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- OF THE SILENT BULLET - 40/54 -
"I just happened to catch sight of that peculiar wireless, mast of yours. A little flash of light first attracted my attention to it. I thought it was an electric spark, but you are too clever for that, Lamar. Still, you forgot a much simpler thing. It was the glint of the sun on the lens of your telescope as you were watching Norton that betrayed you."
Lamar said nothing.
"I'm glad to say you had no confederate in the hangar here," continued Craig. "At first I suspected it. Anyhow, you succeeded pretty well single handed, two lives lost and two machines wrecked. Norton flew all right yesterday when he left his gyroscope and dynamo behind, but when he took them along you were able to fuse the wires in the dynamo--you pretty nearly succeeded in adding his name to those of Browne and Herrick."
The whir of Norton's machine told us he was approaching. We scattered to give him space enough to choose the spot where he would alight. As the men caught his machine to steady it, he jumped lightly to the ground.
"Where's Kennedy" he asked, and then, without waiting for a reply, he exclaimed: "Queerest thing I ever saw up there. The dynamo wasn't protected by the sheet-lead shield in this flight as in the first to-day. I hadn't risen a hundred feet before I happened to hear the darndest sputtering in the dynamo. Look, boys, the insulation is completely burned off the wires, and the wires are nearly all fused together."
"So it was in the other two wrecked machines," added Kennedy, coming coolly forward. "If you hadn't had everything protected by those shields I gave you in your first flight to-day you would have simply repeated your fall of yesterday--perhaps fatally. This fellow has been directing the full strength of his wireless high-tension electricity straight at you all the time."
"What fellow?" demanded Norton.
The two Pinkertons shoved Lamar forward. Norton gave a contemptuous look at him. "Delaune," he said, "I knew you were a crook when you tried to infringe on my patent, but I didn't think you were coward enough to resort to--to murder."
Lamar, or rather Delanne, shrank back as if even the protection of his captors was safety compared to the threatening advance of Norton toward him.
"Pouff!" exclaimed Norton, turning suddenly on his heel. "What a fool I am! The law will take care of such scoundrels as you. What's the grand stand cheering for now?" he asked, looking across the field in an effort to regain his self-control.
A boy from one of the hangars down the line spoke up from the back of the crowd in a shrill, piping voice. "You have been awarded the Brooks Prize, sir," he said.
X. The Black Hand
Kennedy and I had been dining rather late one evening at Luigi's, a little Italian restaurant on the lower West Side. We had known the place well in our student days, and had made a point of visiting it once a month since, in order to keep in practice in the fine art of gracefully handling long shreds of spaghetti. Therefore we did not think it strange when the proprietor himself stopped a moment at our table to greet us. Glancing furtively around at the other diners, mostly Italians, he suddenly leaned over and whispered to Kennedy:
"I have heard of your wonderful detective work, Professor. Could you give a little advice in the case of a friend of mine?"
"Surely, Luigi. What is the case?" asked Craig, leaning back in his chair.
Luigi glanced around again apprehensively and lowered his voice. "Not so loud, sir. When you pay your check, go out, walk around Washington Square, and come in at the private entrance. I'll be waiting in the hall. My friend is dining privately upstairs."
We lingered a while over our Chianti, then quietly paid the check and departed.
True to his word, Luigi was waiting for us in the dark hall. With a motion that indicated silence, he led us up the stairs to the second floor, and quickly opened a door into what seemed to be a fair-sized private dining-room. A man was pacing the floor nervously. On a table was some food, untouched. As the door opened I thought he started as if in fear, and I am sure his dark face blanched, if only for an instant. Imagine our surprise at seeing Gennaro, the great tenor, with whom merely to have a speaking acquaintance was to argue oneself famous.
"Oh, it is you, Luigi," he exclaimed in perfect English, rich and mellow. "And who are these gentlemen?"
Luigi merely replied, "Friends," in English also, and then dropped off into a voluble, low-toned explanation in Italian.
I could see, as we waited, that the same idea had flashed over Kennedy's mind as over my own. It was now three or four days since the papers had reported the strange kidnapping of Gennaro's five-year-old daughter Adelina, his only child, and the sending of a demand for ten thousand dollars ransom, signed, as usual, with the mystic Black Hand--a name to conjure with in blackmail and extortion.
As Signor Gennaro advanced toward us, after his short talk with Luigi, almost before the introductions were over, Kennedy anticipated him by saying: "I understand, Signor, before you ask me. I have read all about it in the papers. You want someone to help you catch the criminals who are holding your little girl."
"No, no!" exclaimed Gennaro excitedly. "Not that. I want to get my daughter first. After that, catch them if you can--yes, I should like to have someone do it. But read this first and tell me what you think of it. How should I act to get my little Adelina back without harming a hair of her head?" The famous singer drew from a capacious pocketbook a dirty, crumpled, letter, scrawled on cheap paper.
Kennedy translated it quickly. It read:
Honourable sir: Your daughter is in safe hands. But, by the saints, if you give this letter to the police as you did the other, not only she but your family also, someone near to you, will suffer. We will not fail as we did Wednesday. If you want your daughter back, go yourself, alone and without telling a soul, to Enrico Albano's Saturday night at the twelfth hour. You must provide yourself with $10,000 in bills hidden in Saturday's Il Progresso Italiano. In the back room you will see a man sitting alone at a table. He will have a red flower on his coat. You are to say, "A fine opera is 'I Pagliacci.'" If he answers, "Not without Gennaro, lay the newspaper down on the table. He will pick it up, leaving his own, the Bolletino. On the third page you will find written the place where your daughter has been left waiting for you. Go immediately and get her. But, by the God, if you have so much as the shadow of the police near Enrico'a your daughter will be sent to you in a box that night. Do not fear to come. We pledge our word to deal fairly if you deal fairly. This is a last warning. Lest you shall forget we will show one other sign of our power to-morrow. La MANO NERA.
The end of this ominous letter was gruesomely decorated with a skull and cross-bones, a rough drawing of a dagger thrust through a bleeding heart, a coffin, and, under all, a huge black band. There was no doubt about the type of letter that it was. It was such as have of late years become increasingly common in all our large cities, baffling the best detectives.
"You have not showed this to the police, I presume?" asked Kennedy.
"Are you going Saturday night?"
"I am afraid to go and afraid to stay away," was the reply, and the voice of the fifty-thousand-dollars-a-season tenor was as human as that of a five-dollar-a-week father, for at bottom all men, high or low, are one.
"'We will not fail as we did Wednesday,'" reread Craig. "What does that mean"
Gennaro fumbled in his pocketbook again, and at last drew forth a typewritten letter bearing the letter-head of the Leslie Laboratories, Incorporated.
"After I received the first threat," explained Gennaro, "my wife and I went from our apartments at the hotel to her father's, the banker Cesare, you know, who lives on Fifth Avenue. I gave the letter to the Italian Squad of the police. The next morning my father-in-law's butler noticed something peculiar about the milk. He barely touched some of it to his tongue, and he has been violently ill ever since. I at once sent the milk to the laboratory of my friend Doctor Leslie to have it analysed. This letter shows what the household escaped."
"My dear Gennaro," read Kennedy. "The milk submitted to us for examination on the 10th inst. has been carefully analysed, and I beg to hand you herewith the result:
Specific gravity 1.036 at 15 degrees Cent.
Water .............................................84.60 per cent Casein .............................................3.49 " " Albumin ..............................................56 " " Globulin .............................................32 " " Lactose ............................................5.08 " " Ash ................................................ .72 " " Fat ............................................... 3.42 " " Ricin ............................................. 1.19 " "
"Ricin is a new and little-known poison derived from the shell of the castor-oil bean. Professor Ehrlich states that one gram of the pure poison will kill 1,500,000 guinea pigs. Ricin was lately
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