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- The Dream Doctor - 20/59 -


Limp as I was with the shock, I dropped down beside him and bent over.

"A glass of water, Walter," he murmured, "and fan me a bit. I didn't dare trust myself to carry the thing complete, so I emptied the acid into the sarcophagus. I guess I must have stayed in there too long. But we are safe. See if you can drag out Delaverde. He is in there by the mummy-case."

Spencer was still holding Lucille, although she was much better in the fresh air of the hall. "I understand," he was muttering. "You have been following this fiend of a husband of yours to protect the museum and myself from him. Lucille, Lucille--look at me. You are mine, not his, whether he is dead or alive. I will free you from him, from the curse of the absinthe that has pursued you."

The fumes had cleared a great deal by this time. In the centre of the art-gallery we found a man, a tall, black-bearded Frenchman, crazy indeed from the curse of the green absinthe that had ruined him. He was scarcely breathing from a deadly wound in his chest. The hair-spring ring of the Apache pistol had exploded the cartridge as he fell.

Spencer did not even look at him, as he carried his own burden down to the little office of Dr. Lith.

"When a rich man marries a girl who has been earning her own living, the newspapers always distort it," he whispered aside to me a few minutes later. "Jameson, you're a newspaperman--I depend on you to get the facts straight this time."

Outside, Kennedy grasped my arm.

"You'll do that, Walter?" he asked persuasively. "Spencer is a client that one doesn't get every day. Just drop into the Star office and give them the straight story, I'll promise you I'll not take another case until you are free again to go on with me in it."

There was no denying him. As briefly as I could I rehearsed the main facts to the managing editor late that night. I was too tired to write it at length, yet I could not help a feeling of satisfaction as he exclaimed, "Great stuff, Jameson,--great."

"I know," I replied, "but this six-cylindered existence for a week wears you out."

"My dear boy," he persisted, "if I had turned some one else loose on that story, he'd have been dead. Go to it--it's fine."

It was a bit of blarney, I knew. But somehow or other I liked it. It was just what I needed to encourage me, and I hurried uptown promising myself a sound sleep at any rate.

"Very good," remarked Kennedy the next morning, poking his head in at my door and holding up a copy of the Star into which a very accurate brief account of the affair had been dropped at the last moment. "I'm going over to the laboratory. See you there as soon as you can get over."

"Craig," I remarked an hour or so later as I sauntered in on him, hard at work, "I don't see how you stand this feverish activity."

"Stand it?" he repeated, holding up a beaker to the light to watch a reaction. "It's my very life. Stand it? Why, man, if you want me to pass away--stop it. As long as it lasts, I shall be all right. Let it quit and I'll--I'll go back to research work," he laughed.

Evidently he had been waiting for me, for as he talked, he laid aside the materials with which he had been working and was preparing to go out.

"Then, too," he went on, "I like to be with people like Spencer and Brixton. For example, while I was waiting here for you, there came a call from Emery Pitts."

"Emery Pitts?" I echoed. "What does he want?"

"The best way to find out is--to find out," he answered simply. "It's getting late and I promised to be there directly. I think we'd better take a taxi."

A few minutes later we were ushered into a large Fifth Avenue mansion and were listening to a story which interested even Kennedy.

"Not even a blood spot has been disturbed in the kitchen. Nothing has been altered since the discovery of the murdered chef, except that his body has been moved into the next room."

Emery Pitts, one of the "thousand millionaires of steel," overwrought as he was by a murder in his own household, sank back in his easy-chair, exhausted.

Pitts was not an old man; indeed, in years he was in the prime of life. Yet by his looks he might almost have been double his age, the more so in contrast with Minna Pitts, his young and very pretty wife, who stood near him in the quaint breakfast-room and solicitously moved a pillow back of his head.

Kennedy and I looked on in amazement. We knew that he had recently retired from active business, giving as a reason his failing health. But neither of us had thought, when the hasty summons came early that morning to visit him immediately at his house, that his condition was as serious as it now appeared.

"In the kitchen?" repeated Kennedy, evidently not prepared for any trouble in that part of the house.

Pitts, who had closed his eyes, now reopened them slowly and I noticed how contracted were the pupils.

"Yes," he answered somewhat wearily, "my private kitchen which I have had fitted up. You know, I am on a diet, have been ever since I offered the one hundred thousand dollars for the sure restoration of youth. I shall have you taken out there presently."

He lapsed again into a half dreamy state, his head bowed on one hand resting on the arm of his chair. The morning's mail still lay on the table, some letters open, as they had been when the discovery had been announced. Mrs. Pitts was apparently much excited and unnerved by the gruesome discovery in the house,

"You have no idea who the murderer might be?" asked Kennedy, addressing Pitts, but glancing keenly at his wife.

"No," replied Pitts, "if I had I should have called the regular police. I wanted you to take it up before they spoiled any of the clues. In the first place we do not think it could have been done by any of the other servants. At least, Minna says that there was no quarrel."

"How could any one have got in from the outside?" asked Craig.

"There is a back way, a servants' entrance, but it is usually locked. Of course some one might have obtained a key to it."

Mrs. Pitts had remained silent throughout the dialogue. I could not help thinking that she suspected something, perhaps was concealing something. Yet each of them seemed equally anxious to have the marauder apprehended, whoever he might be.

"My dear," he said to her at length, "will you call some one and have them taken to the kitchen?"

IX

THE ELIXIR OF LIFE

As Minna Pitts led us through the large mansion preparatory to turning us over to a servant she explained hastily that Mr. Pitts had long been ill and was now taking a new treatment under Dr. Thompson Lord. No one having answered her bell in the present state of excitement of the house, she stopped short at the pivoted door of the kitchen, with a little shudder at the tragedy, and stood only long enough to relate to us the story as she had heard it from the valet, Edward.

Mr. Pitts, it seemed, had wanted an early breakfast and had sent Edward to order it. The valet had found the kitchen a veritable slaughter-house, with, the negro chef, Sam, lying dead on the floor. Sam had been dead, apparently, since the night before.

As she hurried away, Kennedy pushed open the door. It was a marvellous place, that antiseptic or rather aseptic kitchen, with its white tiling and enamel, its huge ice-box, and cooking- utensils for every purpose, all of the most expensive and modern make.

There were marks everywhere of a struggle, and by the side of the chef, whose body now lay in the next room awaiting the coroner, lay a long carving-knife with which he had evidently defended himself. On its blade and haft were huge coagulated spots of blood. The body of Sam bore marks of his having been clutched violently by the throat, and in his head was a single, deep wound that penetrated the skull in a most peculiar manner. It did not seem possible that a blow from a knife could have done it. It was a most unusual wound and not at all the sort that could have been made by a bullet.

As Kennedy examined it, he remarked, shaking his head in confirmation of his own opinion, "That must have been done by a Behr bulletless gun."

"A bulletless gun?" I repeated.

"Yes, a sort of pistol with a spring-operated device that projects a sharp blade with great force. No bullet and no powder are used in it. But when it is placed directly over a vital point of the skull so that the aim is unerring, a trigger lets a long knife shoot out with tremendous force, and death is instantaneous."

Near the door, leading to the courtyard that opened on the side street, were some spots of blood. They were so far from the place where the valet had discovered the body of the chef that there could be no doubt that they were blood from the murderer himself.


The Dream Doctor - 20/59

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