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- The Gold of the Gods - 4/45 -


pursued Kennedy. "No bottle, no glass? There wasn't the odour of any gas or drug?"

Lockwood shook his head slowly, fixing his eyes on Kennedy's face, but not looking at him. "No," he answered; "I have told Dr. Leslie just what I found. If there had been anything else I'm sure I would have noticed it while I was waiting for Miss Inez to come in."

His answers seemed perfectly frank and straight-forward. Yet somehow I could not get over the feeling that he, as well as Inez, was not telling quite all he knew--perhaps not about the murder, but about matters that might be related to it.

Norton evidently felt the same way. "You saw no weapon--a dagger?" he interrupted suddenly.

The young man faced Norton squarely. To me it seemed as if he had been expecting the question. "Not a thing," he said deliberately. "I looked about carefully, too. Whatever weapon was used must have been taken away by the murderer," he added.

Juanita entered again, and Inez excused herself to answer the telephone, while we stood in the living room chatting for a few minutes.

"What is this 'curse of Mansiche' which the Senorita has mentioned?" asked Kennedy, seeing a chance to open a new line of inquiry with Lockwood.

"Oh, I don't know," he returned, impatiently flicking the ashes of a cigarette which he had lighted the moment Inez left the room, as though such stories had no interest for the practical mind of an engineer. "Some old superstition, I suppose."

Lockwood seemed to regard Norton with a sort of aversion, if not hostility, and I fancied that Norton, on his part, neglected no opportunity to let the other know that he was watching him.

"I don't know much about the story," resumed Lockwood a moment later as no one said anything. "But I do know that there is treasure in that great old Chimu mound near Truxillo. Don Luis has the government concession to bore into the mound, too, and we are raising the capital to carry the scheme through to success."

He had come to the end of a sentence. Yet the inflection of his voice showed plainly that it was not the end of the idea that had been in his mind.

"If you knew where to dig," suddenly supplied Norton, gazing keenly into the eyes of the soldier of fortune.

Lockwood did not answer, though it was evident that that had been the thought unexpressed in his remarks.

The return of the Senorita to the room seemed to break the tension.

"It was the house telephone," she said, in a quiet voice. "The hall-boy didn't know whether to admit a visitor who comes with his sympathy." Then she turned from us to Lockwood. "You must know him," she said, somewhat embarrassed. "Senor Alfonso de Moche."

Lockwood suppressed a frown, but said nothing, for, a moment later, a young man came in. Almost in silence he advanced to Inez and took her hand in a manner that plainly showed his sympathy in her bereavement.

"I have just heard," he said simply, "and I hastened around to tell you how much I feel your loss. If there is anything I can do- -"

He stopped, and did not finish the sentence. It was unnecessary. His eyes finished it for him.

Alfonso de Moche was, I thought, a very handsome fellow, though not of the Spanish type at all. His forehead was high, with a shock of straight black hair, his skin rather copper-coloured, nose slightly aquiline, chin and mouth firm; in fact, the whole face was refined and intellectual, though tinged with melancholy.

"Thank you," she murmured, then turned to us. "I believe you are acquainted with Mr. de Moche, Professor Norton?" she asked. "You know he is taking post-graduate work at the University."

"Slightly," returned Norton, gazing at the young man in a manner that plainly disconcerted him. "I believe I have met his mother in Peru."

Senorita Mendoza seemed to colour at the mention of Senora de Moche. It flashed over me that, in his greeting Alfonso had said nothing of his mother. I wondered if there might be a reason for it. Could it be that Senorita Mendoza had some antipathy which did not include the son? Though we did not seem to be making much progress in this way in solving the mystery, still I felt that before we could go ahead we must know the little group about which it centred. There seemed to be currents and cross-currents here which we did not understand, but which must be charted if we were to steer a straight course.

"And Professor Kennedy?" she added, turning to us.

"I think I have seen Mr. de Moche about the campus," said Craig, as I, too, shook hands with him, "although you are not in any of my classes."

"No, Professor," concurred the young man, who was, however, considerably older than the average student taking courses like his.

I found it quite enough to watch the faces of those about me just then. Between Lockwood and de Moche it seemed that there existed a latent hostility. The two eyed each other with decided disfavour. As for Norton, he seemed to be alternately watching each of them.

An awkward silence followed, and de Moche seemed to take the cue, for after a few more remarks to Inez he withdrew as gracefully as he could, with a parting interchange of frigid formalities with Lockwood. It did not take much of a detective to deduce that both of the young men might have agreed on one thing, though that caused the most serious of differences between them--their estimation of Inez de Mendoza.

Inez, on her part, seemed also to be visibly relieved at his departure, though she had been cordial enough to him. I wondered what it all meant.

Lockwood, too, seemed to be ill at ease still. But it was a different uneasiness, rather directed at Norton than at us. Once before I had thought he was on the point of excusing himself, but the entrance of de Moche seemed to have decided him to stay at least as long as his rival.

"I beg your pardon, Senorita," he now apologized, "but I really must go. There are still some affairs which I must attend to in order to protect the interests we represent." He turned to us. "You will excuse me, I know," he added, "but I have a very important appointment. You know Don Luis and I were assisting in organizing the campaign of Stuart Whitney to interest American manufacturers, and particularly bankers, in the chances in South America which lie at hand, if we are only awake to take advantage of them. I shall be at your service, Senorita, as soon as the meeting is over. I presume I shall see you again?" he nodded to Kennedy.

"Quite likely," returned Kennedy drily.

"If there is any assistance I can render in clearing up this dreadful thing," went on Lockwood, in a lower tone to us, "you may count on me absolutely."

"Thank you," returned Craig, with a significant glance. "I may have to take up that offer."

"Do so, by all means," he reiterated, bowing to Norton and backing out of the door.

Alone again with Inez Mendoza, Kennedy turned suddenly. "Who is this Senor de Moche?" he asked. "I gather that you must have known him in Peru."

"Yes," she agreed. "I knew him in Lima"; then adding, as if by way of confession, "when he was a student at the University."

There was something in both her tone and manner that would lead one to believe that she had only the kindliest feelings toward de Moche, whatever might be the case, as it seemed, with his mother.

For a moment Kennedy now advanced and took Senorita Inez by the hand. "I must go now," he said simply. "If there is anything which you have not told me, I should like to know."

"No--nothing," she answered.

He did not take his eyes from hers. "If you should recall anything else," he persisted, "don't hesitate to tell me. I will come here, or you may come to the laboratory, whichever is more convenient."

"I shall do so," she replied. "And thank you a thousand times for the trouble you are going to in my behalf. You may be sure that I appreciate it."

Norton also bade her farewell, and she thanked him for having brought us over. I noticed also that Norton, though considerably older than any of us, had apparently succumbed to the spell of her wonderful eyes and face.

"I also would be glad to help you," he promised. "You can usually find me at the Museum."

"Thank you all," she murmured. "You are all so kind to me. An hour ago I felt that I had not a friend in all this big city--except Mr. Lockwood. Now I feel that I am not quite all alone."

She said it to Norton, but it was really meant for Kennedy. I know Craig shared my own feelings. It was a rare pleasure to work for her. She seemed most appreciative of anything that was done for her in her defenceless position.

As we passed out of the apartment house and sought our cab again,


The Gold of the Gods - 4/45

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