Note: Purple light being the highest in the spectrum is regarded by occultists as the highest auric color—that given off by the purest and most highly developed souls. Being of very intense vibratory rate, its effect is to stimulate mental activity in certain directions. On a material nature, its effect would not be wholly agreeable.
IT was picking up a medical magazine in a street car which sent me to Semi Dual that night. I suppose some doctor must have dropped it on the seat. I was on my way to the Record office, and chanced to see the book where it lay. I picked it up and idly turned its pages, and then all at once I stopped, as a title caught my eye: "Use of Fruit Juices in Typhoid."
I read the article, and as I read I grinned. So the profession was coming around to an agreement with Dual. I remembered the peculiar beverage with which he had refreshed me on my first visit. He had told me it was a mixture of preserved juices of fruits.
Natural association of ideas made me think it would be a pleasure to show him this article. I looked at my watch. I still had time; I had been out on an assignment which might take one or five hours, according to circumstance. I decided that I would call upon my friend.
To you who have followed the adventures of Semi Dual, this will convey all that is necessary. But for the benefit of those who are not acquainted with the wonderful intelligence which we knew as the "occult detector," let me state he was a man of remarkable mental attainments, who applied his knowledge of what is commonly called esoteric philosophy to the straightening out of the kinks and tangles of mortal mundane life. Many people would have called him a mystic; in reality he was an exponent of the higher universal laws, which few of us recognize, let alone use.
He dwelt on the roof of one of our largest office buildings, in the tower of which he had fitted up sumptuous quarters. Here he had made himself a wonderful garden of flowers, potted shrubs, and climbing vines, the whole roofed in winter by a curved dome of glass and steel. Thus he dwelt apart from man, yet in touch with his every activity. To me Semi Dual seemed to be rather incarnated mind than man in the ordinary sense.
I left the car at the next corner and turned toward the Urania Building, where Semi had his unusual abode. I was glad of the chance of a few minutes with him. Since the affair of the Wistaria Scarf I had not seen much of the man, save at long intervals. It had been a hard, hot season, with little spare time for me. I looked up to the dark heights of the building.
Passing into the marble corridor, I waited beside the bronze grill of the shaft for a car. It came, and I went up to the top floor, turned up the great staircase, which led to Dual's domain, and was soon treading my way across the prismatic surface of the illuminated annunciator plate, sniffing the odor of cool growing things from the plants and flowers of the garden, which Semi kept ever green. The chimes of the annunciator bells broke on the night soft and low, and a moment later Semi's own voice, itself bell-like, reached my ear:
"This way, friend Glace."
I turned aside at the sound and saw him at some distance, reclining upon a bench beneath a small flowering shrub. There was a small, shaded reading-lamp affixed to one end of the bench or couch. The concentrated light from this struck down upon his face and the book which now lay in his lap. I say lap, because he was clad in a flowing robe of peculiar texture and purest white color, save for a purple edging on collar, hem, and cuffs, which enveloped him from head to heels.
As I approached he looked up and smiled, then swung his feet to the floor.
"There is something in the rhythm of Persian poetry which accords with the night and the moon," he remarked, apropos of the book in his lap. "And the light of interest is in your eyes."
I drew up a small footstool, got out my magazine, and explained.
Semi Dual put out a hand and took the pamphlet, glancing over the indicated page. He handed it back with another smile.
"Little by little the children of men shall learn the truth," said he.
"I thought it would interest you," I suggested.
"It does," said Semi Dual. "Any advance of man interests me, my friend."
"Also," I went on, "while I do not fancy that I'm getting typhoid, still—"
"Prevention is a good thing," smiled Semi. "Henri has several bottles on ice. Wait."
He put out a hand and pressed some unseen button, and presently Henri appeared coming down the path with a tray in his hands.
"I have things rather convenient here," Dual observed in answer to my unspoken question. "I can get anything I want by pressing the button in the back of the bench a certain number of times."
Henri approached, and in a few minutes I sat with a glass of the delicious beverage in my hand, the ice in the tall crystal tinkling musically against the sides. Dual sipped at his own glass slowly.
"It's a good while since you have favored me," he accused.
"I've been busy, Dual—on the go."
"You will be again," said Semi Dual, holding his glass up to the moon.
"Of course. In the newspaper game one expects to be."
"To-night, I think," my friend went on. "There's violence of some sort in the air. I can often sense such things."
"And it affects me?" I questioned, remembering that other time when he had told me that I was to be sent on a case, the first time we had ever met.
"Indirectly," said Dual. "Suppose we find out." He set down his glass, reached up, and switched off the light above his head.
So for a time we sat in silence, Dual lying relaxed against the back of the seat, eyes closed, seeming hardly to breathe; myself, sitting rigidly erect, with my eyes on the face of my strange companion, marveling how he got his results, which seemed to be infallibly correct.
The roof was shrouded in dusk, save for the faint light of a moon which flitted back of some black clouds. There was an electric something in the air which accorded well with Dual's statement that violence was abroad. Gradually I became aware of a peculiar sensation tickling its way up my spine and of a marked contraction of my scalp. The whole situation was beginning to get badly on my nerves when, without warning, Semi suddenly came back to life, and, straightening, rose to his feet.
"I was right," he announced. "Come! You must go to the tower and call your office on my wire. Unless I mistake, Smithson wants you badly, and there is no time to lose."
"What's—" I began, but Semi shook his head and moved off.
I followed meekly, as he walked with rapid strides to the tower and led me across the reception-room to his office. He went immediately to his desk, opened a door in one end, and dragged out a phone, which he handed to me.
I lifted the receiver from the hook. In a moment I had the Record office and asked for Smithson himself.
"Hello! What—" came his voice to my ear.
"Glace," I threw back.
"Thank the Lord!" cried Smithson. "I've been wishing you were here."
"What's up?" I interrupted.
"Plenty," snapped my city editor. "There's a murder or suicide at the Virginia Apartments—middle-aged woman, name of Matilda Greenig. I sent Grant down; but you get on the case as soon as you can. Where are you now?"
"At the Urania, but I'm off," I returned, as I jammed the receiver back on the hook and set down the phone.
"You sure were right," I told Dual as I turned for the door. "It's violence, all right, and I'll be busy I expect. Maybe I'll see you pretty soon again."
"You will," smiled Semi. "One moment. Did you get the name of the deceased?" There was a twinkle in his eye.
Once more he was at his trick of reading my thoughts, and I grinned as I turned away. "It was—" I began, and then paused deliberately.
"Thanks," said my friend, still smiling, "I merely wanted to concentrate your mind on the name, Gordon. You had better hurry along. Mrs. Matilda Greenig may prove an interesting case.
His ability was uncanny. I turned away without a word and hurried forth into the darkness of the roof.
I lost no time in getting to the Virginia. It was an up-to-date pile of apartments, located some little way from the center of town, near a small park. Well-to-do people dwelled there, and a rather exclusive atmosphere was maintained. In view of the fact that I was getting a late start and could expect to find the detectives and police already on the field, I took a taxi and was whirled to the scene of the tragedy as fast as the chauffeur would consent to go.
At the Virginia I dismissed my driver and, turning to the chauffeur of the motor patrol which was standing at the curb, I asked him the number of the apartment I was to seek.
He knew me well and replied promptly: "Ground floor, front."
As I pushed into the entrance-hall, the sound of heavy voices came from behind the door on my right. Without waiting I tried the door of the suite on that side, found it unlocked, and in a moment had entered the apartment.
The room where I stood was a sort of parlor. Back of this was a dining-room from which opened a number of doors. One of these was open, and I could see the backs of several men as I crossed toward it from the front. On reaching the doorway I could look into a fairly large bedroom and size up the condition of affairs.
Several policemen and detectives, an inspector, and a few newspapermen, Grant among them, first caught my eye. My next glance fell upon the figure of a girl in a nurse's uniform, sitting upon a chair near an open window, through which fanned a slight breeze. What attracted my attention mainly was a look of unmistakable horror graven upon the woman's face. The next moment Grant caught sight of me and beckoned me to approach. I crossed the floor and shouldered my way among the men.
On the bed in one corner of the room was stretched the body of a woman of perhaps fifty-five, to judge by appearances. She had been a frail little woman, and sickness seemed to have wasted her greatly of late. Her face was sunken, and her hands shriveled almost into claws. But the thing which drew and held my eyes with a morbid fascination was a dark splotch on the white sheets—a splotch which came from under her arm and dwindled into an irregular triangle as it crept to the edge of the bed and over its side to widen again upon the floor. I knew that splotch was blood. In making it, the frail life of the little woman had been used. It began to look to me as if, after all, this was a case of suicide.
Grant started to whisper in my ear. "They found a knife—one the nurse says was the woman's own penknife—on the bed beside her other hand, the right one. It was open, and the little blade was blood-stained, as were the fingers of that hand. It looks like she did it herself, Glace."
I nodded. "How long have you been here?" I asked.
"Not over five minutes," he answered. "Smithson must have found you almost as soon as I left."
"What are they waiting for?" I inquired, struck by the inactivity of all in the room.
"For the doctor," said Grant. "They've sent for her own physician, or rather the nurse did before I arrived."
Dean, of the Dispatch, pushed his way to my side. "Hello," he greeted. "I guess the old girl did for herself while the nurse was out. I've been talking to the girl, and she says she went for a walk, and found things like this when she got back. What do you think?"
I shook my head. I had been looking at the quiet, refined face of the figure on the bed. Somehow it seemed hard to connect it with any preconceived notions of self-murder, for even in death it was strong. I edged in closer and spoke to Bryce, the inspector, who stood near the bed: "Found anything besides the knife?"
He glanced up, and made a negative sign. "Nothing, Glace. At present we're waiting for a doctor and the coroner, who have been sent for, before making any systematic search."
I nodded, and leaned still closer to the bed and the thin, pale face. Now I could see the red in the dark splotch on the sheet, in the middle of which lay the slender arm of the woman. Back in the corner of the room the air from the open window was scarcely felt because of the clustering figures, and as I bent over the quiet body it seemed that I sensed a difference—a subtle something in the atmosphere.
Bending even closer, I scanned her face, and all at once I noticed what seemed a slight unnaturalness in the color of the skin about the tip of the nose and the lips. I motioned the inspector to my side and pointed. "Looks like it had been almost blistered," I said.
Bryce stooped low and scrutinized the skin carefully. "That's right," he admitted, with interest. "Now, what do you suppose could have done that?"
I did not offer any attempted explanation; but as we leaned above the bed it seemed to me that I again sensed the difference in the air of that part of the room. I sniffed slightly. "Notice anything in the air—any odor?" I questioned Bryce.
He shook his head. "Don't get it," he replied.
I was standing nearer the head of the bed than he, and we were both leaning forward with our hands on the edge. Now as we straightened there came a little thud, as though some light object had dropped to the floor.
Stooping, I glanced under the edge of the bed. Almost at once a small glass vial caught my eye. It was the size supposed to hold two ounces, and lay in full sight upon the rug, where it had evidently just fallen from above. I got down and fished it out.
All at once the strange, illusive odor grew stronger, became recognizable. Instinctively I raised the open end to my nose.
Then I was sure what it was.
The bottle had held chloroform!
AS luck would have it, I had picked the thing up by the neck; though I confess I did not think of that at the time. Still holding it, I turned and thrust it under Bryce's nose.
His eyes widened in surprise, and after his first involuntary start he sniffed excitedly at the narrow neck. Then he lifted his head and looked me full in the eye.
"It was under the bed," I explained. "It must have slipped down back of the mattress and so been overlooked. It was loosened when we took our hands off the edge, and I heard it drop."
Bryce's eyes narrowed, and he nodded comprehension as he turned to the rest of the men, who were pushing forward, attracted by our actions.
"It's murder, all right," he announced with conviction. Back of the semicircle of men I distinctly heard the sound of a gasp from the nurse. A moment later there was a ring at the bell.
A dark man with black imperial entered the room carrying a small black bag. He was followed by the nurse who had answered his ring.
During the interruption caused by his arrival I was seized by an impulse, and acted upon it at once. Every one was inspecting the man as he entered, and I was unobserved. I slipped the bottle into my pocket, where I hoped that it might be allowed to remain. All of a sudden I had conceived the idea of taking it with me to Semi Dual.
The doctor, as he proved to be, came rapidly across to the bed, set down his bag, and bent above the body of the woman. After a perfunctory examination he raised his head.
"She is quite dead," he announced, and, ignoring every one else, turned to the nurse. "Miss Riley, just when did you discover Mrs. Greenig as she is?"
"About ten or fifteen minutes before I got you on the phone, doctor," said the girl, who had remained standing at one side.
"Are you this woman's physician?" Bryce cut in.
"I am. I am Dr. Herman," the dark man replied crisply. "The nurse just called me here by telephone."
Again there came a ring at the bell. Miss Riley went once more to the front, and shortly afterward the coroner appeared.
In a few brief questions he caught up the thread of events; then, addressing the physician, he asked: "Just what, doctor, do you think of the affair?"
"Apparently it is suicide," replied the physician quickly. "Mrs. Greenig bled to death from a cut in the arm just below the bend of the elbow. A vein was opened there. She could easily have done it herself, and the fingers of her right hand are stained with blood."
"Was a weapon found?" the coroner inquired.
"We found a small penknife," said Bryce. "The nurse here says it belonged to the dead woman. Here it is." He extended a small knife with an open, blood-soiled blade.
The coroner received it, turned it about, inspected it carefully; and then, turning to the nurse, who was again on her chair, he began to question her.
"Does this knife belong to the deceased?"
"It does," replied the girl.
"You are sure of that? Be careful, my girl."
"Yes, sir, I am sure. I have seen her use it to sharpen pencils."
"How long have you been nursing here?"
"Some six weeks—ever since Mrs. Greenig has needed a nurse."
"What is your name?"
"Gertrude Riley. I am a trained nurse."
"Where were you to-night when this affair occurred?"
"I suppose I was up in the little park just beyond here. Every evening at this time I have been in the habit of going out for a breath of air. I did so to-night as usual. When I returned Mrs. Greenig was—as you see her." She hesitated slightly over the last words.
"How long were you gone?"
"I left at nine-thirty. It was not quite eleven when I returned."
"Was the door locked when you returned—the front door?"
"Yes. I locked it as I went out and found it so when I came back."
"Doctor," said the coroner, turning to Herman, "what was the matter with Mrs. Greenig?"
"She had typhoid," the physician replied.
"She'd been pretty sick?"
"Yes; at one time we believed her death inevitable."
"Had she been delirious—in any way deranged mentally?"
"At the height of her disease. Not recently."
"Miss Riley"—the official addressed the girl again—"did you meet any one, speak to any one, in the park?"
"Had Mrs. Greenig been mentally depressed of late?"
"Oh, no! Quite recently she has been very anxious to get well."
"You say recently. Was she formerly depressed?"
"When she first took sick she had just had some trouble with a relative," said the girl. "She felt very badly about that, but a few days ago it was all made up. Since the reconciliation she was anxious to recover, in order that she might see to changing her will."
I think we all pricked up our ears at that.
"Her will?" questioned the coroner. "How is that?"
Dr. Herman interrupted at this point. "Pardon me," said he. "Mrs. Greenig had a bit of trouble with a nephew, of whose manner of life she did not approve. Lately, however, they had come to a better understanding, and she intended making him her chief beneficiary in a new document."
The coroner nodded, turned, and engaged Bryce in conversation for a moment or two. At the end of that time the inspector and he apparently arrived at a mutual understanding, and he again addressed the nurse.
"Miss Riley, there is a janitor in the building, is there not?"
"Yes," said the girl. "He lives directly under this room."
The coroner signed to Bryce, who immediately despatched one of his men to bring the janitor up.
"Did you always lock the door when you went out, Miss Riley?" the coroner resumed.
"Oh, yes; always."
"With your own key, or with Mrs. Greenig's?"
"With my own. Mrs. Greenig gave me a pass-key. She also had one on a key-ring with her other keys."
"Have you your key now?"
"Yes; it is in my purse."
"Where are Mrs. Greenig's keys?"
"As a rule, since she has been sick, they have lain on the dresser over there." Miss Riley indicated the article of furniture by a wave of her hand.
The coroner crossed the room, and presently picked up a bunch or keys. "Are these the ones?" he inquired.
"Yes, I think so."
"Show me the key to the front door," he requested as he advanced to her side.
The woman took the keys and glanced hurriedly through them. A second time she ran them over more slowly, then lifted startled eyes to the man's face.
"It isn't here now," she said.
"But you have yours?"
"Yes. I used it in getting in."
The patrolman now came back accompanied by the janitor, and the coroner turned his attention to him. The man gave his name as Henry Clay, and proved to be of African descent.
Questioned as to the events of the night, he said that he had retired about half after nine. About ten, he thought it was, he had been awakened by a scream. He had listened carefully, and, hearing nothing more, had again gone to sleep, and remained so until the patrol arrived.
Under further questioning as to whether he had heard any other noise in the flat above his room, he admitted that he had heard the sound of voices, but had supposed that it was Mrs. Greenig talking to her nurse, who, he pointed out, was possessed of a voice of low timbre. This was a fact which I had myself observed.
Asked about the key arrangement, he stated that all apartments in the building were furnished with two keys to the front door. Beyond this his information was practically valueless, and he was excused.
While the coroner had been conducting, his examination of the negro several of the police had questioned the other inmates of that part of the building in which Mrs. Greenig had lived.
Across the hall one woman was found who admitted that she had heard a single scream at about ten o'clock. She had been sitting in her own bedroom, which adjoined that of the deceased, and had risen, and gone to her front door to listen for any further outcry. She said she thought the scream had come from the room of the sick woman next door. She had heard nothing more. The flat immediately above that occupied by the dead woman was empty at the time.
The whole result of the investigation seemed to be that both the janitor and a tenant had heard a single scream some time around ten o'clock, and that the janitor believed he had heard voices in the flat immediately afterward. The coroner at once took up his questioning of the nurse again.
"Miss Riley, when you returned and discovered that Mrs. Greenig was dead, did you notice whether the blinds on her bedroom windows were up or down?"
"They were drawn. I had pulled them down before I went out."
"Was the window where you are now sitting up or down?"
"I left it up. Mrs. Greenig asked me to do so, as it was a hot night. I merely drew down the shade, and the window was still raised when I returned."
"So that some one could have got in or out that way?"
"I suppose they might."
"When you discovered that Mrs. Greenig was dead what did you do?"
"I first called for Dr. Herman, but I failed to get an answer. Then I called the police station and told them of the affair. Then I kept trying to get Dr. Herman, and finally succeeded. He said he had just come in from a call and was retiring, but that he would dress and come over at once."
"Was that before or after the police arrived?"
"Then you did not notify any one in the house?"
"No, sir, I did not."
"Didn't even call the janitor?"
"I was greatly excited, and I was busy trying to get the doctor and calling the police. I had become very fond of my patient, and was dreadfully shocked. I suppose I didn't think of it."
"Did you meet any one when you came back to the flat—in the hall or on the steps?"
"You don't know of any one who would have been likely to wish Mrs. Greenig dead?"
"No, sir, I do not."
"Now about this will Mrs. Greenig intended to make—what was her nephew's name?"
"Mr. Richard Martin. He was her brother's child. While she was ill he called a number of times, and they had several long talks together since she has been recovering. Only to-day she told me that she intended changing her present will, so as to give the bulk of her property to him."
"Do you know anything about the will or the trouble between Mrs. Greenig and her nephew?"
"Oh, yes; Mrs. Greenig talked freely to me at times. Mr. Martin had been living extravagantly, and his aunt did not approve. When she thought she was going to die she was still nursing her pique at his refusal to follow her wishes, and she changed her will so as to cut him off with a small allowance."
"Did you witness the making of that will?"
"Oh, no," said the girl quickly, in evident misunderstanding of his meaning. "Dr. Herman and the janitor were asked to witness it."
Herman gave a nervous cough, and I glanced his way. It seemed to me that he was endeavoring earnestly to catch the girl's eye. If that was his purpose, it failed. She sat quietly with her gaze fixed steadily upon the coroner's face, and seemed only intent upon answering his questions to the best of her ability.
"Why was the janitor—a negro—called in rather than you?" the official demanded almost at once.
For the first time the woman appeared uneasy under his searching questions. She flushed slightly, and hesitated the least bit before making any reply.
"I suppose because under this will I was the chief beneficiary," she said at length.
One could have heard a pin drop in the ensuing quiet. I don't think there was any one in the room who did not show surprise. The physician scowled fiercely and began to stroke his beard. The coroner and Bryce looked their triumph. Dean, at my elbow, whistled softly and began to make frantic notes in his book. As for myself, I looked at the girl, sitting quietly in her chair, and wondered what further thoughts lurked under her crown of brown hair, back of her Irish-blue eyes. She was slender, willowy, pink and white, with a pure, soft skin—withal very dainty in her crisp uniform. Could it be possible that she was really a murderess?
The coroner's voice brought me back from speculation. "So that in event of Mrs. Greenig's death you would have come in for a nice sum?"
"Why—why—I suppose so," said the woman slowly. "I'm sure I didn't think of it like that, though."
"Just how Mid Mrs. Greenig come to make you the recipient of her wealth in the first place?"
"She had no other relatives, and she had grown fond of me, I think."
"As her nurse, you could see that she was going to get well?"
"Oh, yes! We talked it over lots of times, and we were both very glad. Only yesterday we planned out how her new will was to read."
"You were her confidante, then—knew nearly all her plans?"
"When was the new will to be executed?"
"To-morrow if she was strong enough. She asked Dr. Herman about it to-day."
"Is that correct?" the coroner turned to Herman to ask.
The physician merely bowed. I noticed that his lips were pressed into a thin, hard line under his black mustache.
"Miss Riley, how much would you have inherited under the last will?" the coroner continued.
"You mean the last one made?" The girl was palpably growing nervous, though she still answered readily enough.
"I think it was seventy-five thousand, to be exact," said the girl with an effort, plainly embarrassed.
"That's all," said the coroner, with a glance at Bryce.
The inspector immediately approached the woman, and laid a hand upon her shoulder.
"Gertrude Riley, I arrest you for the murder of Matilda Greenig, and warn you that anything you may say will be used as evidence against you."
The warning was needless, for without a word the girl sank unconscious into his arms.
GERTRUDE RILEY, still unconscious, was carried to the patrol, accompanied by Dr. Herman. The coroner left, saying he would send for the body of the dead woman. Bryce and a detective, Dean and myself remained.
I phoned Smithson from the apartment, and told him the main details, adding that I had sent Grant to the station to look after that end and later bring the story to the office, while I remained on the scene.
"You say the girl fainted when arrested, and is now at the station?" asked Smithson.
I admitted that that was correct.
"Then what are you sticking around there for now?" he wanted to know.
"I'm waiting to see what a search of the room may show," I explained rather lamely. I didn't like to admit that, because Semi Dual had predicted that I would be busy, I could not feel that the mere arrest of the nurse would settle the case. Yet that was the real cause of my act. Afterward Dean said he stayed because I did.
Smithson grunted and hung up his phone.
I followed suit; and then Dean took the phone and had a chat with the office of the Dispatch.
Meanwhile the two officers were ransacking the room, but they failed to find anything suspicious in the least. From front to back there was nothing disturbed. The rear door was locked with a spring-lock, which might indicate a possible exit for any one who had entered and done the deed; yet from act to motive the case was apparently clear against the nurse. I could see that both the detective and Bryce regarded their arrest as quite the proper solution to the affair.
On the face of things they were right. In no particular could the girl sustain her claims that she had been absent at the time when the murder was done. The only possible things in her favor were the missing key from the ring of the deceased and the janitor's positive assertion that there had been two such keys. One was found in the purse of the nurse, which had been taken by the police. The other was still missing after our search was done.
Then there were the peculiar half-burned spots on the skin of the victim's face. It really looked as though the girl, seeing herself threatened with the loss of what she had come to regard as her own, had used chloroform to overcome her patient, and then slashed her arm with the knife.
"By the way," said Bryce on a sudden, "where is that bottle you found, Glace?"
I was cornered, and all at once I remembered that Dual had always told me to trust to the truth at such times.
"I've got it," I replied.
Bryce grinned. "Come across," he suggested. "It's an exhibit in the case."
I shook my head, and returned his grin.
"To-morrow," I answered. "Be a sport, Bryce, and let me keep it to-night. I've got a theory about that bottle which I want to test."
"Don't tell me you think we're in wrong," the inspector laughed.
"I don't know what I believe just yet," I confessed. "Here"—I got the bottle out—"make some sort of a mark on the thing for identification and trust me till morning. Only hold it by the neck."
I caught the eyes of the detective and saw he was aware of the vague idea I had formed. He nodded to Bryce. "All right, inspector," he assented. "Let Glace have it till morning. He'll come across with what he finds out. Let him grab off a scoop for himself if he can."
I readily agreed to that.
Still grinning, Bryce scratched a mark on the bottom of the bottle with a diamond he wore, and handed the vial back to me.
"There you are, my amateur sleuth," he remarked lightly, and we all rose to depart.
Dean started straight for the office of the Dispatch to write up his story, after begging me to let him in on what he called the "bottle mystery." He even offered a bribe of a late supper at a rathskeller of which we knew, but for once I was not to be tempted in any such way. Finally he gave it up and went off in disgust. When he was gone, I assured myself that I still had the bottle, then I set out for the Urania and Semi Dual.
I had to walk up the twenty flights, but I think I made it in record time. I wanted to get to my peculiar friend and see what he had to say. I remembered that other time, when he had played ducks and drakes with a bunch of circumstantial evidence a long time ago. Then, as now, I had visited him at night and climbed twenty flights of stairs in order to make the call.
The moon had come clear of the clouds. When I stepped out on the Urania's roof all the place was flooded by a clear, white light. To me, walking toward the door of the tower, it seemed almost an augury—a promise of the triumph of light over darkness.
I paused and lifted my face to the heavens and took a long breath of the cool, damp air. What was up there, in the purple ether? What was all this struggle of life and death? What poor blind mortals we all were.
Anyway, Dual knew far more of the secret than I. I was on his threshold. Why should I delay? I turned and found him standing in the tower door.
He took me into the inner room, waved me to a chair and, seating himself at his desk, picked up a sheet of paper upon which he had evidently been at work when I arrived. Then he gave me a surprise.
"The woman was murdered," he announced.
"That's what the police say," I stammered. "At first, though, it looked like suicide."
"It was no suicide," said Semi Dual. "My calculations show that she had at this time a positive death-point, preceded by a threatened one. In the positive case, death would result from murder; and did."
"I don't see how you do it," I confessed.
"Astrology," said Semi Dual. "If I have a person's name, I can set a figure of their life."
"I thought you did it from the stars," I began.
"In view of the fact that every letter has an astrological value, one can do it from a name also," returned Dual.
"But Matilda is sometimes spelled with an 'h,' " said I. "How did you know?"
"That," smiled Semi, "was easily determined by setting up the calculation. In this case the 'h' would have produced a figure which would have precluded the person's death at this time. Do you see?"
"So that while I was gone, you learned the facts of the case right here in this room?"
"Precisely, my friend."
"Would the figure you have set up give a description of the woman herself?"
Dual smiled. "She was past middle age; about fifty-five or six; slight of build, and of refined appearance. In earlier life one would have described her as of medium complexion, though now she is probably slightly faded, as she has had a long illness. She—"
"You might have been in the room itself, from the way you talk," I burst out. His demonstrations never ceased to amaze me.
Dual nodded. "This is only re-proving proven science," he continued. "We are wasting time in such discussion. Briefly, the woman was murdered somewhere near ten o'clock, by some one she completely trusted, and some one who felt sure that suspicion would never rest on him."
I sat up in my chair. "Him?" I cried.
"Naturally," said Semi. "The murderer was a man."
"But, good Heavens, Dual! Every circumstance points another way. Before I left, the police arrested the woman's nurse. She's at the station now."
Dual smiled at my excitement.
"Though she is, she is innocent, nonetheless, Gordon," he said calmly. "Of that I am sure. The stars never lie, and if a mistake occurs in a reading, it is we who mistake. This murder was done by a man."
"But she practically convicted herself."
"In what way?" asked Dual.
"By her answers to the coroner," I explained.
"A very strong argument in her favor," said my friend. "Having nothing to conceal, she spoke freely. That has often happened before. Yet in the end, the truth will prevail."
"Then what is to be done?" I questioned.
"Prove her innocence," replied my friend. Suddenly his face softened, and took on a new light. "Once upon a time I told you that I lived to help others—to smooth out the path for other feet. If I can help one wrongly accused or suspected, or protect the helpless, surely I have spent my time in a good cause and not lived in vain."
His voice sank and ceased, and for a moment he sat staring silently before him.
Then again his words rang out like a clarion call: "Glace, that girl is as innocent of this crime as you are; now what shall we do?"
"Prove her innocence!" I cried.
Dual smiled. "We will prove her innocence," said he.
He lay back in his chair. "Tell me everything you saw or heard while you were gone," he directed. "Omit nothing—but by now you know what I mean when I say that—proceed."
I did know. He wanted everything down to the least detail. He had an uncanny way of picking up a thread of a clue from some little thing, which the average man would deem of small importance, and following it to a startling denouement. Therefore I began to detail very carefully every incident of the night, while he lay wrapped in his long white robe, listening in silence to my words. The strong olive face was as immobile as a graven figure; he neither moved nor spoke in all the tale; yet from time to time I could feel his eyes upon me and knew that they were alive with the activities of his wonderful brain.
When I had finished, he sat forward and held out his hand. "Now let me see the evidence you have brought with you," he began.
I grinned as I drew the bottle from my pocket and set it on the desk. I had purposely failed to tell him that I had brought it, although mentioning that I had found the thing. Yet he asked for it as coolly as if I had spoken of nothing else from the start. Like a kid caught secreting some forbidden article, I grinned and gave up.
Dual picked it up and held it to the light. Then he set it down and went to a cabinet, from which he brought a small box. He opened this on the desk, exposing to view a grayish powder. With this he dusted the sides of the bottle, shook off the surplus, glanced at me, and smiled.
"Our assassin is possessed of an oily skin," he remarked in his quiet way. "He has left his autograph on the bottle. See?"
He held it toward me, and I could see the fine lines of a thumb-print etched in the gray powder on the glass.
"I hoped for that. That's why I brought the bottle," I said.
"It was well thought of," declared Dual. "We have here our first material clue—the sort which will stand with the police. In support of my statements, notice that this print is large for that of a woman. The girl did not hold this bottle—so much is plain already. We must make a photograph of this thumb-mark."
I explained that I had promised to return the bottle in the morning without fail.
Dual nodded. "We can use a flash-light," he decided, and began preparing for the work.
While he moved about, he took up the matter of the missing key. "The murderer made two mistakes," he announced. "Probably he is an amateur in practical crime. First, he took away the key; secondly, he overlooked the bottle when he left. He should have reversed that order, and he might feel safer a great deal. In writing your story, allow me to suggest that you make the most of the fact that the key has been missed.
"Having a guilty conscience, it may be possible that the murderer will seek to return it or dispose of it in some way, which will give us another clue to his identity—one that can be used as evidence. Criminals practically always make some such mistake, if one knows how to read the trail aright. Now if you will assist me, we will take the picture."
He had arranged the bottle on a table in front of a piece of black cloth. Against the dark background the gray lines on the glass stood out plainly. Now he gave me the flash-powder and its holder and showed me how to set it off. He then took up his camera, focused it to his satisfaction, and gave me the word.
A blinding light flashed and left me blinking in the darkness which followed. But I had heard the click of the shutter, and dimly I perceived Semi Dual smiling as he reached out and took the apparatus from my hands.
"That should be a perfect negative," he remarked. "Now we will put the bottle in a box and you can take it back to your friend, the inspector, with the thumb-print in plain sight."
I sat down and pressed my hands to my eyes. "And to-morrow?" I questioned. "What shall I do? Where do I begin?"
Semi Dual smiled as he seated himself. "Begin to get legal proof," said he. "Already the murderer is pretty plainly indicated, I think, but we must have proof which will be accepted by the court. Your task will be to collect that.
"Take this bottle, for instance. The criminal's mark is on the glass. There is no label; therefore the criminal did not buy it at a drug-store, or he changed bottles afterward, or he soaked the label off.
"The police already suspect the nurse of having done the deed. We, however, know she is innocent, as we know it was the work of a man. We have now to prove beyond doubt that it was a man, and that he actually did the thing. To-morrow go and see Miss Riley and get her story. Get also a sample of her writing.
"Hunt up this nephew and see what sort of a man he is. Find out what he has to say, and how he says it. Get a sample of his writing if you can. Also see the doctor, and do the same with him. Play up the key story and watch for its return.
"If you can't get a sample of the doctor's writing any other way, find out where the prescriptions were filled for Mrs. Greenig. Go to the drug-store and borrow one of the filled blanks which he sent in. With what you bring me to-morrow—or to-day rather, I shall hope to be able to give you the murderer's name."
His words filled me with confidence, and I put myself unreservedly in his hands. All my preconceived ideas of the case I cast aside. In their place I set up a picture of a blue-eyed girl being carried unconscious from a room of horror in a burly patrolman's arms, and now doubtless suffering mental agonies in a cell. In part, at least, it was to be my privilege to help free her. I rose from my chair and picked up my hat.
"I'll get all the evidence I can," I assured Semi, and turned to the door.
"You will succeed," said my friend, with utter seriousness. "To help the innocent is a privilege indeed."
I arrived at the Record office shortly before two o'clock. Smithson was just starting home. "That's once the department got quick action," said he.
"Meaning the Greenig case?" I answered. "The girl's arrest is all bunk."
My city editor eyed me closely for a moment, then: "Didn't you send Grant in with a story that the nurse had been arrested as the murderess?" he inquired. "What are you trying to pull on me now?"
"A beat, if it comes the way I think," I replied.
"What's the answer, son?"
"Come on back while I write the story, and I'll show you," I responded. "We've got to get this in the late edition at least."
He followed me back, and I wrote my story against time, tossing each page to Smithson as I took if off the machine.
When it was done there was a light of interested speculation in his eyes.
"Who do you suppose has the key? Who could have left the bottle with its telltale thumb-mark?"
"HERE's Bryce's bottle," I said to my friend Desk-Sergeant Harrington the next morning, as I handed a small package tied securely across the rail to him.
Dan took it with a grin and tossed it on the end of his desk. "Did you find the criminal's photograph blown in the glass?" he inquired.
"No, but I found his autograph on the side," I retorted. "You see if Bryce don't jump when he examines the thing."
Dan eyed me for a moment; then: "What do ye mane?" he asked. "Bryce told me to take care of the thing. What's it about?"
"There's the thumb-print of the murderer of the woman who was killed last night at the Virginia on that bottle," said I.
"The girl's?" Harrington evinced sudden interest.
"Not so, Daniel—the man's," I replied. "Any new developments in the case?"
"Wait a bit," said Harrington.
"What are ye gettin' at? Are ye goin' to pick some more flaws with our arrest of the girl? Who's runnin' the department—the Record or us?"
"Then something has happened," I grinned back. "You must have read my story. What are you so touchy about, and where's Bryce?"
"He's out," growled Dan, then he chuckled. "Oh, well, Gordon, 'twixt you ah' me an' the cell-house door, I'm thinkin' Bryce himself has some doubts about the girl's havin' croaked the old dame. There was an intelligent voter in here this morning telling us as how he saw a man sneakin' up the alley back of the Virginia at a quarter to eleven last night. Said the chap had his coat-collar turned up around his face an' his hat pulled down, an' was in a hurry to get out of sight."
"My compliments to the intelligent voter," said I.
Dan shook his head. "You're an impertinent young feller, Glace," he opined. "Still, it's tough on this kid if she didn't do the job. They tell me she's takin' it hard; didn't sleep at all last night; didn't make no fuss either; just sat there starin' at the wall; an' the matron was tellin' one of th' boys that she only drunk a cup of coffee this mornin'. I'd have to feel pretty bad to pass up my breakfast, I'm thinkin'. So you got the bug that it's a man's job, too?"
"Did you read the Record this morning?" I asked.
"Uh-huh," grunted Harrington. "You beat 'em all if you're right."
"If," I jeered. "Say, Dan, I'm not only going to find fault with your pinch in this case; I'm going to tear it all to pieces pretty soon."
"Uh-huh," said Harrington again. "Wasn't it justified?"
"Sure! Bryce had to do it. The girl forced his hand herself. By the way, I want to see her, if I may."
"Oh!" growled the sergeant, somewhat mollified. "Then you wasn't meanin' nuthin, only you was goin' to help us find the right man?"
"What else? I've done it before. Do I see the girl?" I laughed.
"Well, I dunno," he began slowly.
"Double the smokes for you and your brother," I wheedled, reverting to our old gag, by which Dan always got two cigars out of me—one for a relative who was purely mythical.
"Bribin' an officer now. Gee! Ain't you fierce! Oh, well, I dunno as it kin do any harm—only I don't believe she'll talk to you. All the same, I'll send you back and you kin see. She's a nice-lookin' kid. Honest, Glace, betwixt us two, I hope you're right."
I rummaged my pockets and found three cigars, which I handed to the sergeant, with the promise of the other one later on. Dan called a man, and I followed him back to the women's section of the jail, and was turned over to the matron herself, who conducted me down the long corridor of small rooms to the door of a cell.
As we paused the figure of a woman was plainly visible, sitting upon the edge of the cot, hands clasped in lap, eyes cast down. In response to the matron's tap on the bars the woman raised her head, and on the instant I was gazing into Gertrude Riley's blue eyes.
"Here's a gentleman to see you, dearie," said the matron in a surprisingly soft tone of voice, as she began unlocking the door, that I might step inside. "She's no' like the others here," she added to me with meaning, and immediately afterward turned and hurried away.
Evidently the girl had found a friend in the matron; who sensed the difference between the nurse and the other female inmates. Suddenly I found myself feeling glad of that. I entered the cell, and remained standing until the girl herself motioned me to a seat.
She looked a wreck in the light reflected from the whitewashed walls. Her face was drawn and haggard; and there were dark circles under her eyes, which looked very large. I noticed that she kept twisting her fingers together, locking and unlocking them in a nervous manner, even while I was introducing myself.
I sat down on a little stool.
"Miss Riley," I began, "I am Mr. Glace of the Record—" That was as far as I got.
"Oh, dear!" gasped the girl. "Won't you please go away again? I can't bear to talk of this to any one."
"But, Miss Riley," I protested, "we want to get at the truth—to help you if we can."
"The truth is—that I didn't do it," she burst out with sudden vehemence. "Oh, how can they think—"
"But we don't," I interrupted. "We know that you are innocent."
It was a good thing I meant it, or I could not have endured the sweep of her eyes. They were wild, sleepless, soul-tortured; and yet at my words hope flickered faintly in their depths.
"You know I am innocent," she whispered in a moment. "Then you have found out who did it? Is that what you mean?"
"Well—not exactly," I confessed, and I hated to do it. "We want you to tell us all about the matter, so we can try and find the man who really did do the thing."
She sank back on the cot from which she had half risen, and the hope in her eyes died away.
"Only that," she said softly. "Oh, I hoped you knew! Was it a trick?"
"It was no trick," I answered, "and it is true that we do not believe you guilty—we on the paper, I mean. Won't you help us prove ourselves right?"
"What can I do, Mr. Glace?"
"Answer my questions. Tell me all you know."
"East night I answered everything they asked me, and they arrested me after I had told the truth," said the girl. "Only at the last did I suspect what they meant to do. Then, after making me tell everything, they warned me that anything I said would be used against me. I would like to talk to someone, but I am almost afraid to speak, lest they twist my words into something more to my discredit. What is a girl to do?"
"Yet, since we are trying to prove the truth of all you did say and are championing your case, don't you think you ought to give us any information which you have to help us in the work we are trying to do?" I replied.
For a moment she made no answer. Plainly she was trying to reach a determination. At last: "Very well," she assented. She began to twist her hands together again.
"Was there anything disgraceful in the actions of Mrs. Greenig's nephew which caused her to change her will?" I began.
"No, I think not; only Mr. Martin was wasteful of money," said Miss Riley. "He was not inclined to work. His aunt had always been too liberal with him, and he had never learned the responsibility of earning money. When she wanted him to settle down and apply himself to some useful object in life he did not wish to. At least that is what she told me."
"Then what made her change her mind?"
"While she was sick Mr. Martin came to see her often, and was very nice. Finally he told her that he had taken a position, or rather that he had arranged to do so the first of the month, and admitted that he felt she had been right all along. He told her that he had given up his expensive apartments and broken with his fast friends.
"If you know anything about women, Mr. Glace, you will see how that might affect his aunt. We are more or less all romanticists, always hoping that some one we like will be true to his better self. Anyway, it was after that that Mrs. Greenig changed her mind about him."
"Well," I questioned, "what did she say to you about changing her will after making the other one in your favor? You said that you had discussed the matter, I think."
"She asked me if I cared," said the girl, "and I told her no; that it was her money to do with as she pleased, and that I hoped that she would feel no hesitation in making any change she desired. I pointed out to her that Mr. Martin was, after all, her own flesh and blood, and I a comparative stranger. I really meant that, too, Mr. Glace. I never felt right about the other will from the very first; but at the time she made it she was very weak, and we had to humor her in everything."
I nodded. "You say Dr. Herman knew of the will in your favor?"
"Yes, he witnessed the drawing of the will."
"Do you know the doctor well, Miss Riley?"
To my surprise she flushed slightly, and in her next words took my breath away.
"Quite well, Mr. Glace; we were to have been married quite soon."
That was a decided surprise. No wonder Herman had looked strange during the events of the night before, and gone to the jail with the girl. I almost felt a sort of pity for the chap. It must have been pretty rough to see the girl he expected to marry in such a position. As soon as I could find words to do so I apologized.
"I beg your pardon, Miss Riley. I'm sorry I got on private grounds, so to speak, but I couldn't possibly know."
"Of course not, Mr. Glace," said the girl.
"Have you relatives, Miss Riley?"
"No, Mr. Glace, I am an only child, and an orphan. To-day I thank God that it is so." She rose from her seat and began nervously pacing the floor.
"You mustn't feel like that," I tried to reassure her. "This will all come right, you know."
"The disgrace of the thing can never come right," she cried out, and paused with compressed lips.
I sought to switch from so painful a theme. "When you returned to the apartment last evening and discovered Mrs. Greenig's body, you didn't see any evidences of any one having been in the flat, did you?"
"Not that I can recall, or that impressed me," said the girl. "Mr. Glace, I was terrified—horrified. I couldn't seem to believe it true at first. Just before I left, Mrs. Greenig had been laughing and talking to me, and seemed so happy at her rapidly returning strength.
"I spoke to her, called her by name, tried to find the least sign of a heart-beat. Then when I realized that I had been absent when her need of me was greatest, and had come back too late, I did what I thought best—called the doctor and the police."
"I believe you said last night that the doctor did not answer at first?"
"No, he did not. I called him four times in all. The last time was after the police arrived. He said he had been out on a call and had just come in, and started to undress."
"And how long would that have been after you first discovered that Mrs. Greenig was dead?"
"Ten or fifteen minutes, I suppose, Mr. Glace."
"Pardon me if I seem impertinent, or to open up a personal matter," I said with some hesitation, "but have you known the doctor long?"
"About a year," she replied frankly enough. "I have nursed several cases for him."
"Did Mrs. Greenig know you were engaged to marry Dr. Herman, Miss Riley?"
"I think not. I am sure I never told her about it."
"How far from the Virginia does Dr. Herman live?" I inquired.
"About four blocks, at 960 Madison Street," said the nurse.
"I believe he came here with you last night?"
"Oh, yes! He not only came with me, but remained until I was quiet and told him to go. It helped me to bear the ordeal a great deal better, I am sure."
"Have you heard from him yet to-day? I know it seems as if I was prying, but I have an object in asking, please believe."
"He was here early this morning." The girl smiled quietly as she answered. "He promised to come last night."
My line of questioning was arriving nowhere. I made another change: "By the way, Miss Riley, do you know where Mr. Martin is living now?"
"His address is a cheap hotel—the Cécile—on River Street," said the nurse. "I heard him tell his aunt the other day. He laughed at the time, and said the accommodations were not quite up to the standard of the Glenn Arms, where he was staying before."
"Did he know that his aunt contemplated reinstating him in her will?"
Miss Riley half smiled. "Mr. Glace," said she, "I can now see where you newspapermen get your reputation. You want to know about everything, it seems. To answer your question, Mrs. Greenig was a peculiar woman in some ways. She talked freely to me, but not to every one.
"I happen to know that she never told Mr. Richard that he had been cut off in her will. All he knew was that his liberal allowance had been cut down to next to nothing. So far as I know, he still thought himself his aunt's heir.
"That was one thing I didn't like about the affair—I always felt guilty when he was around. I heard a good deal of what they said from time to time, and he impressed me as a very nice young man, only careless of money and how it was spent. I was glad when Mrs. Greenig decided to reinstate him as her heir.
"She told him that she wanted him to get into some sort of work, and learn the worth of a dollar—and he would just laugh. She intimated that his so-called friends were in reality leeches on his good nature and pocket-book—and again he laughed at her. She gave him a chance to find out the truth by letting him shift for himself.
"If he didn't try to brace up and make a man of himself, she intended to let him go; but I know she was very happy when he really showed his intention of getting out and providing for himself. Even in the will she made in my favor I was to give him a certain amount every quarter as long as I lived."
Here, at last, was something important. I felt a sense of elation as I listened to the words of the nurse. At last I seemed on the track of something. I decided to press forward along that line.
"But he really didn't know that he was cut off?" I repeated. "You are sure of that? It may be important, I think."
"I don't think he did," said the girl.
"Did he seem angry with his aunt at any time—speak angrily in any of the conversations you heard?"
"Oh no; he was always the perfect gentleman in every way," responded Miss Riley. "He impressed one as being just a good-natured boy."
"Did you hear him mention what he was going to do after the first?" I asked.
"He said he was going to work in a wholesale drug-house. A day or two ago he mentioned that he had spent a whole day there, getting acquainted with what his duties would be."
"Would he have had an opportunity to handle any drugs at that time, do you think?"
Miss Riley's expression became one of surprised interrogation. "I really don't know, Mr. Glace," she said quickly. "Why?"
"There wasn't any chloroform used by the physician at any time during Mrs. Greenig's illness, was there?" I asked.
"No," she replied with positive emphasis, "there was not." No sooner had she spoken than I could see that she was endeavoring to repress a growing excitement. "Was that what had been in the bottle you found, Mr. Glace? Was that why the inspector decided that it was murder instead of suicide?" she questioned me in turn.
"Yes," I told her, "Mrs. Greenig was chloroformed before she was killed."
"Then it must have been planned!" she said with a gasp. "The murderer came with his mind made up—prepared. Oh!"
"That is what we think at present, Miss Riley. Furthermore, he left his thumb-print on the glass of the bottle. We have at least found out that much." The woman clenched her hands with a sudden impulsive gesture, seated herself, and sat rigidly upright on the edge of the cot. Suddenly a shudder ran through her frame.
"It is too horrible—what your questions and statements seem to lead to—too awful!" she cried in protest. "I can't believe it—any more than I can believe that I did it myself. I feel sure that Mr. Martin is not the type of man who would do such a thing as that."
"Then there's the key," I continued, without commenting on her outburst. "Somebody took the other key, Miss Riley. To have done this, that somebody must have been in the room before the murder was committed. When did you see the key last?"
"I don't remember," she responded slowly. "Recently I have always used the one I had in my purse."
A tap at the door interrupted our conversation. We both turned to see the matron, her arms full of flowers, and a smile on her face.
"Some one's been sendin' you posies, Miss Riley," she began gladly. "Sure they are beauties. I'll be gettin' you a pail to put them in."
Gertrude Riley sprang up with a cry of pleasure and ran to the grated door to take the flowers into her own arms, raise them, and bury her face in their mass of color. For a long moment she stood so—a slender figure against the bars of the cell—her eyes closed, her bosom rising and falling as she drank of the flowers' perfume.
Presently she raised her head and smiled upon me out of tear-dimmed eyes, as she began hunting for a card. She found it after a bit of fumbling, and held it out to me.
"From Dr. Herman," she said softly. "Oh, isn't it dear of him to think!" Again she smiled, and quite without reserve wiped her eyes. "That's the first tear I've been able to shed," she remarked, with a little laugh that caught in her throat; "and like all women, I've wanted to cry awfully, only somehow I wasn't able to."
I was mighty glad the chap had sent those flowers, and I felt sure he would feel well repaid if he could see the pleasure and help they gave.
"I know how you feel," I nodded. "Once when I was a kid they shut me up in a dark room for being a 'bad boy,' and I yelled myself hoarse—then I wanted to cry and I couldn't; I'd used up my voice."
This time Miss Riley's laugh did not catch in her throat.
I decided that I had gained about all I could for the present. There was only one thing more to do. "Miss Riley," I resumed, "I am going to see this Mr. Martin after I leave here. Would you consider it too much if I asked you, who know him, to write a line to him, requesting him to give me an interview? Sometimes it is hard to get people to accord a hearing to one of us chaps."
To one who knew, it was a thin excuse, but then Miss Riley didn't know. "If you think it will do any good, I will do so gladly," she said at once. Since the coming of the flowers she seemed quite cheered up. It is funny what a little thing sometimes makes or mars our attitude toward affairs.
I handed her a pad and pencil, and she wrote for a few moments.
"Will that do?" she asked presently, handing me the following:
Mr. Richard Martin
This will introduce Mr. Glace, who is working in my behalf. Will you kindly help him in any way you can? Believe me, I am deeply grieved over this dreadful happening that has robbed us both—you of a sterling relative, and me of a very dear friend.
"Very nicely," I assured her as I finished reading.
I rose to my feet and made my adieus. "Thank you for the interview, Miss Riley," I said. "Keep up your courage, and I am positive that everything will be cleared up before very long. I shall let you know of anything important, you may be assured. I shall now go to Mr. Martin at once."
"It is I who should thank you, Mr. Glace," she returned. "Your call has given me fresh courage and enabled me to hope that all will turn out as you say. I shall be very glad to see you at any time."
We clasped hands, and I noticed that she took mine like a man, I mean firmly, with a spirit back of the form. There was nothing half-way in the grip of her fingers. It felt sincere.
I turned toward the barred door, and just then the matron returned with a pail of water.
As she let me out I said: "Don't bother with me. Give first aid to the flowers on a morning like this. I can find my way out."
I left the two women—matron and prisoner—thrusting the long stems of roses into the depths of a tin pail, and started back for the office of the station. I was full of my success in the first part of my task. I had learned several things, and I had a whole note written by the girl.
WITH the assistance of the turnkey I got out of jail and went to the office, where Harrington was smoking one of my cigars. It lacked a few minutes of twelve. I decided to go over to River Street and see if I could find Mr. Richard Martin. But as events turned out, I was destined never to make the trip.
I had started toward the door when a man, coming in from the street, caused me to step aside. Having done so, I tarried yet longer because of what I saw as he pushed by.
The fellow was evidently in a hurry, for he was breathing rapidly. More: he was pale, and under plainly visible excitement. His face had a tense, drawn look, as I glimpsed it when he hurried past. To all appearances he was a man on the right side of thirty, clad in a suit of fashionable cut—now stained and spotted with dust, as were also his shoes. He had the look of a person who had walked for miles without especially heeding where he went. I noticed that he was dark-skinned, with a high-bred, sensitive face and a square jaw and chin.
Without looking to right or left, he advanced to the sergeant's desk, and his first words caused me to retrace my steps.
"I am Mr. Richard Martin," he addressed Harrington. "It was my aunt, Mrs. Greenig, who was murdered last night at the Virginia. I saw by the papers this morning that there had been an arrest made, and also that the key to the flat is missing. Now what brings me here, in part at least, is this: While I was reading the account in the paper, a letter was delivered to my hotel, and upon opening it I found this."
He withdrew a hand from the pocket of his coat and held up an envelope, which he proceeded to invert above Harrington's desk. With a little thud, there fell out a key!
"I have every reason," the man went on, without noticing my start of surprise or Dan's suspicious scowl, "to believe that this is the missing key to my aunt's apartment. Who sent it I do not know—haven't an idea, even; but I do know that whoever had it knew my address, and evidently my old one as well.
"You can see they mailed it to me wrapped in a sheet of Glenn Arms paper, and used one of the hotel's envelopes. I thought that it might prove an important clue, and so lost no time in bringing it here."
"It sure ought to," observed Dan with meaning, as he picked up the key and turned it over in his hand. Then he reached out for the envelope, and began subjecting it to equally close scrutiny.
I slipped up to the desk and stood by Martin's side while Dan was examining the things.
There was no doubt but that the envelope was one of the regular stock supplied to the Glenn Arms writing-room—it bore the hotel name and crest. The address was typewritten: "Mr. Richard Martin, Hotel Cécile, River Street, City." The postmark, that of the general office, at 7 a.m. of the present day. Inside was a single blank sheet of the hotel paper, faintly marked by the key, about which it had been folded.
Harrington tossed it aside and silently eyed the man.
"What makes you think this is the key?" he asked at length. "Do you know how your aunt's key looked?"
"No," said Martin, avoiding the trap in the question. "I drew the conclusion from the fact that a key was alleged to be missing, and that this one was mailed to me, her nearest relative."
"We kin find out in a minute," remarked the sergeant, as he slid from his chair and walked to the station safe, which he proceeded to unlock. "The nurse, who was brought in last night, had the other key, an' we got it here. If this one of yours matches, why, I guess it's the one we want."
He came back with a small flat key in his hand, such as are used in modern patent locks, and laid it down on the desk. It was tagged, numbered, and dated, in order to be identified without doubt. Dan picked up the key Martin had brought and laid it alongside of the one from the safe. They matched exactly; and without more ado, he began to write out a ticket for the second key.
Martin stood silently watching him, leaning against the grating of the desk. I turned my attention again to the sheet of paper and the envelope, and that was how I discovered something we all had overlooked.
Heretofore, we had given all our attention to the outside of the envelope and the key-marked side of the single sheet. Now I turned the letter over, and had to choke back a cry of delight. Whoever had wrapped up the key in the paper had pressed the sheet firmly down about it, with the result that, over the middle section of the folded page there was—the distinct print of a thumb!
On the instant, as the possible significance seized my brain, I turned to Martin with a question fairly bursting from my lips and asked:
"Do your hands perspire freely?"
He gave me a glance of quick surprise. "I don't think so; but what if they do?"
"Nothing at present," I parried, and took out my copy-pad to begin making notes.
Martin gave me a second stare of perplexity, then, apparently deciding that my interruption was not worthy of comment, turned back to Dan, who was now tying his tag of identification to the second key.
"By the way, sergeant," said he, "there's another matter I want to go into while I'm here. You mentioned the arrest of my aunt's nurse on the suspicion of having been directly responsible for her death. Now, that's absurd, you know. I've seen that girl enough to know that she'd never do anything like that. I should like to arrange for her release."
"There'd be a bit of red tape about that," observed Dan, with a grin.
"But it can be arranged, can it not?" Martin inquired.
"You'd have to see the chief," said Harrington, as he picked up the two keys. I noticed his left hand slip along the desk and press a button under its edge.
"Well, I can do that," agreed Martin. "Where is he, please?"
"He ain't here now," said Dan, with his eyes on the door.
Two officers entered the office quietly just then, and took seats back of where Martin and I stood, after exchanging a swift glance with the sergeant. Apparently, Martin did not notice; but it began to look to me as though he would have more difficulty in leaving the station than he had experienced in getting in. Things seemed to be promising something of interest.
Dan left his chair, and started for the safe with the keys. Half-way, he paused and glanced back at Martin. "What you got on for the next hour?" he asked.
"Nothing in particular," responded Martin. "Of course, I expect to arrange for my aunt's funeral."
"Then," suggested the sergeant, "suppose you stick around a bit. Inspector Bryce and Detective Johnson are handlin' this case. When they come in you kin talk this girl biz over with them."
Martin nodded, drew a case from his pocket, and extracted a cigarette, which he lit.
Meanwhile temptation seized me, and I fell. Dan was at the safe putting away the keys. Martin was staring out at the street. I laid my copy-pad down on the broad top of the rail in front of Dan's disk, and apparently went on with my notes.
In reality I slipped the folded sheet with the thumb-marks between the leaves of copy-paper. When I laid the envelope back on the sergeant's desk it was utterly empty; and I dared to hope he might overlook the fact. As it turned out, he did, for fate came to my aid.
I had gone into the reporters' room to get a camera—which we kept cached there—for it had occurred to me that I might as well snap a picture of the envelope for the Record, and I was just returning when Inspector Bryce and Detective Johnson, who had been with him the night before, came in at the front door.
Both men were plainly laboring under excitement, and seemed somewhat taken aback when they saw Martin standing at the desk. Bryce gave him one glance, and then came directly across to where he stood.
"I've been looking for you, Martin," he said shortly. "What have you done with your aunt's key?"
For a moment Martin gave him back glance for glance; then: "I've just brought it in," he replied. "But how—"
"I've just come from your hotel," Bryce cut in shortly. "Didn't you tell the clerk something about having had it sent you in the mail?"
"I did," said Martin. "I thought, under the circumstances, that it was better to mention it to some one before bringing it over here. So he told you about it, eh?"
"Uh-huh! You didn't explain to him where you were up to one o'clock this morning, though, did you?" snapped Bryce.
"What are you driving at, inspector?" said Martin, throwing away his cigarette. "My being out last night had nothing whatever to do with the key."
"Maybe," remarked the inspector. "I've been looking for you all morning, though. Come over to the chief's office. I want to have a talk with you."
Martin's face assumed a troubled expression as he turned away with the official. I hastily took my snap of the envelope and trailed along. Nobody objected to my presence, so I took a seat at one side, and kept my ears open to the talk which went on.
"Where'd you go last night, anyway?" began Bryce, after they had all taken seats.
"I went for a walk," replied Martin readily enough.
"Everybody seems to have been walkin' last night," sneered the inspector. "It seems the nurse went out for an airin', too."
"Nevertheless, that is a correct answer to your question," said Martin with some heat.
"Maybe you walked in the same direction as the nurse?" suggested the inspector. "Still, if you was sore at anybody, I would have thought it would have been at her. It was her cut you out."
"Cut me out?" repeated Martin. "Say, inspector, I don't know what you're talking about, you know. Cut me out of what?"
"Drop it!" commanded Bryce on the instant. "That won't work here. Cut you out of your aunt's coin, of course."
"She did not!" flashed Martin. "I tell you, inspector, there's a mistake somewhere. You'll have to explain, I fear."
"There's a mistake, all right; but you're makin' it," growled Bryce.
"In what way?"
"In thinkin' you can play innocent," said Bryce. On the word, he leaned forward and stared Martin full in the face. "In tryin' to run in a stall like your not knowin' that the Riley woman had got your aunt to make a will in her favor, leaving you out."
"Good Lord!" exclaimed Martin. "Say, I think you're mistaken. Just what do you mean?"
"Didn't you say you'd read the papers?" snarled Bryce.
"Well, not all of them," Martin admitted. "You see, the key came just after I had glanced over the first few lines."
"So you still thought you was your aunt's heir?"
"I certainly did." Martin spoke in the tone of a man who was laboring under an entirely unexpected shock of information.
Bryce and the detective exchanged glances. "What made you leave the Glenn Arms?" the inspector asked.
"Lack of money," responded Martin shortly. "My aunt cut my allowance. She told me of that when she did it, but she certainly never even intimated that she intended cutting me quite off."
"An' what made you stay out till one this mornin', an' come in all over dust?" Bryce came back to his original question again.
"I stayed out because I wasn't ready to come in. I came in all over dust, because it was dusty where I went," snapped Martin with growing impatience. "I'm still all over dust, for that matter, because I hurried over here with the key without stopping to brush up."
"There's no use in gettin' hot," cautioned Bryce. "What made you pick out last night for takin' your walk?"
"I wasn't feeling well," said Martin more quietly. "I had expected to get a bit of money from a chap who owed it to me, and he turned me down, I had been banking on it pretty heavily, and not getting it jolted me a bit.
"I had the blues and I went out to walk off the fit. That is a habit of mine. To hear you talk, one would think you suspected that I knew my aunt was to be murdered last night."
"I don't know as you're far off in that," observed Bryce.
Martin turned pale. "My God, man! You can't be serious," he gasped.
"I ain't jokin' either," said the inspector. "You've just admitted you was hard up—that your aunt had cut down on your pocket money; but that you still thought you was her heir an' would get all of hers when she was gone. Your hotel says you was out from nine to one. Your aunt got hers between ten and eleven.
"You come back lookin' like the deuce, from all we can find out—an' this mornin' you come here with this story about the key bein' sent to you in the mail.
"It is my opinion that you did the job, come off with the key, discovered it after you had made your getaway, and thought it would be a smart trick to mail it to yourself at your new hotel, and then threw dust in our eyes by playin' the interested citizen and bringin' it in.
"So you uses an envelope of the Glenn Arms, where you uster stop, an' slips the thing into a mail-box. It wasn't such a bad scheme if it wasn't for the other facts in the case."
Martin seemed to me to sway where he sat. He opened his lips as if to speak, and closed them again without a sound. Presently, after what seemed a long time, he said hoarsely: "And you think I would do that?"
"I ain't sayin' exactly all I think, Mr. Martin," hedged Bryce, "but I think maybe you'd better stick around here for a little bit until we can find out what you did do last night."
"Then, inspector, I suppose I am under arrest?"
"I reckon that's about it," said Bryce. He rose and motioned to Johnson. The two men retired to a corner of the room and entered into a low-toned argument.
Martin sat up in his chair, and suddenly he laughed shortly. "It's a nice thing to get, when you were trying to do only what you thought best," he began. "I wish I'd let you hunt for the infernal key by yourselves."
Neither Bryce nor Johnson paid any attention to his outburst, and after a moment, I rose and went over to his side and introduced myself. I explained that I had intended calling upon him, and showed Miss Riley's note. He evinced some little interest in that, and was going to keep it, until I insisted upon his giving it back.
"I think I can use it in her interests," said I.
"I don't believe for a minute that that girl did it, Glace, any more than I did," he remarked as he relinquished the note. "I saw her several times at my aunt's. She's a fine little woman, and it's too bad these dunderheads have arrested her."
Suddenly he smiled. "I fancy you'll think me a silly ass, but it's a fact—she had more to do with my resolving to try to take a brace and make good than Aunt Matilda's cutting down on me did. I know it sounds mushy, but honestly, I was rather fond of that girl. I never told her, of course—but I thought I might—if I ever did make good."
"Then you didn't know she was engaged to Dr. Herman?" I asked.
He looked at me in palpable surprise. I could see that he was actually shocked.
"I don't seem to have known much of anything, old chap," he exclaimed. "Why, last night, while I was plowing along a country road, I was wondering how long it would take me, at one hundred and fifty per, to get into a position to speak to the girl—and here she was already engaged—and I never dreamed of the thing." Again he laughed, then sighed, reached into his pocket and drew out a cigar.
"And now they're trying to make a murderer out of me. I ought to have thrown the darned key into the river and let them all go hang. But—no, I don't mean that either—better me than Miss Gertrude, and surely they can't hold us both, can they, Glace?"
"Only for a limited time, on suspicion," I replied.
"Was that right about my aunt's having left her money to Gertrude Riley?" he asked.
"I believe so, Martin," I told him. "That is what she said herself."
"I don't blame her," declared Martin, puffing on his cigar. "I've been a rather worthless sort of expense to her for years. If she'd told me, I wouldn't have kicked. And last night Gertrude told them that, and so they supposed that she had killed her patient to get the money. I saw as much as that in the head-lines this morning, and thought they must be crazy, but now I see what they meant.
"I only had time to glance at the first lines of the story before that blessed key showed up. Say"—he shot a quick glance at me—"honest, Glace, you don't think I did the thing?"
"I should hope not," I replied.
Martin smiled ruefully. "Of course, I was a fool to ask you that, old chap. Well, I suppose I'll have to stand it if fate has decided to give me a wallop or two."
"Who could have sent you the key, do you imagine?" I suggested.
"I don't, and I can't imagine," said Martin with a frown.
"If I thought I could help you, would you be willing to do something I might ask," I went on.
"Would a hungry man—eat?" retorted Martin with a grin.
"Then give me your signature." I thrust a piece of paper and a pencil into his hands.
"My signature!" repeated Martin. "But, Good Lord! How can that help my case?"
"Never mind," I retorted. "If you're innocent it can't hurt you, and I may be able to make it do you some good. Take a chance."
He wrote for a moment, then handed the paper to me. "It's a funny business," he remarked, "but there's my moniker. What are you going to do with it, if one may ask? Are you collecting autographs of potential as well as convicted criminals?"
"I'm going to use it to find out whether you did the job or some one else," I informed him, and rose.
"If you can do it from that, I'm as good as cleared," he said with an attempt at lightness. "If you had a sample of my aunt's handwriting I suppose you could tell for sure if she was murdered or committed suicide?"
"Possibly," I agreed.
"Here's a note she wrote," he informed me, taking an envelope from his coat and handing it to me. I took it with great readiness and felt that luck was with me.
"And now, as one good turn deserves another," said Martin, "do something for me."
"Yours to command," said I.
He drew some currency from his pocket and handed me a bill.
"Send the little girl some flowers for me," he requested, and flushed slightly as he spoke.
I promised, rose, and crossed to where Bryce and Johnson still talked.
"I gave Dan your bottle," I told him. "Better look at it before you go any further. I think it will interest you."
He nodded and went on with his conversation. I left the room and went straight to the Record office, where I left the plate I had made of the envelope to be developed in the art-room. Then I went out to get a bite of lunch, and send Gertrude Riley Martin's bouquet.
BY the time I had obtained my lunch and gone back to the office for a print of the plate I made at the station, it was between two and three o'clock. I decided that if I was to see Dr. Herman I had better be about it; so I caught a car to that part of town where Miss Riley had said he lived.
I found 960 Madison Street to be a small brick dwelling, in the front window of which I could see the doctor's gilt-lettered sign, while above a side door on the porch swung another with the word "office" printed below.
I turned in the gate, went up the path, and rang the bell on the indicated door. A moment later the doctor himself responded, and asked me to walk in.
The room, which had once been of good size, had been cut in two by a partition, so as to divide it into a waiting-room and a consulting office beyond.
It was to the farther apartment that Herman led me, and waved me to a chair before seating himself at a desk upon which was a typewriter with a sheet of paper on the roll. Other closely-written sheets lay at one side of the machine, and I imagined that he had been actively at work when I rang.
I introduced myself briefly, stating my name and occupation, and adding that I had come in the hope of being accorded a personal interview, which I could write up for the Record. As I finished speaking the physician frowned.
"Really, Mr. Glace, there is little to be said of the case. I think I saw you at the apartments last night, did I not? Then doubtless you saw as much as I."
"Of the general details, yes. But that isn't the point, doctor," I returned. "I am sent here to get a professional statement from you. Naturally, I want to make good with my editor."
I began to fear that my last call was going to be the difficult one of the three. The doctor was palpably indisposed to discuss the affair, and I wondered how I was going to get a sample of his writing if I couldn't even make him talk.
"But of what good is all that?"
"Did you see the Record this morning?" I asked.
"Yes, I read it," he responded indifferently.
"Then you know our theory of the case—that it was done by some one other than the nurse."
"It was," said the doctor with conviction. "Miss Riley is a very estimable young woman. I have every confidence in her. I am positive that she is totally innocent of any wrong. I regard her arrest as a blunder of the authorities."
"In the light of her statements, which you yourself heard, they could, however, scarcely do otherwise, doctor, you must admit."
"Miss Riley, unfortunately for herself, told the whole truth," said the man. "Her story seemed sincere to me."
"Then her story about walking to the little park is in your judgment correct?" I coaxed him on.
"Perfectly. I know positively that she was in the habit of going out in the evenings for a little rest and exercise. She had been very attentive to her patient, and had felt the effects upon her own condition. Recently I myself had advised that she have an hour or two off each evening. That is, since Mrs. Greenig's recovery was assured.
"On several occasions she told me that she spent her time in the park, where it was dark and cool, and Mrs. Greenig confirmed the same statements as well. Unfortunately, however, she could not substantiate the fact last night."
"Then her statements about the wills were correct as well?"
I seemed to have got him started at last.
"Absolutely correct, Mr. Glace. The girl felt her innocence, and, having nothing to conceal, spoke without reservation, never suspecting that she was being entrapped into what looked like incriminating replies. At one time I tried to catch her eye and warn her by a glance, because I feared where her frankness might lead with the police."
"How about this nephew of Mrs. Greenig's, Dr. Herman?" I questioned.
The doctor took some time before he replied. He seemed to be making up his mind just how much to say.
"He's a good deal of a rake, I imagine," he said at length; "what people are accustomed to call a man about town. I do not know that he is naturally vicious; but he has lived from his aunt's bounty for years, until she grew tired of his course and cut him off with the proverbial shilling, as I understand."
"Did you know that he had been arrested shortly after noon to-day on suspicion of knowing too much about the case?" I asked. I saw that I could keep him talking if I could only keep up his interest.
"No. Is that so?" he exclaimed, with a sudden accession of awakened attention. "I had, of course, no way of knowing," he added in the next breath, as though he regretted the startled excitement of his first reply.
"Yes, he had the missing door-key to the flat," I informed him. "Said it had been sent him anonymously in this morning's mail."
"Rather far-fetched, don't you think?" said the doctor after an interval of thought.
"The police think that he mailed it to himself," I added.
"I fear I would be inclined to the same view," said Herman.
"Now as to the actual cause of death, doctor"—I returned to my original theme—"just how would you advise me to say in my story that Mrs. Greenig was killed?"
"She died of hemorrhage, of course, Mr. Glace."
"Yes, I know; but can't we get it a bit more technical than that?"
"Well, couldn't we describe which vessel, vein, or artery, or whatever it was that was cut?"
I had suddenly conceived of a way to get what I was after, and I decided to push it to a successful end. Dual had told me to get a sample of this man's writing. Personally I couldn't see at the time what possible bearing the chirography of the dead woman's physician could have; but, knowing Dual as I did, I knew equally well that he had a reason for everything he said—a reason which, as a rule, I couldn't see until long afterward. Therefore, I was determined to get what he wanted and trust the results to him.
Herman smiled again. "Of course, one could say that the median basilic vein was the one opened, and that death was the result of hemorrhage from that," he admitted; "but I hardly see that it would add any particular interest to a newspaper account. Not one person in fifty would know where the vessel was."
I began to write it down, then I paused. "Let's see—median ba-ba— How do you spell the thing, anyway?"
"B-a-s-i-l-i-c," he replied.
"B-a-s-c," I began, and then laughed. I handed my pad over to him with a smile, which I tried to make childlike and bland. "Write it down for me, doctor, so I'll be sure to have it right."
Without further comment he took the pad and wrote the words plainly below the notes I had made, then passed it back to me.
"There, Mr. Glace," he remarked. "Outside the profession they won't know what you are talking about, but at least your editor should be satisfied."
"Thank you, doctor," I said as I took the page and put it carefully away in my pocket-folder. "I suppose the median basilic is the vein just below the bend of the elbow on the inner surface of the forearm, the one which was cut?"
"Naturally—the one which was cut, Mr. Glace."
"How long in your opinion would it take a woman to bleed to death from that sort of a cut?" I next asked.
"It would depend upon several things," said the debtor rather nervously, I thought.
He glanced openly at the typewriter and back to me. It grew upon me that he desired to terminate the interview, and was endeavoring to give me a tacit hint. I didn't take it, as I wasn't yet through.
"In the first place," he went on after a slight pause, "all that would be necessary to induce death would be for enough blood to escape so that the heart would not have sufficient remaining upon which to contract.
"When hemorrhage reaches that stage death results—even though a great deal of blood still remains in the vessels themselves. In a woman already weakened by a protracted illness it would not take very long; thirty minutes at most, perhaps."
"So that if the cut was made about ten o'clock the murderer would have had time to satisfy himself that his work was complete and escape by a quarter to eleven—am I right?"
For a moment I fancied that he had not followed my question; then, just as I was about to repeat it, he answered: "You are perfectly right, Mr. Glace."
"That should cover the ground I was to ask about," I said, "but there is a question which I should like to ask you on my own behalf. Is it true that you were engaged to marry the nurse?"
Herman sat forward in his chair, as though thrown up by a spring, and stared at me for as much as a minute before he made any reply. During the time his face paled slightly, and he seemed to be struggling with some inner emotion.
Presently, however, he spoke. "Mr. Glace, I consider any such question as that a rank impertinence. Is there no single detail of a man's private business which you fellows consider sufficiently personal to be left alone? It's getting to a pass where the press has altogether too much liberty.
"My personal feelings for Miss Riley do not, so far as I can see, concern the reading public in any way. So far as the rest of this interview is concerned, I have tried to give you what you asked, although I thought it a waste of valuable time; but this is a different thing, and I shall reply to your question by simply stating that it is no business of yours."
Personally I really agreed with the man. As a reporter I was satisfied that I had verified Miss Riley's statements made to me at the jail.
"The reason I asked was because Miss Riley so stated to me this morning," I made explanation, "and I naturally desired to verify it with you."
Suddenly the doctor smiled. "Then surely as a gentleman I may not question the lady's word," said he.
"Was it while she was nursing Mrs. Greenig that you became engaged?" I asked.
Herman looked for a moment as though he were tempted to hurl the typewriter at my head, but evidently decided that violence would do no good.
"I told you that I didn't care to discuss the matter," he said shortly, "and, as I have work to do, and you are evidently minded to pursue your unpleasant line of questioning, I would suggest that we call this interview at an end; I am sorry to seem rude, but I will not tolerate any more prying into my affairs."
I rose and picked up my hat. "Did you ever use fruit juices in the treatment of typhoid?" I inquired.
The doctor shot me a puzzled glance. Apparently he didn't see the reason for my abrupt change of front. "Yes," he replied sullenly, "I have."
"On Mrs. Greenig's case?"
"Yes. I believe that they were responsible for her change from a condition apparently predicating certain death to one promising a complete recovery. Why?"
"Only that I have been reading an article on the subject in the last twenty-four hours," I answered, "and that I have a friend who advocated such things to me quite a while ago before I had ever seen anything in print to that effect. I naturally felt an interest in the matter when I read the article, as it coincided with his views, and I thought I'd like to know what you thought."
"Is your friend a physician?"
"Not in the sense you mean," I responded. "He is a scientist, however, of remarkable ability, to my way of thinking at least."
"I should like to meet him," said Herman. "Where does he live?"
"Here in the city I am sure he, too, would enjoy meeting you. I shall mention the matter of our talk to him when I see him. Let me thank you, doctor, for the interview and apologize for what you quite naturally deemed my impertinence. We newspapermen have to do lots of things as reporters which we would never think of doing as individual citizens."
I thought of the folded sheet of paper which I had purloined at the station, and I felt that I had spoken the truth in what I had said.
The doctor rose and offered me his hand. "Suppose we forget all that, Glace," he said. "Naturally, you can appreciate that I feel a bit touchy over the affair with the girl whom I expected to marry resting under such a suspicion as is placed upon Miss Riley just now. Her arrest came upon me as a totally unexpected complication of the matter, and I have been deeply worried ever since."
"But she'll be cleared of that," I returned.
"I sincerely hope so," said Herman. "It's a dreadful situation for her to find herself in through no fault of hers. Yes, at any cost the girl must be cleared."
I noticed that he spoke with a sudden fire, which at the time I couldn't understand. He seemed to be a person who fluctuated between rapidly changing moods.
"Her mere accusation will not affect your attitude toward her, will it?" I suggested.
"That will depend upon her," he responded. "I shall marry her if she will consent, if that's what you mean."
A car was coming along the street, so I said good afternoon and went down to intercept it. After I was aboard I sank into a seat and gave myself up to a little thought. I had surely had a busy day, but in the end I had obtained all Dual had asked me to get.
I wondered what Semi had been at while I was working on the task he had set for me. All at once I smiled. Semi and I were like body and mind when we worked on a case. Like the mind—he sat enthroned in his strange abode and directed the activities which brought in the details for him to piece together into the perfect whole. Like the body—I ran hither and yon at his behest and did his bidding, and fetched and carried, marveling at the results he got out of the things I did.
I got out the sheet of paper on which the doctor had written the name of the vein, and opened it out to see what his writing looked like and to wonder how Dual read the souls of men from the writing of their hands. For a moment I didn't know whether to laugh or swear.
I have already mentioned that Dr. Herman had been using a typewriter when I entered his office, and that we began our talk immediately. Then, when I asked him to write the name of the blood-vessel, he had taken the pad and held it in his hand as he wrote.
Well, as a result of those seemingly trivial facts I had got more than I hoped for, or had any right to expect, for, besides the written words on the page, there was the carbon-smudged imprint of a thumb! Doubtless the doctor had been arranging his ribbon on the machine, got some of the stuff on his hands, and failed to wash it off. This was the result. It seemed to be my day for getting thumb-prints, all right. I chuckled as I thought that this at least would surprise Dual.
I DROPPED off the car at the office of the Record, and went up-stairs to pound off the story of Martin's arrest. I rather expected that Smithson would have some characteristic sarcasm on tap for me about my absence, and I was not far wrong.
When I carried my copy to his desk, he took it in silence and glanced over the first page before he looked up.
"Why is it," he snorted, "that every time you get out on a big assignment, you leave this office in the dark until you get good and ready to report?"
I was tired after a hard, hot day, so I dropped into a chair. "Now don't go to howling until the finish," I said, grinning. "I haven't been here because there were better places to be."
Smithson tapped the copy I had just turned in. "This is all rehash," he declared with positive emphasis. "Every evening sheet will have it spread across the front page. I thought you were making a roar last night that we were in for a scoop?"
"Did you ever know me to make a crack like that and not come across with the stuff?" I inquired. It seemed to me that he ought to know that I meant what I said, by this time.
Smithson grinned. No, son," said he, "I never did. But your methods get on my nerves. A city editor likes to know a little bit about how the work on his sheet is being done; while you insist upon playing it alone."
I made myself a cigarette and got it to going nicely; and then I got to my feet.
"Where are you going now?" said Smithson suspiciously.
"I am now going to get the real murderer's name," I announced as I started for the door. "After I get it, you'll have your scoop."
"Go to the devil!" said Smithson.
Instead, I went to Semi Dual. Henri met me when I got to the Urania, and, motioning me to follow, led me back through the inner room to a part of the place I had never visited before, up a short flight of steps and down a passage lined with potted plants.
As I advanced I became aware of the soft sound of running water, and pretty soon we came out into a vaulted dome of green glass; and I halted in amazement.
The room was nearly circular, and in the center was a pool some fifty feet across, which danced and shimmered and sparkled in the cool, subdued light. About the sides were potted shrubs, and flowering vines climbed up a trellis inside the transparent walls. The twitter of flitting birds came down to my ears from the vaulted dome.
In the pool was a rocky little island, from the side of which gushed a stream of water, which cascaded into the pool below in a rippling, tinkling flood.
The place was cool and delicious, after the heat of the outer July day. It was quiet and restful with its yellow-green light and its shimmering water. I drew in a great breath of delight.
At first I did not see a sign of Dual anywhere. Then there came a splash, an agitation of the water in the pool; and Semi's body darted slanting around the island and shot across toward where I stood enjoying the unexpectedness of it all.
Dual shook the water from his head and smiled into my face. "Bonan vesperon, mia amika," said he in Esperanto, then in English: "How do you like my new swimming pool?"
"Good evening, yourself," I responded. "It looks great, and very much as though it was cool."
"It is," laughed Dual. "Come on in; the water's fine."
"I'd like to, all right," I admitted, "but I guess I hadn't better go swimming to-day. I've got a lot of things to show you and a lot to tell."
"Time enough for that afterward," said Dual. "Henri will take your clothes. You look shot and tired. A bath will do you good and prepare you for what we have before us to-night."
The temptation was too great to be resisted. I slipped out of my clothing, and, tossing it to Henri took a header into the clear, green water of the pool.
It was delightful, and as I splashed about in the cool liquid, I laughed in pure enjoyment of the rest I felt.
"Great, isn't it?" said Semi. "I thought I'd surprise you when you came."
"It reminds me of another bath you once gave me in Teheran," I said, rolling over on my back, and paddling my hands in the cooling flood.
"There is one innovation which makes it very different from the other," said Semi. "Wait."
In a long, sweeping stroke, he slid to one side of the pool, and apparently pressed a button in the rim of the bath. Instantly gentle little needles of sensation played over my skin. In surprise I turned over and stood up, and, as my feet touched the floor, the sensation grew. I lifted first one foot, then the other. Dual was grinning like a boy.
"Turn it off," I begged, still dancing. "Plain water suits me best."
The current died, and Semi swam over to me.
"All the same it will do you good," he remarked. "I've had men working on this all summer. It was finished a week ago. Only at the last did I think about arranging it so as to charge the pool with a weak current of electricity.
"I took a good deal of time in planning out the entire arrangement, and then I had to persuade the building people to let me go ahead; but it's worth all the effort to be able to enjoy it every day. I have it so arranged that I can heat the water in winter, so that I have a year-round plunge-bath.
"Any time you wish, come up and take a swim. Henri will let you in, if I am busy. Now, if you are ready—I see Henri has brought in a robe for you—we'll slip into the things and get to work finishing up your case."
We climbed put of the pool, and Semi led me back to the room where we always sat and talked.
Henri turned off somewhere on the way, and by the time Semi had offered me a cigarette, a little table slid noiselessly in through the wall, with its burden of cakes, fruits, and Dual's peculiar blend of fruit juice nectar.
As we lunched, Semi asked for my story of the day, which I began at once, after requesting that Henri bring my coat, which contained the various samples of writing.
Dual nodded and went on eating a peach. I hesitated in my tale.
"Go on," he directed, and then smiled. "Oh, I called Henri, friend Glace. I've been educating him to come when I wish it, and he is growing quite proficient. See; he is approaching now."
The servant came in, and Semi told him to get my things.
I shook a bewildered head, and he laughed. "Why wonder? I call you to me from a far greater distance," he reminded. "Why think it so wonderful that I can summon my own man?"
"It was its unexpectedness," I said in explanation, "though by now I ought to be used to that up here. It seems to me everything partakes of the same quality. Even this food is different. A very little seems to satisfy. I've meant to ask you about that."
"It's because it is alive," said Dual. He held up his peach. "The atomic corpuscles of this bit of fruit are still in a state of vibration; the cell life of the peach is still intact. As a result, a little of it satisfies the body's needs far better than the half-dead food of the modern markets. But get on with your report."
I told him everything which had occurred, and at the end I got out the specimens of handwriting and the thumb-marked sheet of paper which had been folded about the key.
Semi took them, rose to press a button, which caused the table to vanish through the wall, and walked over to the desk, where he spread the various papers out in front of him. As on former occasions, he had recourse to his powerful magnifying glass.
The afternoon sun streamed in through the window and fell about him as he sat at the great desk, poring over the pages, to all appearances oblivious to all else.
The whimsical idea woke in my brain that the light hovered in a sort of halo about the noble head of the man. At least it brought out with cameolike distinctness his splendid features as he bent forward above the samples of different writing and the finger-marks which I had brought, scanning them through the powerful glass.
At that moment I felt a great admiration and love for Semi Dual. He lived apart from the world, yet, because of his love for mankind, devoted all his abilities to helping those in trouble, and to searching out the true causes of criminal acts without asking a price for his work.
True, one may argue that he had everything necessary for his needs. That is true. Yet I could name many who had far more, and still devoted their time and wealth to the furtherance of purely selfish ends.
As I sat and watched his keen face it dawned upon me more strongly than ever that it was my rare privilege to sit in the presence of a true superman and call him my friend.
Semi rose and crossed to a cabinet, from which he took the plates of the thumb-print on the bottle, and as he reseated himself he smiled at me.
There was approbation in that smile, and I felt its glow steal through me like the warmth of wine. Semi could always say more in a glance than I could in words. I imagined that I could now understand what made men willing to follow a beloved leader to death. I sat up, and waited anxiously while he continued his examination, now and then making a mark or a note on a sheet of blank paper, again peering through the glass at some peculiarity of the writing.
The strangeness of it all came over me in a flood. Somewhere out in the sunshine, or hiding, perhaps, or already under arrest, was the man who had taken life last night. Perhaps he was torn by fear; perhaps he fancied himself safe, and walked boldly about. But, no matter what his frame of mind might be, it would not change the result.
While he gloated in confidence or suffered in fear and remorse, here sat a man—fashioned even as was he—with a glass and a pencil and some pieces of paper, who, by and by, was going to put out his finger and say: "Behold the man!"—and it would be true.
Was Semi Dual really Destiny? The idea was whimsical, yet I did not smile. At least, he was an unimpassioned force, working for the ends of immutable justice, with my bits of written paper and his own wonderful brain as the tools. The lines of his own countryman, Omar, came into my mind, and I whispered them softly to myself. Dual took the very words out of my mouth, as it were.
" 'The moving finger writes, and, having writ, moves on'—and writes again," said he, pushing back the several specimens of chirography and turning to me with a smile. "Gordon—you have done a good day's work. In these little samples of writing the fingers of four souls have writ their messages to the world, and told the story of a crime."
"Then you know?" I cried.
"I have proof," Dual corrected. "Myself, I was certain last night. Now I am ready to support my claims to the world of material men, who must always have 'proof.' "
"But you know who murdered the woman last night, Dual?"
Dual smiled again at my excitement. "I know," he replied.
"Then your astrological calculations must have told you," I cried.
"They did," said Semi Dual.
"So that you could recognize him even then?"
"Shall I describe the real criminal to you?" my friend volunteered.
"Go on," I begged him. "I shall never understand it; but it is wonderful."
"He is a man of medium build, very dark complexion, bearded, quick temper, selfish to a degree, a materialist, fond of money and unscrupulous as to how he gets it, so long as he does. Yet, he occupies a position of great trust, and few people know the real man behind a suave and smiling mask. What does that convey to your mind, friend Glace?"
"It suggests an almost unbelievable possibility!" I exclaimed.
Dual smiled a little sadly, I thought. "There is nothing unbelievable of human frailty," said he, and turned again to his desk.
He drew a sheet of paper to him and wrote rapidly a few lines, selected an envelope, and enclosed what he had written, sealed it and wrote an address. As he finished Henri appeared.
Dual handed him the note, and told him to deliver it to the written address, and to be sure to bring back an answer when he returned. Then, as the man left the room, he swung back to me.
"I have sent the murderer an invitation to call upon me to-night," he explained. "When he arrives I shall prove to you that all I have said is correct. In the mean time let me outline to you a bit of what your work has resulted in revealing. After that we will prepare to receive the guilty man when he arrives."
"And you think he will come?" I queried. It seemed unlikely to me that any man in his senses would walk into the trap.
But Semi only smiled once again. "He will come," he assured. "Now draw a chair over here by the desk. From the amount of doubt-waves you generate, you should have been named Thomas, my friend."
In abashed silence I drew my chair up beside Semi Dual.
"TO begin with," said Semi, as he spread before him the several pieces of paper, "let us take up each sample of chirography and see what story the 'moving finger' told.
"First, here is the note which Mrs. Greenig wrote to her nephew, and he handed to you. This is the writing of a person prostrated by illness. Note its wavy lines, the unevenness of the letters. Yet, on the whole, it denotes a person of mental strength, and its lines slant slightly upward across the page. The writer was convalescent from her malady, though, of course, we already know that. But there was no thought in her mind of suicide. The handwriting of a person contemplating self-murder always slants downward across the page. We may therefore cast this specimen aside.
"Secondly, here is a strong yet delicate chirography. There is nothing in it to indicate crime. The person who wrote it is lovable in most ways, and inclined to be generous. Such an individual would be apt to give the other fellow the benefit of the doubt in trying to judge him, and to show mercy so far as a sense of justice would allow. Suffering or pain would always appeal to this individual, at least in the concrete example. In hunting for one criminal we may eliminate this person, adding that the writer has evidently a high regard for the truth."
"All of which supports your prior deductions concerning the nurse," said I.
"Exactly," said Semi Dual. "I only gave you the reading of her note in order to show how everything points to her innocence."
He picked up another piece of paper and held it in his hand. "Here we have another type of writing altogether. If you will look at it closely you will notice that in some ways it resembles two others which I have explained to you in the past.
"In the first place, observe that the last letter in the first name is a bit higher than most people make it. In the second place, the loop of the capital beginning the first name is made very large compared to the other letters in the signature. Also the second letter of the first word is not joined to the capital, which indicates that the writer removed his pencil from the sheet after making the first letter, and then wrote the rest of the word.
"There is a slight difference in the height of the three loops of the 'M,' the last loop being the highest of the three. Again, while the small letters are the same size to the end of the word and cannot be said to taper, the pressure on the pencil was lightened as each one was written, so that the end of the word appears lighter in color than the beginning.
"This holds good in the surname as well as in the first; and you will notice that the top of each 'a' in both the words is broken—that is, the loop of the 'a' is not quite closed. The writer's pencil did not go up quite far enough to join the loop to the upright, thus leaving the break.
"Now a person who writes that sort of a hand is apt to be of a more or less peculiar personality. He will be a person who is generous, but frequently in the wrong direction. He will be proud, with a good, strong self-respect; he may even be a little given to boasting in a mild way, more from a desire to make people pay attention to him than from any genuine or inherent egotism.
"Under natural conditions he will not be a person liable to criminal impulses, and if he commits a crime, it will be one of impulse rather than of deliberate intent, and will be followed by the most bitter remorse. In the main he will be an individual of high ideals, but with a lack of perseverance in following out his purposes. He will be apt to waste his time and squander his money, unless he very carefully watches himself. For designing persons he will be an easy mark. Yet with a proper impulse and motive he can control all this.
"His main weakness, in fact, is a poor power of control in his individual habits, which really hurt no one but himself—this is indicated by the form of the letter 'M.' He will be apt to have fits of great elation, and equal depression. Such a person needs the help of a companion who is cool-headed and sympathetic. So much for him how.
"In the fourth specimen of writing we now find a very different type displayed. The writing is primarily heavy to an unusual degree, as you can easily notice, and each word diminishes in size from the first letter to the last, but in size, observe, not in the pressure on the pencil, which is even throughout.
"Persons who write such a hand are almost certain to be exceedingly selfish, unless there is some other redeeming characteristic in their writing; and I do not find it here. Such people are usually materialists in the most pronounced sense. They make good scientists because of that tendency.
"Again, you will notice, there is a slight break—visible only under the microscope or a powerful glass—in the bottom of the letter 'a.' If there were other looped letters in the name here written, they would doubtless show similar breaks. In other words, by a strange coincidence, we have the exact reverse condition of the formation of the 'a' in this signature from the one we examined last.
"Such breaks in a letter are not apt to indicate a latent criminality of impulse, and in a naturally selfish and material person they are dangerous, to say the least. Such writers are apt to be very easily tempted where money is at stake.
"I wish that he had written some word containing a 't,' in order that I might have seen how he would have crossed it. Reasoning, however, from the words here shown, we may deduce that it would only confirm my belief showing indications of a personality which would not shrink from committing murder to gain a wholly selfish end."
"But, Dual," I cried in excitement, "that is the signature of a man whose mission in life is to save life!"
"Do men always live up to their missions?" my friend inquired in his calm way.
"But he was the woman's own physician!"
"Well—go on," said Dual.
"Well, look what it involves."
"Does that alter the true reading of the facts?" said Semi slowly. "The moving finger writes. We may read, if we wish, what it has written, Gordon, either of good or bad, of joy or sorrow; but when it has once written, nothing can alter that immutable record. That is the law of all life."
"I looked at it with the eyes of the average man, I suppose," I began. "Not all of us can be Semi Duals."
"My friend," Dual took me up, "in a way it grieves me that you should always feel that I am criticizing when I explain. That is the wrong attitude to hold, Gordon. All men, if they wish, may be Semi Duals—you—every one. Semi Dual is only a soul which has seen much, lived much, suffered much, and thereby, please God, learned a little of the truth.
"To you and all men he desires only to be the mouthpiece of that truth in so much as you care to hear. And remember this: You can say nothing to offend me, unless you wish, my brother, and I know you well enough to know that you do not—wish."
"Heaven forbid!" I cried, abashed at the ever-fresh wonder of each new glimpse into the man's soul. "Sometimes, I fancy, I grow confused at the way you calmly turn the light into places where light has never been, and show up the ghastly relics of so-called respectable souls."
Dual smiled slightly. His smiles seemed to be but facial ripples set up by the thoughts which agitated his mind.
"Each of us has his own little burial-ground of mistakes and disgraces, Gordon. Confucius said that there is no disgrace in falling. The disgrace lies in not getting up again. Shall I go on with my lecture of proof?"
"Is there yet further proof of the man's rascality?"
"Much more," said Dual. "The strongest part. The part which will convict. See here." He drew across to him the plate from the thumb-print on the bottle, the folded paper I had stolen at the station, and the paper on which Dr. Herman had written the name of the vein.
"We are reasonably sure that the finger-marks on the bottle are those of the real criminal, so we will pass that by now," continued Dual. "Now, on the paper you got at the station there are two different finger-marks—"
"Two!" I exclaimed.
"Two," repeated Semi Dual. "One quite plain, and the others so faint that only the glass brings them out with any distinctness at all. Furthermore, your picture of the envelope which contained the key is fortunately a very good negative and shows the picture of yet another print. It corresponds to the second one on the paper, so far as I can see, only it is more distinct—such, in fact, as a person with not overclean hands might make in holding an envelope while tearing it across one end."
"And that is the way it was opened," I threw in.
"The picture shows that," smiled Semi.
"And the thumb-marks are those—" I began in excited surmise.
"Of Martin," Dual completed the remark.
"Then, if they don't match those on the bottle, that will be enough to free the chap right away," I followed up the thought.
"If you were to telephone to Inspector Bryce no doubt he would tell you as much by now. They have doubtless made Martin give them a thumb-print after seeing the bottle you took back," said Dual.
"The real interest in all this," he continued, "is that the plainer mark on the paper corresponds line for line with that taken from the bottle last night. This would indicate that the murderer had that piece of paper in his hands at some time."
"But why did he send the key to Martin?" I cried.
"Primarily to get rid of it, of course," Dual answered. "Secondly, to cast suspicion on Martin if he was foolish enough to return it. You, yourself, saw that it accomplished just this."
"But look how easily you read through the thing," I began, and stopped at the quizzical expression in Dual's eyes.
"The person in question did not expect me to be called into the case, my dear Gordon, nor could he," said Semi Dual. "His materialistic mind would never consider a mystic as a possible element in the affair. Consequently you are taking a wrong hypothesis."
He tossed the folded sheet aside and picked up the one with the carbon-smudged print, which I had brought from my last interview.
"Here," he continued, "is the last link which completes the chain and binds our criminal fast in the eyes of the law. By an irony of fate, he gave it to you himself. This print of a thumb, which you yourself witnessed in the making, corresponds to that on the folded paper and that on the bottle of last night.
"There is no court of law which will refuse such evidence, and I am now safe in making the charges which last night would have sounded ridiculous, unless backed by some such support. Now let us put all these things in a safe place, and get ready for our visitor when he comes. Suppose we go up to the observatory a bit."
I rose and followed him up the spiral stairs to the room at the top, where he had his great telescope and all his other instruments of scientific purpose. He led me to one end of the apartment and paused before a large and very complicated machine.
So far as I could see, it consisted of a bewildering mass of great diaphragms and a series of tubes and pipes, wheels and springs and wires. Its purpose did not dawn upon me at the moment; not, in fact, until Semi Dual himself explained.
"This," said he, "is the universalion, the machine which plays the harmony of etheric vibration, and is operated by the same force whose rhythmic measures it gives forth. You heard its music, on that night before Mrs. Parton started for Europe on her eventful trip."
"I remember," I answered. "It is a frightfully complicated-looking device. How does it work?"
Dual smiled. He stepped close to the mechanism and ran a loving hand over its several parts.
"In the main," said he, "it consists of a series of diaphragms for receiving the vibrations of the interplanetary ether, as scientists call it, or pranic vibration or force, as we transcendentalists have named it for ourselves. These it conducts to reproducing magnets, weakly charged with electricity.
"These magnets in turn affect a series of small vibrators, which magnify and intensify the received waves and conduct them to the sounders of a series of pipes, something like those of an organ, as you can see. These sounders are built very much after the principle of the reproducer of a phonograph.
"There is a tube for every note of the musical scale and every tone of the human voice. These are used for ordinary organ or reed effects and for speaking parts. Another part of the machine will, by a modification of the idea, give the effect of stringed instruments of all sorts.
"If the machine is merely switched on as it is, it will give off a sound which is the component of all the vibrations of the planetary ether. This is what you have already heard it play. If, however, a record be inserted in the holder, the ordinary vibrations will be so broken up as to reproduce the melody desired; and in that way any selection, instrumental or vocal, can be played, for any natural sound reproduced with lifelike fidelity.
"A series of buttons control the machine from any place where a transmitter is installed, and an automatic feeder will remove and insert new records in the machine in any order in which they may be arranged in a carrier device, so that I can enjoy a concert at any time by simply pressing the proper button on the switch."
"It's a remarkable piece of work," I declared. Actually I felt almost in awe of the thing. Once more I marveled at the brain of the man which had evolved this wonderful mechanism.
"But what is its purpose in to-night's work?" I inquired of Dual, who was busy inserting a series of small, numbered disks in what I judged was the feeding carrier of the machine.
"I made some new records this afternoon," said Semi, "which I intend exhibiting to our expected caller. They should put him into a proper mental condition for doing what I intend compelling him to do."
I sat down on a chair and watched him in silent wonder. Always he was springing something new. One never knew what to expect with Semi Dual. Therein, in part, lay his grip on one—his ability never to pall on a friend.
For a few minutes Semi worked about the universalion, as he called it, then moved toward the stairs, and we again descended to the inner room, where he immediately began changing the globes on his electrics from plain glass to a violet-tinted shade.
When he had quite finished he turned on the lights and pulled down the blinds. The effect was indescribably beautiful at first, but became in a moment strangely unnatural. To me in my chair it seemed that I was bathed in a sea of intense purple light, and at the same moment I became aware of the odor of violets, subtle and sweet.
"In Heaven's name, what now?" I gasped.
"Purple light—the test of the light," said Semi, again smiling. "It is trying to one of a material mind. In the great esoteric or occult brotherhoods, Gordon, a great many tests are applied to the candidate desiring admission. One of these is the test of 'the purple light.' He who cannot stand; this test is not eligible to the higher brotherhood, the inner circle, as it were."
I shook my head. Dual was standing very straight, with face partly lifted to the glow of violet rays from above. I felt awed and strangely thrilled by the sight. Almost he looked like some great priest in his white-and-purple robe.
"It's too deep for me, I'm afraid," I managed to say at length.
Dual seemed to come back from an abstraction with a start. "Every individual soul throws off vibratory emanations which correspond to varying degrees of the light spectrum," he said slowly, "and can be perceived by the trained soul as various colored lights. Such personal color atmospheres are known as auras. They are the personal atmosphere of every soul.
"Even those who cannot sense them as light may be affected by them. To a great measure they explain the instinctive likes and dislikes which occur between men and women, and are felt, but not understood. If a man of low qualities, hence of low vibration and poor auric color, be placed in an atmosphere of the higher sort, he will be rendered uncomfortable in proportion to the difference in his own and the other atmosphere. Suppose a pure materialist, a man with a red aura—a murderer, with his mind full of his crime—were plunged into a purple light, which is at the opposite extreme of the scale, the sufferings of that man would be excruciating indeed."
"And you intend using its effect on the murderer to-night?" I exclaimed. "Now I see. But what of the odor of violets?"
"The odor is harmonious, helps to complete the effect—the violet is a symbol of purity, as is the violet light. The effect is simply produced by a container of scent set under an indrawing ventilator in the wall. I think that our stage arrangements may now be called complete, so all we have to do is to wait." He switched off the lights and raised the blind, and once more the summer twilight filled the room.
Dual seated himself at his desk and lit a cigarette. "A bit of material indulgence will not hurt me, as I am to be exposed to violet rays for some time. Better have a cocktail or a brandy and soda, Glace. It will stimulate your vibratory rate temporarily and bring you nearer up to the key."
I nodded, and he rang for Henri. To me it seemed that he was deliberately courting the material now. Yet when Henri came he ordered a brandy and soda, which I had mentally decided to ask for, and then smiled at my quizzical stare.
"Force of habit," said Semi Dual.
"Do you know," I observed as I sipped my brandy and soda, "that Martin told me to-day that he was in love with the nurse, and that it was that more than anything which made him decide to go to work?"
"His handwriting would indicate a more or less romantic tendency," said Semi Dual. "However, she ought to make him a good mate. She has well-defined qualities which he lacks, and would have a good balancing effect on his impulsive qualities. All the cynics in the world to the contrary, the most successful men are those who have had some good woman to climb upward beside them, hand in hand."
"The only trouble will be that the girl inherits Mrs. Greenig's wealth, and that will hold Martin off," I opined.
"The girl will attend to that unless I am mistaken," said Semi, grinning at the end of his cigarette. "I rather fancy that girl will refuse to have anything to do with the money. Now, you had better get into your street clothes to receive our visitor."
I hastened to don my own garments, and then returned to my seat. Dual seemed to have fallen into a reverie of some sort, so I sat and gazed out into the deepening twilight, and thought my own thoughts.
By and by the great clock in the corner struck eight times. Dual rose and drew the blinds and switched on the lights, at the same time starting the spiral ventilator to revolving, then returned to his seat.
Under the violet-purple light his face looked strange, pallid, ghastly, unnatural. I suppose my own looked the same. The lights in the room were so arranged that the bulbs themselves did not show, being set in hanging baskets and oriental lanterns, which threw their radiance upward, so that the effect was of light streaming from the ceiling in a purple flood. Only the golden apple in Dual's life-sized bronze Venus glowed faintly yellow.
I found myself breathing more rapidly than was my wont. The atmosphere of the place was getting on my nerves already. Dual looked at me and smiled. Suddenly the chimes of the annunciator rang out. Steps sounded in the other room. Henri appeared at the door and bowed.
"Monsieur has arrived," he announced and stood aside.
A figure appeared behind him, and a moment later Dr. Heinrich Herman entered the room.
DUAL rose and greeted his guest with the greatest courtesy and offered him a chair.
"It is always a pleasure to me to meet a brother scientist," he remarked. "My friend Glace, whom you have already met, tells me that we entertain kindred views on the use of fruit juices in the treatment and prevention of disease."
The doctor took a chair and glanced about the room. I fancied he did not seem entirely at ease. He swept the apartment with a curious eye and glanced up to the source of the peculiar purple light, then turned back to his host.
"Yes, yes, just so," he replied, as though but slightly interested in the subject. Again his eyes began sweeping the room.
"You are noticing my lighting arrangement and the color of the light, no doubt," said Semi, taking his chair.
"Yes," admitted the doctor, with more animation. "It is most peculiar."
"I have found that it has a stimulating effect upon mental activity," explained Dual. "One can think more rapidly and with more certain effect in such a light. It is almost an artificial moonlight in its effects, and stimulates the higher faculties and ideals."
"Rather risky, however, is it not? Sort of burning your candle at both ends? I have heard that the moon makes lunatics, and I know that purple light has recently been proven destructive to germ life," said Herman, more at his ease.
"Yes, if continued for long at a time," returned Dual. "The fact is, I am rather trying an experiment than making a steady use of the light. I thought I would let you test its effects with me to-night, if you don't mind, and see if it would affect you as it does me—" he paused, and then added:—"in the interests of truth. By the way, let me give you a sample of my preparation of fruit juices."
He rang for Henri, and ordered a glass of the beverage. Presently it was served, and Semi kept up a running fire of comment and theory on its use.
Herman took the single glass from the server and raised it to his lips. I noticed that neither Dual nor I received a glass, though the fact did not seem to impress Herman in the least. I smiled grimly to myself. The Oriental in Semi would not allow him to drink with the victim he had trapped, even though in all justice the man deserved what he was to get.
Suddenly Dual turned to his desk. "Let us have some music while you drink," he suggested. "To appreciate the juice rightly it must be sipped and its bouquet tasted slowly, like that of old wine." His finger crept under the edge of the desk for an instant, and in a moment the notes of the "Spring Song" filled the room.
The doctor looked his surprise. He glanced about the room with a sudden nervous twist of his head. Evidently he had not noticed Dual's finger, and could not place the source of the rich notes which pulsed and throbbed through the air from no visible instrument. In a moment, however, he smiled.
"Very clever indeed. Phonograph?" he inquired at length.
Semi shook his head. "An invention of my own. It can reproduce any natural sound and speak as well as play. Here is something which should interest you, I think." Again his finger, shielded by his body from the other's observation, slid under the edge of the desk. In a last faint chord the harmony died and a voice floated through the room in spoken words.
"The oath of Hippocrates!" it cried in announcement, paused an instant, and then went sonorously on: "I swear by Apollo, the physician, by Hygeia, by Panacea, and by all the gods and goddesses, calling them to witness that, according to my ability and judgment, I will in every particular keep this my oath and covenant. I will use that regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, shall be for the welfare of the sick, and I will refrain from that which shall be baneful and injurious. If any shall ask me for a drug to produce death, I will not give it, nor will I suggest such counsel.
"With purity and holiness will I watch closely my life and my art. Into whatsoever houses I enter I will go to aid the sick, abstaining from every voluntary act of injustice and corruption or licentiousness. Whatever in the life of men I shall see or hear in my practise, or without my practise, which should not be made public this will I hold in silence, believing such things should not be spoken.
"While I keep this my oath inviolate and unbroken, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and my art, forever honored by all men; but should I by transgression violate it, be mine the reverse."
The speaking died, and for an instant silence fell over the room. Then, without warning there came laughter, wild, shrill, like the mirth of fiends. I started in my chair. Herman, who had been sitting with bowed head, listening to the solemn words of the medical oath, half sprang from his seat and stared about the apartment. The horrible sounds of laughter without soul tore the air into palpitating shreds and died slowly into a silence, which left me trembling with the recollection of what had gone before.
As the diabolical laughter died Herman sank back into his chair, and Dual's finger slipped from beneath the desk.
The hand of the physician was visibly shaking as he put it out and took up his glass. His face was pale, and his voice not quite steady as he tried to speak in a casual tone.
"Very clever, indeed, Mr. Dual; but wasn't that a rather odd ending to tack on to the physician's oath?"
"That is as one may look at it," rejoined Dual. "Personally, while admiring the oath in itself, and even the spirit back of the words, I have thought that in this day, when the dollar is all which counts with so many men, it should be called the oath of hypocrites, rather than of Hippocrates. The laughter does sound a bit awful, however—almost like the gloating of all the elementals over the fall of a human soul. So might fiends laugh in an orthodox hell."
Herman half raised his glass, then set it down. For the first time I noticed an expression of suspicion in his close-set eyes. He was plainly nervous under the glance of Dual.
"What did you mean by that?" he rasped out in the accent of overstrained nerves.
"By what?" returned Dual calmly. "My dear doctor, I fear the thing has upset you—er—got on your nerves. Suppose we go back to the music for a time?"
Yet, when again the strains of the Universalion filled the room, it was not the choice I would have deliberately made myself; for, though grand, and played with wonderful expression and effect, it was the "Dead March" from "Saul."
In solemn harmony the music went on to the last grand chord, and hard on the end came again a speaking voice:
"And the Lord said unto Cain: 'Where is Abel, thy brother?' and he said: 'I know not. Am I my brother's keeper?" And He said: 'What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground, and now art thou accursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood, from thy hand.'"
The glass fell from Herman's hand and rang in a splintering shower on the floor. With a spring he came out of the chair and took one quick stride toward where Semi Dual sat.
"What is the meaning of this buffoonery?" he cried in a shrill voice of excitement, which he strove to make strong. "What is your object in this trickery of lights and music-boxes? Speak, you smiling devil! Speak, or by all the fiends in perdition, I'll pull the truth out of you! What are you, anyway? Is this a chamber of the third degree? Why did you send me that note, telling me you had something to tell me which would prove of value? Don't sit there smiling! Answer me! Answer me—you!" His hand darted to the pocket of his coat, and reappeared with a weapon in its grasp.
I started from my chair, but only to sink back again. The eyes of my friend were staring steadily full into those of the man who threatened him with the raised gun. Once myself I had endured that piercing, penetrating, paralyzing glance of Dual, and I knew that now he was safe. Also I knew why the man who stood between us wavered as he stood and seemed suddenly stricken powerless.
For a long minute he stood there, a figure of arrested motion. Then, very slowly, his arm extended until Semi Dual's fingers closed about the revolver and deflected its barrel. With equal slowness, like the movements of an automaton, a thing deprived of any personal volition, the gripping fingers released the weapon's butt, and the extended arm dropped back to the man's side.
Dual tossed the gun upon his desk and waved the other to his chair, toward which he retreated slowly step by step, finally sinking into it and passing a bewildered, groping hand across his eyes.
"You have asked me a question which I shall answer," Semi Dual began speaking. "If I err in details, you shall be at liberty to interrupt. I brought you here for that purpose to-night—to tell you my story—and worded my note so as to be sure that you would come. The story I wish to tell you is the story of your crime. Although, as a physician, you keep up a good appearance, you are really financially embarrassed, as I know from having your rating looked up.
"When you took the case of Mrs. Matilda Greenig, you did it as you would any other case—for the purpose of getting her well. Unfortunately for all concerned, she was rich. When she thought, and you thought, that she was going to die, she made a will. As she was at least temporarily estranged from her nephew, she made it in favor of her nurse. You witnessed the will, and it gave you an idea, which you attempted to follow out.
"You made love to and finally proposed to the nurse, and she accepted. You cared nothing for her as a woman, but you fancied that, when Mrs. Greenig died, your wife would be rich. Feeling so sure of her death, you tried an experiment upon her with the juices of fresh fruits. That was your first mistake.
"Mrs. Greenig took a change for the better, and continued to gain. Your position was now embarrassing. Then Mrs. Greenig mentioned a reconciliation with her only relative. You made a desperate plan to prevent the miscarriage of your scheme.
"You were frequently at your patient's apartment, and you managed to slip her key from her ring. You arranged it so that, at a time when few persons were around, the nurse would be out of the way. You went to Mrs. Greenig's room and overpowered her with chloroform before she could do more than utter a single scream. When she was under the influence of the anesthetic you took her own penknife and opened a vein in her left arm, and dabbled her other hand in the blood, and laid the knife beside her on the bed.
"You intended that they should think it suicide—you even so pronounced it yourself, when the nurse called you back there that night—and they might have done so but for some mistakes which you made. First, you pressed the chloroform so closely over her mouth and nose that you burned the skin on her face. Secondly, you were evidently so disturbed that you forgot the bottle which had contained the chloroform. Thirdly, you took away the key.
"When you discovered the latter you went to the hotel where her nephew had been stopping formerly, got paper and envelope, and mailed the key to the nephew at his new address. Then you thought that if he returned it suspicion would light on him and that you were safe.
"Your plan looked as if it might work out. Martin took the key back and was arrested on suspicion, but your second error overcame your last act. The bottle was found. It contained a thumb-print, which we presumed was from the murderer's hand. On the paper which you folded about the key was a thumb-print which corresponded to that on the bottle. On a piece of paper which you wrote upon for Glace this afternoon you left a third carbon smudge of your thumb, which matched the other two.
"By all of this you stand convicted as a murderer. By the way, what were you writing this afternoon? Might it be that, fearing the nurse would be convicted, and so unable to inherit under the law, you meant to make a confession and run for it, hoping later to come in for a part of her money? Have you anything you wish to say?"
During the time Dual was speaking the physician had sunk gradually lower and lower in his chair. Now he straightened by an effort and sat rigidly erect.
"No," he replied slowly, "I really have little to say. You're deductions are clever and, unfortunately, correct. It seems almost an irony of fate, however, to think that the reason why I had that carbon on my thumb to-day was actually because I was at work writing out a full confession.
"In only one detail are you wrong, Dual. I had made up my mind—not from the motive you suggest, but from my regard for the girl, which was genuine—that if she could be freed in no other way, I would leave town and mail the confession back. I was not willing to let her pay the price of my crime. I had not fallen quite that low, even yet, Dual.
"Even if I had meant what you suggest, I knew Miss Riley too well ever to hope that she would in any way compound with a confessed murderer. Now, if you wish, you can send an officer to my office. He will find the confession in my desk. You see, I place myself utterly in your hands. I have played—and lost."
He bent forward and suddenly covered his face.
"I knew," said Semi, "that you meant to confess. I am glad to know that the act was prompted by a better motive than I gave you credit for." He reached to the little door in his desk and drew out his telephone.
"Glace," he addressed me, "will you call headquarters and tell them that Dr. Herman has just confessed. Ask them to send a man to his office to get his written confession out of his desk, and to send the patrol to the door of the Urania for the man himself."
I rose and went to the desk, and did as he asked.
Semi reached out and rang Henri's call. When it was answered he again turned to me. "Will you help Henri escort Dr. Herman below?" he suggested, and leaned wearily back in his chair.
Henri and I took each an arm of the figure slouched in the chair and assisted the man to his feet. Without a word or a sign, we walked with him to the door and left the room.
He came with us like one in a daze. Behind us the chimes sounded faintly as we passed down the stairs. Not once did he speak as we took him down to the street, nor even when we surrendered him to the wondering officers of the law.
When he was gone, Henri and I turned back the way we had come, and I don't remember that either of us spoke as we went up in the elevator.
I found Semi Dual still sitting as I had left him, his head resting upon one hand. The purple light still flooded the room.
I crossed to the desk and took up the phone. I called the Record, and Smithson himself answered the ring. "Smithson," said I, "Dr. Herman has just confessed to having killed Mrs. Greenig, and is now on his way to the jail."
My editor's voice came back in excited question, but I cut him short.
"Listen," I protested. "I haven't time to get down and write this for the extra. Herman is on his way to the jail now. In his office he left a written confession, which the police have sent for, and will get in a few minutes. Phone Davidson to grab it at the station as soon as it comes in. Martin and the nurse will be released at once, of course. I'll be down in a hurry to write up the story for the regular edition, but this will be enough for your scoop."
" 'By. Get a wiggle on you, son," said Smithson. "You're a revolutionary in journalism, but I like your work."
I hung up the receiver and turned again to my friend.
"Things like this almost shake one's faith in human nature," I remarked.
Dual raised his head and smiled a slow smile. "No," he responded, "there is some good lurking in every soul. Did you ever see a production of 'Chantecler,' friend Glace?"
I really couldn't see the connection, but I merely shook my head.
"It's a very beautiful allegory," said Semi Dual. "There are some exquisite passages in its lines. One in particular applies to your remark. True faith, either in man or God, never dies. Wait; perhaps I can let you hear that particular part before you go." He pressed a button and Henri appeared.
"Go up-stairs," Semi directed, "and insert record 2009 in the universalion."
The man turned away.
"Even in this poor soul who just left to learn a bitter lesson there was good," continued Dual. "It showed in his determination to free the girl by his confession. You will find such anomalies in all the records of human life. They are the star-points of light in the night of sin."
The sound of a bubbling bird-song filled the room, swelled and thrilled and died.
"The buhl-buhl bird," said Semi Dual. "The Persian nightingale."
Hard on his words came the sound of a shot, and a voice cried: "The nightingale is dead!"
For a space nothing was heard—all was silent, then again came the glad triumph of the song, ringing out in seeming defiance of death. Again it sank into silence, and the voice came sweet and clear: "There must always be a nightingale in the forest—and in the soul; a faith which lives, no matter how oft 'tis slain."
"That is your answer," said Semi Dual.
I looked at the clear, strong face of my friend, and a lump rose in my throat. Without a word I put out my hand and clasped his. Then, still in silence, I passed out to the sweet warm dusk of the roof.