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- The Blind Spot - 6/71 -
furniture upstairs; four of the rooms on the lower floor were partly furnished, two not at all. A rear room had evidently been to the old lady the whole of her habitation, serving as a kitchen, bedroom, and living-room combined. Except in this room there were no carpets what-ever. His steps sounded hollow and ghostly; the boards creaked and each time he opened a door he was oppressed by the same gloom of dankness and stagnation. There was no trace of Dr. Holcomb.
He remembered the bell and sought vainly on both floors for anything that would give him a clue to the sound. There was nothing. The only thing he heard was the echoing of his own creaking footsteps and the unceasing tune that dinned in his spirit, "Now there are two."
At last he came to the door and looked out into the street. The sun was shining and the life and pulse was rising from the city. It was daylight; plain, healthy day. It was good to look at. On the threshold of the door he felt himself standing on the border of two worlds. What had become of the doctor and who was the old lady; and lastly and just as important, who was the Rhamda and his beautiful companion?
Jerome telephoned to headquarters.
It was a strange case.
At the precise minute when his would-be auditors were beginning to fidget over his absence, the police of San Francisco had started the search for the great doctor. Jerome had followed his intuition. It had led him into a tragedy and he was ready to swear almost on his soul that it was twofold. The prominence of the professor, together with his startling announcement of the day previous and the world-wide comment that it had aroused, elevated the case to a national interest.
What was the Blind Spot? The world conjectured, and like the world has been since beginning, it scoffed and derided. Some there were, however, men well up in the latest discoveries of science, who did not laugh. They counselled forbearance; they would wait for the doctor and his lecture.
There was no lecture. In the teeth of our expectation came the startling word that the doctor had disappeared. Apparently when on the very verge of announcing his discovery he had been swallowed by the very force that he had loosened. There was nothing in known science outside of optics, that could in any way be blended with the Blind Spot. There were but two solutions; either the professor had been a victim of a clever rogue, or he had been overcome by the rashness of his own wisdom. At any rate, it was known from that minute on as "THE BLIND SPOT."
Perhaps it is just as well to take up the findings of the police. The police of course never entertained any suggestion of the occult. They are material; and were convinced from the start that the case had its origin in downright villainy. Man is complex; but being so, is oft overbalanced by evil Some genius had made a fool of the doctor.
In the first place a thorough search was made for the professor. The house at No. 288 Chatterton Place was ransacked from cellar to attic. The records were gone over and it was found that the property had for some time been vacant; that the real ownership was vested in a number of heirs scattered about the country.
The old lady had apparently been living on the place simply through sufferance. No one could find out who she was. A few tradesman in the vicinity had sold her some scant supplies and that was all. The stress that Jerome placed upon her actions and words was; given its due account. There were undoubtedly two villains; but there were two victims. That the old lady was such as well as the professor no one has doubted. The whole secret lay in the gentleman with the Eastern cast and complexion. Who was Rhamda Avec?
And now comes the strangest part of the story. Ever, when we re- count the tale, there is something to overturn the theories of the police. It has become a sort of legend in San Francisco; one to be taken with a grain of salt, to be sure, but for all that, one at which we may well wonder. Here the supporters of the professor's philosophy hold their strongest point--if it is true. Of course we can venture no private opinion, never having been a witness. It is this:
Rhamda Avec is with us and in our city. His description and drawn likeness have been published many times. There are those who aver that they have seen him in reality of the flesh walking through the crowds of Market Street.
He is easily distinguished, tall and distinctive, refined to a high degree, and with the poise and alertness of a gentleman of reliance and character. Women look twice and wonder; he is neither old nor young; when he smiles it is like youth breaking in laughter. And with him often is his beautiful companion.
Men vouch for her beauty and swear that it is of the kind that drives to distraction. She is fire and flesh and carnal--she is more than beauty. There is allurement about her body; sylph-like, sinuous; the olive tint of her complexion, the wonderful glory of her hair and the glowing night-black of her eyes. Men pause; she is of the superlative kind that robs the reason, a supreme glory of passion and life and beauty, at whose feet fools and wise men would slavishly frolic and folly. She seldom speaks, but those who have heard her say that it is like rippling water, of gentleness and softness and of the mellow flow that comes from love and passion and from beauty.
Of course there is nothing out of the ordinary in their walking down the streets. Anybody might do that. The wonder comes in the manner in which they elude the police. They come and go in the broad, bright daylight. Hundreds have seen them. They make no effort at concealment, nor disguise. And yet no phantoms were ever more unreal than they to those who seek them. Who are they? The officers have been summoned on many occasions; but each and every time in some manner or way they had contrived to elude them. There are some who have consigned them to the limbo of illusion. But we do not entirely agree.
In a case like this it is well to take into consideration the respectability and character of those who have witnessed. Phantoms are not corporeal; these two are flesh and blood. There is mystery about them; but they are substance, the same as we are.
If you will take the Key Route ferry some foggy morning you may see something to convince you. It must be foggy and the air must be grey and drab and sombre. Take the lower deck. Perhaps you will see nothing. If not try again; for they say you shall be rewarded. Watch the forward part of the boat; but do not leave the inner deck. The great Rhamda watching the grey swirl of the water!
He stands alone, in his hands the case of reddish leather, his feet slightly apart and his face full of a great hungry wonder. Watch his features: they are strong and aglow with a great and wondrous wisdom; mark if you see evil. And remember. Though he is like you he is something vastly different. He is flesh and blood; but perhaps the master of one of the greatest laws that man can attain to. He is the fact and the substance that was promised, but was not delivered by the professor.
This account has been largely taken from one of the Sunday editions of our papers. I do not agree with it entirely. Nevertheless, it will serve as an excellent foundation for my own adventures; and what is best of all, save labour.
My name is Harry Wendel.
I am an attorney and until recently boasted of a splendid practice and an excellent prospect for the future. I am still a young man; I have had a good education and still have friends and admirers. Such being the case, you no doubt wonder why I give a past reference to my practice and what the future might have held for me. Listen:
I might as well start 'way back. I shall do it completely and go back to the fast-receding time of childhood.
There is a recollection of childish disaster. I had been making strenuous efforts to pull the tail out of the cat that I might use it for a feather duster. My desire was supreme logic. I could not understand objection; the cat resisted for certain utilitarian reasons of its own and my mother through humane sympathy. I had been scratched and spanked in addition: it was the first storm centre that I remember. I had been punished but not subdued. At the first opportunity, I stole out of the house and onto the lawn that stretched out to the pavement.
I remember the day. The sun was shining, the sky was clear, and everything was green with springtime. For a minute I stood still and blinked in the sunlight. It was beautiful and soft and balmy; the world at full exuberance; the buds upon the trees, the flowers, and the songbirds singing. I could not understand it. It was so beautiful and soft. My heart was still beating fiercely, still black with perversity and stricken rancour. The world had no right to be so. I hated with the full rush of childish anger.
And then I saw.
Across the street coming over to meet me was a child of my age. He was fat and chubby, a mass of yellow curls and laughter; when he walked he held his feet out at angles as is the manner of fat boys and his arms away from his body. I slid off the porch quietly. Here was something that could suffer for the cat and my mother. At my rush he stopped in wonder. I remember his smiling face and my anger. In an instant I had him by the hair and was biting with all the fury of vindictiveness.
At first he set up a great bawl for assistance. He could not understand; he screamed and held his hands aloft to keep them out of my reach. Then he tried to run away. But I had learned from the cat that had scratched me. I clung on, biting, tearing. The shrill
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