carefully going over the soft earth around the bushes below.

"What are you looking-for?" I asked, joining him.

"Some one—perhaps two—has been here," he remarked, almost under his breath. "One, at least, has removed his shoes. See those shoe-prints up to this point? The print of a boot-heel in soft earth shows the position and contour of every nail-head. Bertillon has made a collection of such nails, certain types, sizes, and shapes used in certain boots, showing often what country the shoes came from. Even the number and pattern are significant. Some factories use a fixed number of nails and arrange them in a particular manner. I have made my own collection of such prints in this country. These were American shoes. Perhaps the clue will not lead us anywhere, though, for I doubt whether it was an American foot."

Kennedy continued to study the marks.

"He removed his shoes—either to help in climbing or to prevent noise—ah—here's the foot! Strange—see how small it is—and broad, how prehensile the toes—almost like fingers. Surely that foot could never have been encased in American shoes all its life. I shall make plaster casts of these, to preserve later."

He was still scouting about on hands and knees in the dampness of the rhododendrons. Suddenly he reached his long arm in among the shrubs and picked up a little reed stick. On the end of it was a small cylinder of buff brown.

He looked at it curiously, dug his nail into the soft mass, then rubbed his nail over the tip of his tongue gingerly. With a wry face, as if the taste were extremely acrid, he moistened his handkerchief and wiped off his tongue vigorously.

"Even that minute particle that was on my nail makes my tongue tingle and feel numb," he remarked, still rubbing. "Let us go back again. I want to see Bernardo."

"Had he any visitors during the day?" queried Kennedy, as he reentered the ghastly little room, while the curator stood outside, completely unnerved by the tragedy which had been so close to him without his apparently knowing it. Kennedy was squeezing out from the little wound on Northrop's neck a few drops of liquid on a sterilized piece of glass.

"No; no one," Bernardo answered, after a moment.

"Did you see any one in the museum who looked suspicious?" asked Kennedy, watching Bernardo's face keenly.

"No," he hesitated. "There were several people wandering about among the exhibits, of course. One, I recall, late in the afternoon, was a little dark-skinned woman, rather good-looking."

"A Mexican?"

"Yes, I should say so. Not of Spanish descent, though. She was rather of the Indian type. She seemed to be much interested in the various exhibits, asked me several questions, very intelligently, too. Really, I thought she was trying to—er—flirt with me."

He shot a glance at Craig, half of confession, half of embarrassment.

"And—oh, yes—there was another—a man, a little man, as I recall, with shaggy hair. He looked like a Russian to me. I remember, because he came to the door, peered around hastily, and went away. I thought he might have got into the wrong part of the building and went to direct him right—but before I could get out into the hall, he was gone. I remember, too, that, as I turned, the woman had followed me and soon was asking other questions—which, I will admit—I was glad to answer."

"Was Northrop in his room while these people were here?"

"Yes; he had locked the door so that none of the students or visitors could disturb him."

"Evidently the woman was diverting your attention while the man entered Northrop's room by the window," ruminated Craig, as we stood for a moment in the outside doorway.

He had already telephoned to our old friend Doctor Leslie, the coroner, to take charge of the case, and now was ready to leave. The news had spread, and the janitor of the building was waiting to lock the campus door to keep back the crowd of students and others.

OUR next duty was the painful one of breaking the news to Mrs. Northrop. I shall pass it over. Perhaps no one could have done it more gently than Kennedy. She did not cry. She was simply dazed. Fortunately her mother was with her, had been, in fact, ever since Northrop had gone on the expedition.

"Why should any one want to steal tablets of old Mixtec inscriptions?" I asked thoughtfully, as we walked sadly over the campus in the direction of the chemistry building. "Have they a sufficient value, even on appreciative Fifth Avenue, to warrant murder?"

"Well," he remarked, "it does seem incomprehensible. Yet people do just such things. The psychologists tell us that there is a veritable mania for possessing such curios. However, it is possible that there may be some deeper significance in this case," he added, his face puckered in thought.

Who was the mysterious Mexican woman, who the shaggy Russian, I asked myself. Clearly, at least, if she existed at all, she was one of the millions not of Spanish but of Indian descent in the country south of us. As I reasoned it out, it seemed to me as if she must have been an accomplice. She could not have got into Northrop's room either before or after Doctor Bernardo left. Then, too, the toe- and shoe-prints were not hers. But, I figured, she certainly had a part in the plot.

While I was engaged in the vain effort to unravel the tragic affair by pure reason, Kennedy was at work with practical science.

He began by examining the little dark cylinder on the end of the reed. On a piece of the stuff, broken off, he poured a dark liquid from a brown-glass bottle. Then he placed it under a microscope.

"Microscopically," he said slowly, "it consists almost wholly of minute, clear granules which give a blue reaction with iodine. They are starch. Mixed with them are some larger starch granules, a few plant-cells, fibrous matter, and other foreign particles. And then, there is the substance that gives that acrid, numbing taste." He appeared to be vacantly studying the floor.

"What do you think it is?" I asked, unable to restrain myself.

"Aconite," he answered slowly, "of which the active principle is the deadly poisonous alkaloid, aconitin."

He walked over and pulled down a well-thumbed standard work on toxicology, turned the pages, then began to read aloud:

"Pure aconitin is probably the most actively poisonous substance with which we are acquainted, and, if administered hypodermically, the alkaloid is even more powerfully poisonous than when taken by the mouth.

"As in the case of most of the poisonous alkaloids, aconitin does not produce any decidedly characteristic post-mortem appearances. There is no way to distinguish it from other alkaloids, in fact, no reliable chemical test. The physiological effects before death are all that can be relied on.

"Owing to its exceeding toxic nature, the smallness of the dose required to produce death, and the lack of tests for recognition, aconitin possesses rather more interest in legal medicine than most other poisons.

"It is one of the few substances which, in the present state of toxicology, might be criminally administered and leave no positive evidence of the crime. If a small but fatal dose of the poison were to be given, especially if it were administered hypodermically, the chances of its detection in the body after death would be practically none."

I was looking at him fixedly as the diabolical nature of what must have happened sank into my mind. Here was a poison that defied detection. I could see by the look on Craig's face that that problem, alone, was enough to absorb his attention. He seemed fully to realize that we had to deal with a criminal so clever that he might never be brought to justice.

An idea flashed over me.

"How about the letters?" I suggested.

"Good, Walter!" he exclaimed.

He untied the package which Mrs. Northrop had given him and glanced quickly over one after another of the letters.

"Ah!" he exclaimed, fairly devouring one dated at Mitla. "Listen—it tells about Northrop's work and goes on:

"I have been much interested in a cavern, or subterraneo, here, in the shape of a cross, each arm of which extends for some twelve feet underground. In the center it is guarded by a block of stone popularly called 'the Pillar of Death.' There is a superstition that whoever embraces it will die before the sun goes down.

"From the subterraneo is said to lead a long, underground passage across the court to another subterranean chamber which is full of Mixtec treasure. Treasure hunters have dug all around it, and it is said that two old Indians, only, know of the immense amount of buried gold and silver, but that they will not reveal it."

I started up. Here was the missing link which I had been waiting for.

"There, at least, is the motive," I blurted out. "That is why Bernardo was so reticent. Northrop, in his innocence of heart, had showed him that inscription."

Kennedy said nothing as he finally tied up the little packet of letters and locked it in his safe. He was not given to hasty generalizations; neither was he one who clung doggedly to a preconceived theory.

IT was still early in the afternoon. Craig and I decided to drop into the museum again in order to see Doctor Bernardo. He was not there, and we sat down to wait.

Just then the letter-box in the door clicked. It was the postman on his rounds. Kennedy walked over and picked up the letter.

The postmark bore the words, "Mexico City," and a date somewhat later than that on which Northrop had left Vera Cruz. In the lower corner, underscored, were the words, "Personal—Urgent."

"I'd like to know what is in that," remarked Craig, turning it over and over.

He appeared to be considering something, for he rose suddenly and shoved the letter into his pocket.

I followed, and a few moments later, across the campus in his laboratory, he was working quickly over an X-ray apparatus. He had placed the letter in it.

"These are what are known as 'low' tubes," he explained. "They give out 'soft rays.'" He continued to work for a few moments, then handed me the letter.

"Now, Walter," he said, "if you will just hurry back to the museum and replace that letter, I think I will have something that will astonish you—though whether it will have any bearing on the case, remains to be seen."

"What is it?" I asked, a few minutes later, when I had rejoined him, after returning the letter. He was poring intently over what looked like a negative.

"The possibility of reading the contents of documents inclosed in a sealed envelope," he replied, still studying the shadowgraph closely, "has already been established by the well-known English scientist, Doctor Hall Edwards. He has been experimenting with the method of using X-rays recently discovered by a German scientist, by which radiographs of very thin substances, such as a sheet of paper, a leaf, an insect's body, may be obtained. These thin substances through which the rays used formerly to pass without leaving an impression, can now be radiographed."

I looked carefully as he traced out something on the negative. On it it was easily possible, following his guidance, to read the words inscribed on the sheet of paper inside. So admirably defined were all the details that even the gum on the envelop and the edges of the sheet of paper inside the envelop could be distinguished.

"Any letter written with ink having a mineral basis can be radiographed," added Craig. "Even when the sheet is folded in the usual way, it is possible, by taking a radiograph stereoscopically, to distinguish the writing, every detail standing out in relief. Besides, it can be greatly magnified, which aids in deciphering it if it is indistinct or jumbled up. Some of it looks like mirror-writing. Ah," he added, "here's something interesting!"

Together we managed to trace out the contents of several paragraphs, of which the significant parts were as follows:

I am expecting that my friend Señora Herreria will be in New York by the time you receive this, and should she call on you, I know you will accord her every courtesy. She has been in Mexico City for a few days, having just returned from Mitla, where she met Professor Northrop. It is rumored that Professor Northrop has succeeded in smuggling out of the country a very important stone bearing an inscription which, I understand, is of more than ordinary interest. I do not know anything definite about it, as Señora Herreria is very reticent on the matter, but depend on you to find out if possible and let me know of it.

According to the rumors and the statements of the señora, it seems that Northrop has taken an unfair advantage of the situation down in Oajaca, and I suppose she and others who know about the inscription feel that it is really the possession of the government.

You will find that the señora is an accomplished antiquarian and scholar. Like many others down here just now, she has a high regard for the Japanese. As you know, there exists a natural sympathy between some Mexicans and Japanese, owing to what is believed to be a common origin of the two races.

In spite of the assertions of many to the contrary, there is little doubt left in the minds of students that the Indian races which have peopled Mexico were of Mongolian stock. Many words in some dialects are easily understood by Chinese immigrants. A secretary of the Japanese legation here was able recently to decipher old Mixtec inscriptions found in the ruins of Mitla.

Señora Herreria has been much interested in establishing the relationship and, I understand, is acquainted with a Japanese curio dealer in New York who recently visited Mexico for the same purpose. I believe that she wishes to collaborate with him on a monograph on the subject, which is expected to have a powerful effect on the public opinion both here and at Tokyo.

In regard to the inscription which Northrop has taken with him, I rely on you to keep me informed. There seems to be a great deal of mystery connected with it, and I am simply hazarding a guess as to its nature. If it should prove to be something which might interest either the Japanese or ourselves, you can see how important it may be, especially in view of the forthcoming mission of General Francisco to Tokyo.

Very sincerely yours,

Dr. Emilio Sanchez, Director.

"Bernardo is a Mexican," I exclaimed, as Kennedy finished reading, "and there can be no doubt that the woman he mentioned was this Señora Herreria."

Kennedy said nothing, but seemed to be weighing the various paragraphs in the letter.

"Still," I observed, "so far, the only one against whom we have any direct suspicion in the case is the shaggy Russian, whoever he is."

"A man whom Bernardo says looked like a Russian," corrected Craig.

He was pacing the laboratory restlessly.

"This is becoming quite an international affair," he remarked finally, pausing before me, his hat on. "Would you like to relax your mind by a little excursion among the curio shops of the city? I know something about Japanese curios—more, perhaps, than I do of Mexican. It may amuse us, even if it doesn't help in solving the mystery. Meanwhile, I shall make arrangements for shadowing Bernardo. I want to know just how he acts after he reads that letter."

He paused long enough to telephone his instructions to an up-town detective agency which could be depended on for such mere routine work, then joined me with the significant remark: "Blood is thicker than water, anyhow, Walter. Still, even if the Mexicans are influenced by sentiment, I hardly think that would account for the interest of our friends from across the water in the matter."

I DO not know how many of the large and small curio shops of the city we visited that afternoon. At another time, I should have enjoyed the visits immensely, for anyone seeking articles of beauty will find the antique shops of Fifth and Fourth Avenues and the side streets well worth visiting.

We came, at length, to one, a small, quaint, dusty rookery, down in a basement, entered almost directly from the street. It bore over the door a little gilt sign which read simply, "Sato's."

As we entered, I could not help being impressed by the wealth of articles in beautiful cloisonné enamel, in mother-of-pearl, lacquer, and champlevé. There were beautiful little koros, or incense burners, vases, and teapots. There were enamels in-crusted, translucent, and painted, works of the famous Namikawa, of Kyoto, and Namikawa, of Tokyo. Satsuma vases, splendid and rare examples of the potter's art, crowded gorgeously embroidered screens depicting all sorts of brilliant scenes, among others the sacred Fujiyama rising in the stately distance. Sato himself greeted us with a ready smile and bow.

"I am just looking for a few things to add to my den," explained Kennedy, adding, "nothing in particular, but merely whatever happens to strike my fancy."

"Surely, then, you have come to the right shop," greeted Sato. "If there is anything that interests you, I shall be glad to show it."


"Surely, then, you have come to the right shop," greeted Sato.

"Thank you," replied Craig. "Don't let me trouble you with your other customers. I will call on you if I see anything."

For several minutes, Craig and I busied ourselves looking about, and we did not have to feign interest, either.

"Often things are not as represented," he whispered to me, after awhile, "but a connoisseur can tell spurious goods. These are the real thing, mostly."

"Not one in fifty can tell the difference," put in the voice of Sato, at his elbow.

"Well, you see I happen to know," Craig replied, not the least disconcerted. "You can't always be too sure."

A laugh and a shrug was Sato's answer. "It's well all are not so keen," he said, with a frank acknowledgment that he was not above sharp practises.

I glanced now and then at the expressionless face of the curio dealer. Was it merely the natural blankness of his countenance that impressed me, or was there, in fact, something deep and dark hidden in it, something of "East is East and West is West" which I did not and could not understand? Craig was admiring the bronzes. He had paused before one, a square metal fire-screen of odd design, with the title on a card, "Japan Gazing at the World."

It represented Japan as an eagle, with beak and talons of burnished gold, resting on a rocky island about which great waves dashed. The bird had an air of dignity and conscious pride in its strength, as it looked out at the world, a globe revolving in space.

"Do you suppose there is anything significant in that?" I asked, pointing to the continent of North America, also in gold and prominently in view.

"Ah, honorable sir," answered Sato, before Kennedy could reply, "the artist intended by that to indicate Japan's friendliness for America and America's greatness."

He was inscrutable. It seemed as if he were watching our every move, and yet it was done with a polite cordiality that could not give offense.

Behind some bronzes of the Japanese Hercules destroying the demons and other mythical heroes, was a large alcove, or tokonoma, decorated with peacock-, stork-, and crane-panels. Carvings and lacquer added to the beauty of it. A miniature chrysanthemum garden heightened the illusion. Carved hinoki wood framed the panels, and the roof was supported by columns in the old Japanese style, the whole being a compromise between the very simple and quiet and the polychromatic. The dark woods, the lanterns, the floor-tiles of dark red, and the cushions of rich gold and yellow were most alluring. It had the genuine fascination of the Orient.

"Will the gentlemen drink a little sake?" Sato asked politely.

Craig thanked him and said that we would.

"Otaka!" Sato called.

A peculiar, almost white-skinned attendant answered, and a moment later produced four cups and poured out the rice brandy, taking his own quietly, apart from us. I watched him drink, curiously. He took the cup; then, with a long piece of carved wood, he dipped into the sake, shaking a few drops on the floor to the four quarters. Finally, with a deft sweep, he lifted his heavy mustache with the piece of wood and drank off the draft almost without taking breath.

He was a peculiar man of middle height, with a shock of dark, tough, wooly hair, well-formed and not bad-looking, with a robust general physique, as if his ancestors had been meat-eaters. His forehead was narrow and sloped backward; the cheek-bones were prominent; nose hooked, broad and wide, with strong nostrils; mouth large, with thick lips, and not very prominent chin. His eyes were perhaps the most noticeable feature. They were dark gray, almost like those of a European.

As Otaka withdrew with the empty cups, we rose to continue our inspection of the wonders of the shop. There were ivories of all descriptions. Here was a two-handed sword, with a very large ivory handle, a weirdly carved scabbard, and wonderful steel blade. By the expression of Craig's face, Sato knew that he had made a sale.

Craig had been rummaging among some warlike instruments which Sato, with the instincts of a true salesman, was now displaying, and had picked up a bow. It was short, very strong, and made of pine-wood. He held it horizontally and twanged the string. I looked up in time to catch a pleased expression on the face of Otaka.

"Most people would have held it the other way," commented Sato.

Craig said nothing, but was examining an arrow, almost twenty inches long and thick, made of cane, with a point of metal very sharp but badly fastened. He fingered the deep blood-groove in the scoop-like head of the arrow and looked at it carefully.

"I'll take that," he said, "only I wish it were one with the regular reddish-brown lump in it."

"Oh, but, honorable sir," apologized Sato, "the Japanese law prohibits that, now. There are few of those, and they are very valuable."

"I suppose so," agreed Craig. "This will do, though. You have a wonderful shop here, Sato. Some time, when I feel richer, I mean to come in again. No, thank you, you need not send them; I'll carry them."

We bowed ourselves out, promising to come again when Sato received a new consignment from the Orient which he was expecting.

"That other Jap is a peculiar fellow," I observed, as we walked along up-town again.

"He isn't a Jap," remarked Craig. "He is an Ainu, one of the aborigines who have been driven northward into the island of Yezo."

"An Ainu?" I repeated.

"Yes. Generally thought, now, to be a white race and nearer of kin to Europeans than Asiatics. The Japanese have pushed them northward and are now trying to civilize them. They are a dirty, hairy race, but when they are brought under civilizing influences they adapt themselves to their environment and make very good servants. Still, they are on about the lowest scale of humanity."

"I thought Otaka was very mild," I commented.

"They are a most inoffensive and peaceable people, usually," he answered, "good-natured and amenable to authority. But they become dangerous when driven to despair by cruel treatment. The Japanese government is very considerate of them—but not all Japanese are."

FAR into the night, Craig was engaged in some very delicate and minute microscopic work in the laboratory.

We were about to leave when there was a gentle tap on the door. Kennedy opened it and admitted a young man, the operative of the detective agency who had been shadowing Bernardo. His report was very brief, but, to me at least, significant. Bernardo, on his return to the museum, had evidently read the letter, which had agitated him very much, for a few moments later he hurriedly left and went down-town to the Prince Henry Hotel. The operative had casually edged up to the desk and overheard whom he asked for. It was Señora Herrería. Once again, later in the evening, he had asked for her, but she was still out.

It was quite early the next morning, when Kennedy had resumed his careful microscopic work, that the telephone-bell rang, and he answered it mechanically. But a moment later a look of intense surprise crossed his face.

"It was from Doctor Leslie," he announced, hanging up the receiver quickly. "He has a most peculiar case which he wants me to see—a woman."

Kennedy called a cab, and, at a furious pace, we dashed across the city and down to the Metropolitan Hospital, where Doctor Leslie was waiting. He met us eagerly and conducted us to a little room where, lying motionless on a bed, was a woman.

She was a striking-looking woman, dark of hair and skin, and in life she must have been sensuously attractive. But now her face was drawn and contorted—with the same ghastly look that had been on the face of Northrop.

"She died in a cab," explained Doctor Leslie, "before they could get her to the hospital. At first, they suspected the cab driver. But he seems to have proved his innocence. He picked her up last night on Fifth Avenue, reeling—thought she was intoxicated. And, in fact, he seems to have been right. Our tests have shown a great deal of alcohol present, but nothing like enough to have had such a serious effect."

"She told nothing of herself?" asked Kennedy.

"No; she was pretty far gone when the cabby answered her signal. All he could get out of her was a word that sounded like 'Curio—curio.' He says she seemed to complain of something about her mouth and head. Her face was drawn and shrunken; her hands were cold and clammy, and then convulsions came on. He called an ambulance, but she was past saving when it arrived. The numbness seemed to have extended over all her body; swallowing was impossible; there was entire loss of her voice as well as sight, and death took place by syncope."

"Have you any clue to the cause of her death?" asked Craig.

"Well, it might have been some trouble with her heart, I suppose," remarked Doctor Leslie tentatively.

"Oh, she looks strong that way. No, hardly anything organic."

"Well, then I thought she looked like a Mexican," went on Doctor Leslie. "It might be some new tropical disease. I confess I don't know. The fact is," he added, lowering his voice, "I had my own theory about it until a few moments ago. That was why I called you."

"What do you mean?" asked Craig, evidently bent on testing his own theory by the other's ignorance.

Doctor Leslie made no answer immediately, but raised the sheet which covered her body and disclosed, in the fleshy part of the upper arm, a curious little red swollen mark with a couple of drops of darkened blood.

"I thought at first," he added, "that we had at last a genuine poisoned needle case. You see, that looked like it. But I have made all the tests for curare and strychnin without results."

At the mere suggestion, a procession of hypodermic-needle and white-slavery stories flashed before me.

"But," objected Kennedy, "clearly this was not a case of kidnapping. It is a case of murder. Have you tested for the ordinary poisons?"

Doctor Leslie shook his head. "There was no poison," he said, "absolutely none that any of our tests could discover."

Kennedy bent over and squeezed out a few drops of liquid from the wound on a microscope-slide, and covered them.

"You have not identified her yet," he added, looking up. "I think you will find, Leslie, that there is a Señora Herreria registered at the Prince Henry who is missing, and that this woman will agree with the description of her. Anyhow, I wish you would look it up and let me know."

HALF an hour later, Kennedy was preparing to continue his studies with the microscope when Doctor Bernardo entered. He seemed most solicitous to know what progress was being made on the case, and, although Kennedy did not tell much, still he did not discourage conversation on the subject.

When we came in the night before, Craig had unwrapped and tossed down the Japanese sword and the Ainu bow and arrow on a table, and it was not long before they attracted Bernardo's attention.

"I see you are a collector, yourself," he ventured, picking them up.

"Yes," answered Craig, offhand; "I picked them up yesterday at Sato's. You know the place?"

"Oh, yes, I know Sato," answered the curator, seemingly without the slightest hesitation. "He has been in Mexico—is quite a student."

"And the other man, Otaka?"

"Other man—Otaka? You mean his wife?"

I saw Kennedy check a motion of surprise and came to the rescue with the natural question: "His wife—with a beard and mustache?"

It was Bernardo's turn to be surprised. He looked at me a moment, then saw that I meant it, and suddenly his face lighted up.

"Oh," he exclaimed, "that must have been on account of the immigration laws or something of the sort. Otaka is his wife. The Ainus are much sought after by the Japanese as wives. The women, you know, have a custom of tattooing mustaches on themselves. It is hideous, but they think it is beautiful."

"I know," I pursued, watching Kennedy's interest in our conversation, "but this was not tattooed."

"Well, then, it must have been false," insisted Bernardo.

The curator chatted a few moments, during which I expected Kennedy to lead the conversation around to Señora Herreria. But he did not, evidently fearing to show his hand.

"WHAT did you make of it?" I asked, when he had gone. "Is he trying to hide something?'"

"I think he has simplified the case," remarked Craig, leaning back, his hands behind his head, gazing up at the ceiling. "Hello, here's Leslie! What did you find, Doctor?" The coroner had entered with a look of awe on his face, as if Kennedy had directed him by some, sort of necromancy.

"It was Señora Herreria!" he exclaimed. "She has been missing from the hotel ever since late yesterday afternoon. What do you think of it?"

"I think," replied Kennedy, speaking slowly and deliberately, "that it is very much like the Northrop case. You haven't taken that up yet?"

"Only superficially. What do you make of it?" asked the coroner.

"I had an idea that it might be aconitin poisoning," he said.

Leslie glanced at him keenly for a moment. "Then you'll never prove anything in the laboratory," he said.

"There are more ways of catching a criminal, Leslie," put in Craig, "than are set down in the medico-legal text-books. I shall depend on you and Jameson to gather together a rather cosmopolitan crowd here to-night."

He said it with a quiet confidence which I could not gainsay, although I did not understand. However, mostly with the official aid of Doctor Leslie, I followed out his instructions, and it was indeed a strange party that assembled that night. There were Doctor Bernardo; Sato, the curio dealer; Otaka, the Ainu, and ourselves. Mrs. Northrop, of course, could not come.

"MEXICO," began Craig, after he had said a few words explaining why he had brought us together, "is full of historical treasure. To all intents and purposes, the government says, 'Come and dig.' But when there are finds, then the government swoops down on them for its own national museum. The finder scarcely gets a chance to export them. However, now seemed to be the time to Professor Northrop to smuggle his finds out of the country.

"But evidently it could not be done without exciting all kinds of rumors and suspicions. Stories seem to have spread far and fast about what he had discovered. He realized the unsettled condition of the country—perhaps wanted to confirm his reading of a certain inscription by consultation with one scholar whom he thought he could trust. At any rate, he came home."

Kennedy paused, making use of the silence for emphasis. "You have all read of the wealth that Cortez found in Mexico. Where are the gold and silver of the conquistadores? Gone to the melting-pot, centuries ago. But is there none left? The Indians believe so. There are persons who would stop at nothing—even at murder of American professors, murder of their own comrades, to get at the secret."

He laid his hand almost lovingly on his powerful little microscope as he resumed on another line of evidence.

"And while we are on the subject of murders, two very similar deaths have occurred," he went on. "It is of no use to try to gloss them over. Frankly, I suspected that they might have been caused by aconite poisoning. But, in the case of such poisoning, not only is the lethal dose very small but our chemical methods of detection are nil. The dose of the active principle, aconitin nitrate, is about one six-hundredth of a grain. There are no color-tests, no reactions, as in the case of the other organic poisons."

I wondered what he was driving at. Was there, indeed, no test? Had the murderer used the safest of poisons—one that left no clue? I looked covertly at Sato's face. It was impassive. Doctor Bernardo was visibly uneasy as Kennedy proceeded. Cool enough up to the time of the mention of the treasure, I fancied, now, that he was growing more and more nervous.

Craig laid down on the table the reed stick with the little darkened cylinder on the end.

"That." he said, "is a little article which I picked up beneath Northrop's window yesterday. It is a piece of anno-noki, or bushi." I fancied I saw just a glint of satisfaction in Otaka's eyes.

"Like many barbarians," continued Craig, "the Ainus from time immemorial have prepared virulent poisons with which they charged their weapons of the chase and warfare. The formulas for the preparations, as in the case of other arrow-poisons of other tribes, are known only to certain members, and the secret is passed down from generation to generation as an heirloom, as it were. But in this case, it is no longer a secret. It has now been proved that the active principle of this poison is aconite."

"If that is the case," broke in Doctor Leslie, "it is hopeless to connect anyone directly in that way with these murders. There is no test for aconitin."

I thought Sato's face was more composed and impassive than ever. Doctor Bernardo, however, was plainly excited.

"What—no test—none?" asked Kennedy, leaning forward eagerly. Then, as if he could restrain the answer to his own question no longer, he shot out: "How about the new starch-test just discovered by Professor Reichert, of the University of Pennsylvania? Doubtless you never dreamed that starch may be a means of detecting the nature of a poison in obscure cases in criminology, especially in cases where the quantity of poison necessary to cause death is so minute that no trace of it can be found in the blood.

"The starch-method is a new and extremely inviting subject to me. The peculiarities of the starch of any plant are quite as distinctive of the plant as are those of the hemoglobin crystals in the blood of an animal. I have analyzed the evidence of my microscope in this case thoroughly. When the arrow-poison is introduced subcutaneously—say, by a person shooting a poisoned dart, which he afterward removes in order to destroy the evidence—the lethal constituents are rapidly absorbed.

"But the starch remains in the wound. It can be recovered and studied microscopically and can be definitely recognized. Doctor Reichert has published a study of twelve hundred such starches from all sorts of plants. In this case, it not only proves to be aconitin but the starch granules themselves can be recognized. They came from this piece of arrow-poison."

Every eye was fixed on him now.

"Besides," he rapped out, "in the soft soil beneath the window of Professor Northrop's room, I found footprints. I have only to compare the impressions I took there and those of the people in this room to prove that, while the real murderer stood guard below the window, he sent some one more nimble up the rain-pipe to shoot the poisoned dart at Professor Northrop, and, later, to let down a rope by which he, the instigator, could gain the room, remove the dart, and obtain the key to the treasure he sought."

Kennedy was looking straight at Professor Bernardo.

"A friend of mine in Mexico has written me about an inscription," he burst out. "I received the letter only to-day. As nearly as I can gather, there was an impression that some of Northrop's stuff would be valuable in proving the alleged kinship between Mexico and Japan, perhaps to arouse hatred of the United States."

"Yes—that is all very well," insisted Kennedy. "But how about the treasure?"

"Treasure?" repeated Bernardo, looking from one of us to another.

"Yes," pursued Craig relentlessly, "the treasure. You are an expert in reading the hieroglyphics. By your own statement, you and Northrop had been going over the stuff he had sent up. You know it."

Bernardo gave a quick glance from Kennedy to me. Evidently he saw that the secret was out.

"Yes," he said huskily, in a low tone, "Northrop and I were to follow the directions after we had plotted them out and were to share it together on the next expedition, which I could direct as a Mexican without so much suspicion. I should still have shared it with his widow if this unfortunate affair had not exposed the secret."

Bernardo had risen earnestly.

"Kennedy," he cried, "before God, if you will get back that stone and keep the secret from going further than this room, I will prove what I have said by dividing the Mixtec treasure with Mrs. Northrop and making her one of the richest widows in the country!"

"That is what I wanted to be sure of," nodded Craig. "Bernardo, Señora Herreria, of whom your friend wrote to you from Mexico, has been murdered in the same way that Professor Northrop was. Otaka was sent by her husband to murder Northrop, in order that they might obtain the so-called 'Pillar of Death' and the key to the treasure. Then, when the señora was no doubt under the influence of sake in the pretty little Oriental bower at the curio shop, a quick jab, and Otaka had removed one who shared the secret with them."

He had turned and faced the pair.

"Sato," he added, "you played on the patriotism of the señora until you wormed from her the treasure-secret. Evidently rumors of it had spread from Mexican Indians to Japanese visitors. And then, Otaka, all jealousy over one whom she, no doubt, justly considered a rival, completed your work by sending her forth to die, unknown, on the street. Walter, ring up First Deputy O'Connor. The stone is hidden somewhere in the curio shop. We can find it without Sato's help. The quicker such a criminal is lodged safely in jail, the better for humanity."

Sato was on his feet, advancing cautiously toward Craig. I knew the dangers, now, of anno-noki, as well as the wonders of ju-jitsu, and, with a leap, I bounded past Bernardo and between Sato and Kennedy.

How it happened, I don't know, but, an instant later, I was sprawling.

Before I could recover myself, before even Craig had a chance to pull the hair-trigger of his little automatic, Sato had seized the Ainu arrow-poison from the table, had bitten the little cylinder in half, and had crammed the other half into the mouth of Otaka.


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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