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- The Film Mystery - 10/51 -
general arrangement of the different floors in the different buildings about the quadrangle, all uninteresting to me, I determined to look about a bit on my own hook. I was still anxious to be of genuine assistance to Kennedy, for once, through my greater knowledge of the film world.
Strolling out into the corridor, I went to the door of Millard's room. To my disappointment, it was locked. Continuing down the hall, I stole a glance into each of the two directors' quarters but saw nothing to awaken my suspicion or justify my intrusion. Beyond, I discovered a washroom, and, aware suddenly of the immense amount of dust I had acquired in the ride in from Tarrytown, I entered to freshen my hands and face at the least. It was a stroke of luck, a fortunate impulse.
The amount of money to be made in the movies had resulted, in the case of Manton, in luxurious equipment for all the various departments of his establishment. I had noticed the offices, furnished with a richness worthy of a bank or some great downtown institution. Now, in the lavatory, immaculate with its white tile and modern appointments, I saw a shelf literally stacked, in this day of paper, with linen towels of the finest quality.
As I drew the water, hot instantly, my eye caught, half in and half out of the wire basket beneath the stand, one of the towels covered with peculiar yellow spots. Immediately my suspicions were awakened. I picked it up gingerly. At close range I saw that the spots were only chrome yellow make-up, but there were also spots of a different nature. I did not stop to think of the unlikeliness of the discovery of a real clue under these circumstances, analyzed afterward by Kennedy. I folded the towel hastily and hurried to rejoin him, to show it to him.
I found him with Werner, waiting for the results of Manton's efforts to locate Millard. Almost at the moment I rejoined the two a boy came to summon Werner to one of the sets out on the stage itself. Kennedy and I were alone. I showed him the towel.
At first he laughed, "You'll never make a detective, Walter," he remarked. "This is only simple coloring matter-Chinese yellow, to be exact. And will you tell me, too"--he became ironical--"how do you expect to find clues of this sort here for a murder committed in Tarrytown when all the people present were held out there and examined, when we are the first to arrive back here?
"Yellow, you know, photographs white. Chinese yellow is used largely in studios in place of white in make-up because it does not cause halation, which, to the picture people, is the bane of their existence. White is too glaring, reflects rays that blur the photography sometimes.
"If you will notice, the next time you see them shooting a scene, you will find the actors' faces tinged with yellow. Even tablecloths and napkins and 'white' dresses are frequently colored a pale yellow, although pale blue has the actinic qualities of white for this purpose, and is now perhaps more frequently used than yellow."
I was properly chastened. In fact, though I did not say much, I almost determined to let him conduct his case himself.
Kennedy saw my crestfallen expression and understood. He was about to say something encouraging, as he handed back the towel, when his eye fell on the other end of it, which, indeed, I myself had noticed.
He sobered instantly and studied the other spots. Indeed, I had not examined them closely myself. They were the very faint stains of some other yellow substance, a liquid which had dried and did not rub off as the make-up, and there were also some small round drops of dark red, almost hidden in the fancy red scrollwork of the lettering on the towel, "Manton Pictures, Inc." The latter had escaped me altogether.
"Blood!" Kennedy exclaimed. Then, "Look here!" The marks of the pale yellow liquid trailed into a slender trace of blood. "It looks as if some one had cleaned a needle on it," he muttered, "and in a hurry."
I remembered his previous remark. The murder had been in Tarrytown. We had just arrived here.
"Would anyone have time to do it?" I asked.
"Whoever used the towel did so in a hurry," he reiterated, seriously. "It may have been some one afraid to leave any sort of clue out there at Phelps's house. There were too many watchers about. It might have seemed better to have run the risk of a search. With no sign of a wound on Miss Lamar's person, it was pretty certain that neither Mackay nor I would attempt to frisk everyone. It was not as though we were looking for a revolver, if she were shot, or a knife, if she had been stabbed. And"--he could not resist another dig at me--"and that we should look in a washroom here for a towel was, well, an idea that wouldn't occur to anyone but the most amateur and blundering sort of sleuth. It's beginner's luck, Walter, beginner's luck."
I ignored the uncomplimentary part of his remarks. "Who could have been in the washroom just before me?" I asked.
Suddenly he hurried through the waiting room to the door to Manton's office, opening it without ceremony. Manton was gone. We exchanged glances. I remembered that Werner had preceded us upstairs. "It means Werner or Manton himself," I whispered, so the girl just behind us would not hear.
Kennedy strode out to the hall, and to a window overlooking the court. After a moment he pointed. I recognized both the cars used to transport the company to the home of Emery Phelps. There was no sign that either had just arrived, for even the chauffeurs were out of sight, perhaps melted into the crowd about the tank in the corner.
"They must have arrived immediately behind us," Kennedy remarked. "We wasted several valuable minutes looking at that water stuff ourselves."
At that moment Werner's voice rose from the reception room below. It was probable that he would be up to rejoin us again. I remembered that he had not been at all at ease while Kennedy questioned him in Tarrytown; that here at the studio he had been palpably anxious to remain close at our heels. I felt a surge of suspicion within me.
"Listen, Craig," I muttered, in low tones. "Manton had no opportunity to steal down the hall after the girl closed the door, and--"
"Why not!" he interrupted, contradicting me. "We had our backs to the door while we were talking with Werner."
"Well, anyhow, it narrows down to Manton and Werner because that is the washroom for these offices--"
"'Sh!" Kennedy stopped me as Werner mounted the stairs. He turned to the director with assumed nonchalance. "How long have the other cars been here?" he asked. "I thought we came pretty fast."
Werner smiled. "I guess those boys had enough of Tarrytown. They rolled into the yard, both of them, while you and Mr. Jameson and Manton were stopping to watch the people in the water."
"I see!" Kennedy gave me a side glance. "Where are the dressing rooms?" he inquired. It was a random shot.
Werner pointed to the end of the hall, toward the washroom. "In the next building, on this floor--that is, the principals'. It's a rotten arrangement," he added. "They come through sometimes and use our lavatory, because it's a little more fancy and because it saves a trip down a flight of stairs. Believe me, it gets old Manton on his ear."
Behind Werner was the assistant director, to whom I had given little attention at the time of the examination of the various people in the Phelps library. Even now he impressed me as one of those rare, unobtrusive types of individuals who seem, in spite of the possession of genuine ability and often a great deal of efficiency, to lack, nevertheless, any outstanding personal characteristics. As a class they are human machines, to be neither liked nor disliked, never intruding and yet always on hand when needed.
"This is Carey Drexel, my assistant," Werner stated, forgetting that Kennedy had questioned him at Tarrytown, and so knew him. "There are a few people I simply must see and I'm tied up, therefore, for perhaps half an hour; and Manton's downstairs still trying to locate Millard for you. But Carey's at your disposal, Mr. Kennedy, to show you the arrangement of the studio and to cooperate with you in any way if you think there's any possible chance of finding anything to bear upon Stella's death here."
If Werner was the man who had used the towel, I could see that he was an actor and a cool villain. Of course no one could know, yet, that we had discovered it, but the very nonchalance with which it had been thrown into the basket was a mark of the nerve of the guilty man. It was more than carelessness. Nothing about the crime had been haphazard.
Kennedy thanked Werner and asked to be shown the studio floor used in the making of "The Black Terror." Carey led the way, explaining that there were actually two studios, one at each end of the quadrangle, connected on both sides by the other buildings; offices and dressing rooms and the costume and property departments at the side facing the street; technical laboratories and all the detail of film manufacture in a four- story structure to the rear. Most of Werner's own picture was being made in the so-called big studio, reached through the dressing rooms from the end of the corridor where we stood.
I had been in film plants before, but when we entered the huge glass-roofed inclosure beyond the long hallway of dressing rooms
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