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- The Gold of the Gods - 30/45 -
Norton looked up quickly. "Did he tell her that?"
"I am supposing that he did," repeated Craig, declining to place himself in a position which might lead to disclosing how he found out.
"Then I should say that he was a great deal cleverer than I gave him credit for being," returned Norton.
"Well, it's done now, and can't be undone. Have you found out anything about the de Moches?"
"Not very much, I must admit. Of course, you know I'm not on the best of terms with them, for some reason or other. But I've been around the Prince Edward Albert a good deal, and I don't think they've been able to do much that I haven't some kind of line on. Alfonso seems to be moping. His professors here tell me that he has been neglecting his work sadly for the past few days. The Senora and Whitney seem to be as friendly as ever. I should say that they were going the pace fast, and it shows on him."
I glanced significantly at Kennedy, but he betrayed nothing that might lead one to suppose he had discovered the cause. Evidently he was not ready yet to come out into the open and expected further developments on the poisoned cigarette clue.
The telephone rang and Craig took down the receiver.
"Yes, this is Kennedy," he answered. "Oh, hello, Lockwood. What's that? You've been trying to get me all day? I just came in. Why, yes, I can see you in about half an hour."
"I guess I'd better clear out," said Norton with a bitter laugh, as Kennedy hung up the receiver. "There have been enough crimes committed without adding another murder to the list."
"Keep on watching the de Moches," requested Kennedy as Norton made his way to the door.
"Yes," agreed Norton. "They will bear it--particularly Alfonso. They are hot-blooded. You never know what they are going to do, and they keep their own counsel. I might hope that Lockwood would forget; but a de Moche--never."
I cannot say that I envied him very much, for doubtless what he said was true, though his danger might be mitigated by the fact that the dagger was no longer in his Museum. Still, it would never have left Peru, I reflected, if it had not been for him, and there is, even in the best of us, a smouldering desire for revenge.
Lockwood was more than prompt. I had expected that he would burst into the laboratory prepared to clean things out. Instead he came in as though nothing at all had happened.
"There's no use mincing words, Kennedy," he began. "You know that I know what has happened. That scoundrel, Norton, has told Inez that you had shoe-prints of some one who was in the Museum the night of the robbery and that those shoe-prints correspond with mine. As a matter of fact, Kennedy, I was there. I was there to get the dagger. But before I could get it, some one else must have done so. It was gone."
I wanted to believe Lockwood. As for Craig he said nothing.
"Then, when I did have a chance to get away that night," he continued, "I went over to Mendoza's. The rest you know."
"You have told Inez that?" asked Kennedy in order to seem properly surprised.
"Yes--and I think she believes me. I can't say. Things are strained with her. It will take time. I'm not one of those who can take a girl by main force and make her do what she won't do. I wish I could smooth things over. Let me see the prints."
Kennedy handed them over to him. He looked at them, long and closely, then handed back the damning evidence against himself.
"I know it would be no use to destroy these," he remarked. "In the first place that would really incriminate me. And in the second I suppose you have copies."
Craig smiled blandly.
"But I can tell you," he exclaimed, bringing his fist down on the laboratory table with a bang, "that before I lose that girl, somebody will pay for it--and there won't be any mistakes made, either."
The scowl on his face and the menacing look in his eye showed that now, with his back up against the wall, he was not bluffing.
He seemed to get little satisfaction out of his visit to us, and in fact I think he made it more in a spirit of bravado than anything else.
Lockwood had scarcely gone before Kennedy pulled out the University schedule, and ran his finger down it.
"Alfonso ought to be at a lecture in the School of Mines," he said finally, folding up the paper. "I wish you'd go over and see if he is there, and, if he is, ask him to step into the laboratory."
The lecture was in progress all right, but when I peered into the room it was evident that de Moche was not there. Norton was right. The young man was neglecting his work. Evidently the repeated rebuffs of Inez had worked havoc with him.
Nor was he at the hotel, as we found out by calling up.
There was only one other place that I could think of where he would be likely to be and that was at the apartment of Inez. Apparently the same idea occurred to Kennedy, for he suggested going back to our observation point in the boarding-house and finding out.
All the rest of the day we listened through the vocaphone, but without finding out a thing of interest. Now and then we would try the detective instrument, the little black disc in the back, but with no better success. Then we determined to listen in relays, one listening, while the other went out for dinner.
It must have been just a bit after dark that we could hear Inez talking in a low tone with Juanita.
A buzzing noise indicated that there was some one at the hall door.
"If it's any one for me," we heard Inez say, "tell them that I will be out directly. I'm not fit to be seen now."
The door was opened and a voice which we could not place asked for the senorita. A moment later Juanita returned and asked the visitor to be seated a few moments.
It was not long before we were suddenly aware that there was another person in the room. We could hear whispers. The faithful little vocaphone even picked them up and shot them down to us.
"Is everything all right?" whispered one, a new voice which was somewhat familiar I thought, but disguised beyond recognition.
"Yes. She'll be out in a minute."
"Now, remember what I told you. If this thing works you get fifty dollars more. I'd better put this mask on--damn it!--the slit's torn. It'll do. I'll hide here as soon as we hear her. That's a pretty nice private ambulance you have down there. Did you tell the elevator boy that she had suddenly been taken ill? That's all fixed, then. I've got the stuff--amyl nitrite--she'll go off like a shot. But we'll have to work quick. It only keeps her under a few minutes. I can't wear this mask down and I'm afraid some one will recognize me. Oh, you brought a beard. Good. I'll give you the signal. There must be no noise. Yes, I saw the stretcher where you left it in the hall."
"All right, Doc," returned the first and unfamiliar voice.
It all happened so quickly that we were completely bowled over for the moment. Who was the man addressed as "Doc"? There was no time to find out, no time to do anything, apparently, so quickly had the plot been sprung.
I looked at Kennedy, aghast, not knowing what to do in this unexpected crisis.
A moment later we heard a voice, "I'm sorry to have had to keep you waiting, but what is it that I can do for you?"
"Good God!" exclaimed Kennedy. "It is Inez herself!"
It was altogether too late to get over there to warn her, perhaps even to rescue her. What could we do? If we could only shout for help. But what good would that do, around a corner and so far away?
The vocaphone itself!
Quickly Kennedy turned another switch, of a rheostat, which accentuated a whisper to almost a shout.
"Don't be alarmed, Senorita," he cried. "This is Kennedy talking. Look under the bookcase by the window. You will find a cedar box. It is a detective vocaphone through which I can hear you and which is talking out to you. I have heard something just there just now- -"
"Yes, yes. Go on!"
"You are threatened. Shout! Shout!"
Just then there came a sound of a scuffle and a muffled cry which was not much above a whisper, as though a strong hand was clapped over her mouth.
What could we do?
"Juanita--Juanita--help!--police!" shouted Craig himself through the vocaphone.
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