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- The Treasure-Train - 30/54 -
until she came to New York and introduced herself to me. For a time she was interesting. But I'm too old for that sort of thing. Besides, she always impressed me as though she had some ulterior motive, as though she was trying to get at something through me. I cut it all out."
Kennedy nodded, but for a moment said nothing.
"I think I'll be getting out," remarked Page, with a half smile. "I don't want a knife in the back. I thought you ought to know all this, though. And if I hear anything else I'll let you know."
Kennedy thanked him and together we rode down in the next elevator, parting with Page at the hotel entrance.
It was still early in the evening, and Kennedy had no intention now of wasting a moment. He beckoned for a cab and directed the man to drive immediately to the Pan-America.
This time Teresa de Leon was plainly prepared for a visit, though I am not sure that she was prepared to receive two visitors.
"I believe you were acquainted with Senior Barrios, who died to- night?" opened Kennedy, after I had introduced him.
"He was acquainted with me," she corrected, with a purr in her voice that suggested claws.
"You were not married to him," shot out Kennedy; then before she could reply, "nor even engaged."
"He had known me a long time. We were intimate--"
"Friends," interrupted Kennedy, leaving no doubt as to the meaning of his emphasis.
She colored. It was evident that, at least to her, it was more than friendship.
"Senor Sandoval says," romanced Kennedy, in true detective style, "that you wrote--"
It was her turn to interrupt. "If Senor Sandoval says anything against me, he tells what is not--the truth."
In spite of Kennedy's grilling she was still mistress of herself.
"You introduced yourself to Burton Page, and--"
"You had better remember your own proverb," she retorted. "Don't believe anything you hear and only half you see."
Kennedy snapped down the yellow telegram before her. It was a dramatic moment. The woman did not flinch at the anonymous implication. Straight into Kennedy's eyes she shot a penetrating glance.
"Watch both of THEM," she replied, shortly, then turned and deliberately swept out of the hotel parlor as though daring us to go as far as we cared.
"I think we have started forces working for us," remarked Kennedy, coolly consulting his watch. "For the present at least let us retire to the laboratory. Some one will make a move. My game is to play one against the other--until the real one breaks."
We had scarcely switched on the lights and Kennedy was checking over the results he had obtained during his afternoon's investigations, when the door was flung open and a man dashed in on us unexpectedly. It was Sandoval, and as he advanced furiously at Kennedy I more than feared that Page's idea was correct.
"It was you, Kennedy," he hissed, "who took those letters from Jose's desk. It is you--or Page back of you--who are trying to connect me with that woman, De Leon. But let me tell you--"
A sharp click back of Sandoval caused him to cut short the remark and look about apprehensively. Kennedy's finger, sliding along the edge of the laboratory table, had merely found an electric button by which he could snap the lock on the door.
"We are two to one," returned Kennedy, nonchalantly. "That was nothing but the lock on the door closing. Mr. Jameson has a revolver in the top drawer of his desk over there. You will pardon me if I do a little telephoning--through the central office of the detective bureau? Some of our friends may not be overanxious to come here, and it may be necessary to compel their attendance."
Sandoval subsided into a sullen silence as Kennedy made arrangements to have Burton Page, Anitra, Eulalie, and Teresa de Leon hurried to us at once.
There was nothing for me to do but watch Sandoval as Kennedy prepared a little instrument with a scale and dial upon which rested an indicator resembling a watch hand, something like the new horizontal clocks which have only one hand to register seconds, minutes, and hours. In them, like a thermometer held sidewise, the hand moves along from zero to twenty-four. In this instrument a little needle did the same thing. Pairs of little wire-like strings ran to the instrument.
Kennedy had finished adjusting another instrument which was much like the saccharimeter, only more complicated, when the racing of an engine outside announced the arrival of the party in one of the police department cars.
Between us, Craig and I lost no time in disposing the visitors so that each was in possession of a pair of the wire-like strings, and then disdaining to explain why he had gathered them together so unceremoniously, Kennedy turned and finished adjusting the other apparatus.
"Most people regard light, so abundant, so necessary, so free as a matter of course," he remarked, contemplatively. "Not one person in ten thousand ever thinks of its mysterious nature or ever attempts to investigate it. In fact, most of us are in utter darkness as to light."
He paused, tapped the machine and went on, "This is a polarimeter- -a simple polariscope--a step beyond the saccharimeter," he explained, with a nod at Sandoval. "It detects differences of structure in substances not visible in ordinary light.
"Light is polarized in several ways--by reflection, by transmission, but most commonly through what I have here, a prism of calcite, or Iceland spar, commonly called a Nicol prism. Light fully polarized consists of vibrations transverse to the direction of the ray, all in one plane. Ordinary light has transverse vibrations in all planes. Certain substances, due to their molecular structure, are transparent to vibrations in one plane, but opaque to those at right angles.
"Here we have," he explained, tapping the parts in order, "a source of light, passing in through this aperture, here a Nicol polarizer, next a liquid to be examined in a glass-capped tube; here on this other side an arrangement of quartz plates with rotary power which I will explain in a moment, next an analyzer, and finally the aperture for the eye of an observer."
Kennedy adjusted the glass tube containing the liquid which bore the substance scraped from the cartridge--he had picked up in the office of Jose. "Look through the eyepiece, Walter," he directed.
The field appeared halved. He made an adjustment and at once the field of vision appeared wholly the same tint. When he removed the tube it was dark.
"If a liquid has not what we call rotary power both halves of the double disk appear of the same tint," he explained. "If it has rotary power, the halves appear of different tints and the degree of rotation is measured by the alteration of thickness of this double quartz plate necessary to counteract it. It is, as I told Mr. Jameson early to-day, a rather abstruse subject, this of polarized light. I shall not bore you with it, but I think you will see in a moment why it is necessary, perhaps why some one who knew thought it would never be used.
"What I am getting at now is that some substances with the same chemical formula rotate polarized light to the right, are dextro- rotary, as, for instance, what is known as dextrose. Others rotate it to the left, are levo-rotary, as the substance called levose. Both of them are glucose. So there are substances which give the same chemical reactions which can only be distinguished by their being left or right rotary."
Craig took a bit of crystalline powder and dissolved it in ether. Then he added some strong sulphuric acid. The liquid turned yellow, then slowly a bright scarlet. Beside the first he repeated the operation with another similar-looking powder, with the identical result.
"Both of those," he remarked, holding up the vials, "were samples of pure veratrine, but obtained from different sources. You see the brilliant reaction--unmistakable. But it makes all the difference in the world in this case what was the source of the veratrine. It may mean the guilt or innocence of one of you."
He paused, to let the significance of his remark sink in. "Veratrine," he resumed, "is a form of hellebore, known to gardeners for its fatal effect on insects. There are white and green hellebore, Veratrum alba and Veratrum viride. It is the pure alkaloid, or rather one of them, that we have to deal with here-- veratrine.
"There are various sources of veratrine. For instance, there is the veratrine that may be derived from the sabadilla seeds which grow in the West Indies and Mexico. It is used, I am informed, by the Germans in their lachrymatory and asphyxiating bombs."
The mention of the West Indies brought, like a flash, to my mind Sandoval and Senorita de Leon.
"Then, too," continued Kennedy, "there is a plant out in our own Western country, of which you may have heard, known as the death camas, very fatal to cattle when they eat it. The active principle in this is also veratrine."
I began to see what Kennedy was driving at. If it were veratrine derived from death camas it would point toward Page.
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