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- The Blind Spot - 20/71 -


XIV

A NEW ELEMENT

Budge Kennedy was not so easily found. There were many Kennedys. About two-thirds of Ireland had apparently migrated to San Francisco under that name and had lodged in the directory. We went through the lists on both sides of the bay, but found nothing; the old directories had mostly been destroyed by fire or had been thrown away as worthless; but at last we unearthed one. In it we found the name of Budge Kennedy.

He had two sons--Patrick and Henry. One of these, Henry, we ran down in the Mission. He was a great, red-headed, broad-shouldered Irishman. He was just eating supper when we called; there were splotches of white plaster on his trousers.

I came right to the point: "Do you know anything about this?" I held out the ring.

He took it in his fingers; his eyes popped. "What, that! Well, I guess I do! Where'd you get it?" He called out to the kitchen: "Say, Mollie, come here. Here's the old man's jool!" He looked at me a bit fearfully. "You aren't wearing it?"

"Why not?" I asked.

"Why? Well, I don't know exactly. I wouldn't wear it for a million dollars. It ain't a jool; it's a piece of the divil. The old man gave it to Dr. Holcomb--or sold it, I don't know which. He carried it in his pocket once, and he came near dying."

"Unlucky?" I asked.

"No, it ain't unlucky; it just rips your heart out. It would make you hate your grandmother. Lonesome! Lonesome! I've often heard the old man talking."

"He sold it to Dr. Holcomb? Do you know why?"

"Well, yes. 'Twas that the old doc had some scientific work. Dad told him about his jool. One day he took it over to Berkeley. It was some kind of thing that the professor just wanted. He kept it. Dad made him promise not to wear it."

"I see. Did your father ever tell you where he got it?"

"Oh, yes. He often spoke about that. The old man wasn't a plasterer, you know--just a labourer. He was digging a basement. It was a funny basement--a sort of blind cellar. There was a stone wall right across the middle, and then there was a door of wood to look like stone. You can go down into the back cellar, but not into the front. If you don't know about the door, you'll never find it. Dad often spoke about that. He was working in the back cellar when he found this. 'Twas sticking in some blue clay."

"Where was this place? Do you remember?"

"Sure. 'Twas in Chatterton Place. Pat and I was kids then; we took the old man's dinner."

"Do you know the number?"

"It didn't have no number; but I know the place. 'Tis a two-story house, and was built in 'ninety-one."

I nodded. "And afterwards you moved to Oakland?"

"Yes."

"Did your father ever speak of the reason for this partition in the cellar?"

"He never knew of one. It was none of his business. He was merely a labourer, and did what he was paid for."

"Do you know who built it?"

"Some old guy. He was a cranky cuss with side-whiskers. He used to wear a stove-pipe hat. I think he was a chemist. Whenever he showed up he would run us kids out of the building. I think he was a bachelor."

This was all the information he could give, but it was a great deal. Certainly it was more than I had hoped for. The house had been built by a chemist; even in the construction there was mystery. I had never thought of a second cellar; when I had explored the building I had taken the stone wall for granted. It was so with Jerome. It was the first definite clue that really brought us down to earth. What had this chemist to do with the phenomena?

After all, behind everything was lurking the mind of man.

We hastened back to the house and into the cellar. By merely sounding along the wall we discovered the door; it was cleverly constructed and for a time defied our efforts; but Jerome got it open by means of a jemmy and a pick. The outside was a clever piece of sham work shaped like stone and smeared over with cement. In the dim light we had missed it.

We had high expectations. But we were disappointed. The space contained nothing; it was smeared with cobwebs and hairy mould; but outside of a few empty bottles and the gloomy darkness there was nothing. We tapped the walls and floor and ceiling. Beyond all doubt the place once held a secret; if it held it still, it was cleverly hidden. After an hour or two of search we returned to the upper part of the building.

Jerome was not discouraged.

"We're on the right track, Mr. Wendel; if we can only get started. I have an idea. The chemist--it was in 'ninety-one--that's more than twenty years."

"What is your idea?"

"The Rhamda. What is the first thing that strikes you? His age. With everyone that sees him it's the same. At first you take him for an old man; if you study him long enough, you are positive that he is in his twenties. May he not be this chemist?"

"What becomes of the doctor and his Blind Spot?"

"The Blind Spot," answered Jerome, "is merely a part of the chemistry."

Next day I hunted up a jeweller. I was careful to choose one with whom I was acquainted. I asked for a private consultation. When we were alone I took the ring from my finger.

"Just an opinion," I asked. "You know gems. Can you tell me anything about this one?"

He picked it up casually, and turned it over; his mouth puckered. For a minute he studied.

"That? Well, now." He held it up. "Humph. Wait a minute."

"Is it a gem?"

"I think it is. At first I thought I knew it right off; but now-- wait a minute."

He reached in the drawer for his glass. He held the stone up for some minutes. His face was a study; queer little wrinkles twisting from the corners of his eyes told his wonder. He did not speak; merely turned the stone round and round. At last he removed his glass and held up the ring. He was quizzical.

"Where did you get this?" he asked.

"That is something I do not care to answer. I wish to know what it is. Is it a gem? If so, what kind?"

He thought a moment and shook his head.

"I thought I knew every gem on earth. But I don't. This is a new one. It is beautiful--just a moment." He stepped to the door. In a moment another man stepped in. The jeweller motioned towards the ring. The man picked it up and again came the examination. At last he laid the glass and ring both upon the table.

"What do you make of it, Henry?" asked the jeweller.

"Not me," answered the second one. "I never saw one like it."

It was as Watson had said. No man had ever identified the jewel. The two men were puzzled; they were interested. The jeweller turned to me.

"Would you care to leave it with us for a bit; you have no objection to us taking it out of the ring?"

I had not thought of that. I had business down the street. I consulted my watch.

"In half an hour I shall be back. Will that be enough time?"

"I think so."

It was an hour before I returned. The assistant was standing at the door of the office. He spoke something to the one inside and then made an indication to myself. He seemed excited; when I came closer I noted that his face was full of wonder.

"We've been waiting," said he. "We didn't examine the stone; it wasn't necessary. It is truly wonderful." He was a short, squat man with a massive forehead. "Just step inside."

Inside the office the jeweller was sitting beside a table; he was leaning back in his chair; he had his hands clasped over his stomach. He was gazing toward the ceiling; his face was a study, full of wonder and speculation.

"Well?" I asked.


The Blind Spot - 20/71

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