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- The Dream Doctor - 50/59 -
spots here and there.
"There could not have been any substitution?" I whispered, with, my mind still on the broken coffin. "That would cover up the evidence of a poisoning, you know."
"No," replied Andrews positively, "although bodies can be obtained cheaply enough from a morgue, ostensibly for medical purposes. No, that is Phelps, all right."
"Well, then," I persisted, "body-snatchers, medical students?"
"Not likely, for the same reason," he rejected.
We bent over closer to watch Kennedy. Apparently he had found a number of round, flat spots with little spatters beside them. He was carefully trying to scrape them up with as little of the surrounding mould as possible.
Suddenly, without warning, there was a noise outside, as if a person were moving through the underbrush. It was fearsome in its suddenness. Was it human or wraith? Kennedy darted to the door in time to see a shadow glide silently away, lost in the darkness of the fine old willows. Some one had approached the mausoleum for a second time, not knowing we were there, and had escaped. Down the road we could hear the purr of an almost silent motor.
"Somebody is trying to get in to conceal something here," muttered Kennedy, stifling his disappointment at not getting a closer view of the intruder.
"Then it was not a suicide," I exclaimed. "It was a murder!"
Craig shook his head sententiously. Evidently he not prepared yet to talk.
With another look at the body in the broken casket he remarked: "To-morrow I want to call on Mrs. Phelps and Doctor Forden, and, if it is possible to find him, Dana Phelps. Meanwhile, Andrews, if you and Walter will stand guard here, there is an apparatus which I should like to get from my laboratory and set up here before it is too late."
It was far past the witching hour of midnight, when graveyards proverbially yawn, before Craig returned in the car. Nothing had happened in the meantime except those usual eery noises that one may hear in the country at night anywhere. Our visitor of the early evening seemed to have been scared away for good.
Inside the mausoleum, Kennedy set up a peculiar machine which he attached to the electric-light circuit in the street by a long wire which he ran loosely over the ground. Part of the apparatus consisted of an elongated box lined with lead, to which were several other attachments, the nature of which I did not understand, and a crank-handle.
"What's that?" asked Andrews curiously, as Craig set up a screen between the apparatus and the body.
"This is a calcium-tungsten screen," remarked Kennedy, adjusting now what I know to be a Crookes' tube on the other side of the body itself, so that the order was: the tube, the body, the screen, and the oblong box. Without a further word we continued to watch him.
At last, the apparatus adjusted apparently to his satisfaction, he brought out a jar of thick white liquid and a bottle of powder.
"Buttermilk and a couple of ounces of bismuth sub-carbonate," he remarked, as he mixed some in a glass, and with a pump forced it down the throat of the body, now lying so that the abdomen was almost flat against the screen.
He turned a switch and the peculiar bluish effulgence, which always appears when a Crookes' tube is being used, burst forth, accompanied by the droning of his induction-coil and the welcome smell of ozone produced by the electrical discharge in the almost fetid air of the tomb. Meanwhile, he was gradually turning the handle of the crank attached to the oblong box. He seemed so engrossed in the delicateness of the operation that we did not question him, in fact did not move. For Andrews, at least, it was enough to know that he had succeeded in enlisting Kennedy's services.
Well along toward morning it was before Kennedy had concluded his tests, whatever they were, and had packed away his paraphernalia.
"I'm afraid it will take me two or three days to get at this evidence, even now," he remarked, impatient at even the limitations science put on his activity. We had started back for a quick run to the city and rest. "But, anyhow, it will give us a chance to do some investigating along other lines."
Early the next day, in spite of the late session of the night before, Kennedy started me with him on a second visit to Woodbine. This time he was armed with a letter of introduction from Andrews to Mrs. Phelps.
She proved to be a young woman of most extraordinary grace and beauty, with a superb carriage such as only years of closest training under the best dancers of the world could give. There was a peculiar velvety softness about her flesh and skin, a witching stoop to her shoulders that was decidedly continental, and in her deep, soulful eyes a half-wistful look that was most alluring. In fact, she was as attractive a widow as the best Fifth Avenue dealers in mourning goods could have produced.
I knew that 'Ginette Phelps had been, both as dancer and wife, always the centre of a group of actors, artists, and men of letters as well as of the world and affairs. The Phelpses had lived well, although they were not extremely wealthy, as fortunes go. When the blow fell, I could well fancy that the loss of his money had been most serious to young Montague, who had showered everything as lavishly as he was able upon his captivating bride.
Mrs. Phelps did not seem to be overjoyed at receiving us, yet made no open effort to refuse.
"How long ago did the coma first show itself?" asked Kennedy, after our introductions were completed. "Was your husband a man of neurotic tendency, as far as you could judge?"
"Oh, I couldn't say when it began," she answered, in a voice that was soft and musical and under perfect control. "The doctor would know that better. No, he was not neurotic, I think."
"Did you ever see Mr. Phelps take any drugs--not habitually, but just before this sleep came on?"
Kennedy was seeking his information in a manner and tone that would cause as little offence as possible "Oh, no," she hastened. "No, never--absolutely."
"You called in Dr. Forden the last night?"
"Yes, he had been Montague's physician many years ago, you know."
"I see," remarked Kennedy, who was thrusting about aimlessly to get her off her guard. "By the way, you know there is a great deal of gossip about the almost perfect state of preservation of the body, Mrs. Phelps. I see it was not embalmed."
She bit her lip and looked at Kennedy sharply.
"Why, why do you and Mr. Andrews worry me? Can't you see Doctor Forden?"
In her annoyance I fancied that there was a surprising lack of sorrow. She seemed preoccupied. I could not escape the feeling that she was putting some obstacle in our way, or that from the day of the discovery of the vandalism, some one had been making an effort to keep the real facts concealed. Was she shielding some one? It flashed over me that perhaps, after all, she had submitted to the blackmail and had buried the money at the appointed place. There seemed to be little use in pursuing the inquiry, so we excused ourselves, much, I thought, to her relief.
We found Doctor Forden, who lived on the same street as the Phelpses several squares away, most fortunately at home. Forden was an extremely interesting man, as is, indeed, the rule with physicians. I could not but fancy, however, that his hearty assurance that he would be glad to talk freely on the case was somewhat forced.
"You were sent for by Mrs. Phelps, that last night, I believe, while Phelps was still alive?" asked Kennedy.
"Yes. During the day it had been impossible to arouse him, and that night, when Mrs. Phelps and the nurse found him sinking even deeper into the comatose state, I was summoned again. He was beyond hope then. I did everything I could, but he died a few moments after I arrived."
"Did you try artificial respiration?" asked Kennedy.
"N-no," replied Forden. "I telephoned here for my respirator, but by the time it arrived at the house it was too late. Nothing had been omitted while he was still struggling with the spark of life. When that went out what was the use?"
"You were his personal physician?"
"Had you ever noticed that he took any drug?"
Doctor Forden shot a quick glance at Kennedy. "Of course not. He was not a drug fiend."
"I didn't mean that he was addicted to any drug. But had he taken anything lately, either of his own volition or with the advice or knowledge of any one else?"
"Of course not."
"There's another strange thing I wish to ask your opinion about," pursued Kennedy, not to be rebuffed. "I have seen his body. It is in an excellent state of preservation, almost lifelike. And yet I understand, or at least it seems, that it was not embalmed."
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