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- OF THE SILENT BULLET - 20/54 -


Of course I had to make the terms with Farrington. The first glance aroused my suspicions of him. He was shifty-eyed, and his face had a hard and mercenary look. In spite of, perhaps rather because of, my repugnance we quickly came to an agreement, and as I left the apartment I mentally resolved to keep my eye on him.

Craig came in late, having been engaged in his chemical analyses all the evening. From his manner I inferred that they had been satisfactory, and he seemed much gratified when I told him that I had arranged successfully for the seance and that Farrington would accompany the medium.

As we were talking over the case a messenger arrived with a note from O'Connor. It was written with his usual brevity: "Have just found from servants that Farrington and Mrs. P. have key to Vandam house. Wish I had known it before. House shadowed. No one has entered or left it to-night."

Craig looked at his watch. It was a quarter after one. "The ghost won't walk to-night, Walter," he said as he entered his bedroom for a much-needed rest. "I guess I was right after all in getting the capsules as soon as possible. The ghost must have flitted unobserved in there this morning directly after the maid brought them back from the druggist."

Again, the next morning, he had me out of bed bright and early. As we descended from the Sixth Avenue "L," he led me into a peculiar little shop in the shadow of the "L" structure. He entered as though he knew the place well; but, then, that air of assurance was Kennedy's stock in trade and sat very well on him.

Few people, I suppose, have ever had a glimpse of this workshop of magic and deception. This little shop of Marina's was the headquarters of the magicians of the country. Levitation and ghostly disappearing hands were on every side. The shelves in the back of the shop were full of nickel, brass, wire, wood, and papier-mache contrivances, new and strange to the eye of the uninitiated. Yet it was all as systematic as a hardware shop.

"Is Signor Marina in?" asked Craig of a girl in the first room, given up to picture post-cards. The room was as deceptive as the trade, for it was only an anteroom to the storeroom I have described above. This storeroom was also a factory, and half a dozen artisans were hard at work in it.

Yes, the signor was in, the girl replied, leading us back into the workshop. He proved to be a short man with a bland, open face and frank eyes, the very antithesis of his trade.

"I have arranged for a circle with Mrs. May Popper," began Kennedy, handing the man his card. "I suppose you know her?"

"Indeed yes," he answered. "I furnished her seance room."

"Well, I want to hire for to-night just the same sort of tables, cabinets, carpets, everything that she has--only hire, you understand, but I am willing to pay you well for them. It is the best way to get a good sitting, I believe. Can you do it?"

The little man thought a moment, then replied: "Si, signor yes-- very nearly, near enough. I would do anything for Mrs. Popper. She is a good customer. But her manager--"

"My friend here, Mr. Jameson, has had seances with her in her own apartment," interposed Craig. "Perhaps he can help you to recollect just what is necessary."

"I know very well, signor. I have the duplicate bill, the bill which was paid by that Farrington with a check from the banker Vandam. Leave it to me."

"Then you will get the stuff together this morning and have it up to my place this afternoon"

"Yes, Professor, yes. It is a bargain. I would do anything for Mrs. Popper--she is a fine woman."

Late that afternoon I rejoined Craig at his laboratory. Signor Marina had already arrived with a truck and was disposing the paraphernalia about the laboratory. He had first laid a thick black rug. Mrs. Popper very much affected black carpets, and I had noticed that Vandam's room was carpeted in black, too. I suppose black conceals everything that one oughtn't to see at a seance.

A cabinet with a black curtain, several chairs, a light deal table, several banjos, horns, and other instruments were disposed about the room. With a few suggestions from me we made a fair duplication of the hangings on the walls. Kennedy was manifestly anxious to finish, and at last it was done.

After Marina had gone, Kennedy stretched a curtain over the end of the room farthest from the cabinet. Behind it he placed on a shelf the apparatus composed of the pendulums and magnets. The beakers and test-tubes were also on this shelf.

He had also arranged that the cabinet should be so situated that it was next a hallway that ran past his laboratory.

"To-night, Jameson," he said, indicating a spot on the hall wall just back of the cabinet, "I shall want you to bring my guests out here and do a little spirit rapping--I'll tell you just what to do when the time comes."

That night, when we gathered in the transformed laboratory, there were Henry Vandam, Dr. Hanson, Inspector O'Connor, Kennedy, and myself. At last the sound of wheels was heard, and Mrs. Popper drove up in a hansom, accompanied by Farrington. They both inspected the room narrowly and seemed satisfied. I had, as I have said, taken a serious dislike to the man, and watched him closely. I did not like his air of calm assurance.

The lights were switched off, all except one sixteen-candle-power lamp in the farthest corner, shaded by a deep-red globe. It was just light enough to see to read very, large print with difficulty.

Mrs. Popper began immediately with the table. Kennedy and I sat on her right and left respectively, in the circle, and held her hands and feet. I confess to a real thrill when I felt the light table rise first on two legs, then on one, and finally remain suspended in the air, whence it dropped with a thud, as if someone had suddenly withdrawn his support.

The medium sat with her back to the curtain of the cabinet, and several times I could have sworn that a hand reached out and passed close to my head. At least it seemed so. The curtain bulged at times, and a breeze seemed to sweep out from the cabinet.

After some time of this sort of work Craig led gradually up to a request for a materialisation of the control of Vandam, but Mrs. Popper refused. She said she did not feel strong enough, and Farrington put in a hasty word that he, too, could feel that "there was something working against them." But Kennedy was importunate and at last she consented to see if "John" would do some rapping, even if he could not materialise.

Kennedy asked to be permitted to put the questions.

"Are you the 'John' who appears to Mr. Vandam every night at twelve-thirty?"

Rap! rap! rap! came the faint reply from the cabinet. Or rather it seemed to me to come from the floor near the cabinet, and perhaps to be a trifle muffled by the black carpet.

"Are you in communication with Mrs. Vandam?"

Rap! rap! rap!

"Can she be made to rap for us?"

Rap! rap!

"Will you ask her a question and spell out her answer?"

Rap! rap! rap!

Craig paused a moment to frame the question, then shot it out point-blank: "Does Mrs. Vandam know now in the other world whether anyone in this room substituted a morphine capsule for one of those ordered by her three days before she died? Does she know whether the same person has done the same thing with those later ordered by Mr. Vandam?"

"John" seemed considerably perturbed at the mention of capsules. It was a long time before any answer was forthcoming. Kennedy was about to repeat the question when a faint sound was heard.

Rap! -

Suddenly came a wild scream. It was such a scream as I had never heard before in my life. It came as though a dagger had been thrust into the heart of Mrs. Popper. The lights flashed up as Kennedy turned the switch.

A man was lying flat on the floor--it was Inspector O'Connor. He had succeeded in slipping noiselessly, like a snake, below the curtain into the cabinet. Craig had told him to look out for wires or threads stretched from Mrs. Popper's clothing to the bulging curtain of the cabinet. Imagine his surprise when he saw that she had simply freed her foot from the shoe, which I was carefully holding down, and with a backward movement of the leg was reaching out into the cabinet behind her chair and was doing the rapping with her toes.

Lying on the floor he had grasped her foot and caught her heel with a firm hand. She had responded with a wild yell that showed she knew she was trapped. Her secret was out.

Hysterically Mrs. Popper began to upbraid the inspector as he rose to his feet, but Farrington quickly interposed.

"Something was working against us to-night, gentlemen. Yet you demanded results. And when the spirits will not come, what is she to do? She forgets herself in her trance; she produces, herself, the things that you all could see supernaturally if you were in sympathy."


OF THE SILENT BULLET - 20/54

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