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The Film Mystery

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Title: The Film Mystery

Author: Arthur B. Reeve

Release Date: March, 2004 [EBook #5270]
[Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule]
[This file was first posted on June 23, 2002]
[Date last updated: August 13, 2005]

Edition: 10

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE FILM MYSTERY ***




Produced by Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team




THE FILM MYSTERY

BY

ARTHUR B. REEVE

AUTHOR OF

"The Soul Scar" "The Adventuress" and Other Craig Kennedy
Scientific Detective Stories





CONTENTS

CHAPTER

     I.  A CAMERA CRIME
    II.  THE TINY SCRATCH
   III.  TANGLED MOTIVES
    IV.  THE FATAL SCRIPT
     V.  AN EMOTIONAL MAZE
    VI.  THE FIRST CLUB
   VII.  ENID FAYE
  VIII.  LAWRENCE MILLARD
    IX.  WHITE-LIGHT SHADOWS
     X.  CHEMICAL RESEARCH
    XI.  FORESTALLED
   XII.  EMERY PHELPS
  XIII.  MARILYN LORING
   XIV.  ANOTHER CLUE
    XV.  I BECOME A DETECTIVE
   XVI.  ENID ASSISTS
  XVII.  AN APPEAL
 XVIII.  THE ANTIVENIN
   XIX.  AROUND THE CIRCLE
    XX.  THE BANQUET SCENE
   XXI.  MERLE SHIRLEY OVERACTS
  XXII.  THE STEM
 XXIII.  BOTULIN TOXIN
  XXIV.  THE INVISIBLE MENACE
   XXV.  ITCHING SALVE
  XXVI.  A CIGARETTE CASE
 XXVII.  THE FILM FIRE
XXVIII.  THE PHOSPHORUS BOMB
  XXIX.  MICROSCOPIC EVIDENCE
   XXX.  THE BALLROOM SCENE
  XXXI.  PHYSOSTIGMIN
 XXXII.  CAMERA EVIDENCE




THE FILM MYSTERY




I

A CAMERA CRIME


"Camera!"

Kennedy and I had been hastily summoned from his laboratory in
the city by District-Attorney Mackay, and now stood in the
luxurious, ornate library in the country home of Emery Phelps,
the banker, at Tarrytown.

"Camera!--you know the call when the director is ready to shoot a
scene of a picture?--well--at the moment it was given and the
first and second camera men began to grind--she crumpled--sank to
the floor--unconscious!"

Hot and excited, Mackay endeavored to reenact his case for us
with all the histrionic ability of a popular prosecutor before a
jury.

"There's where she dropped--they carried her over here to this
davenport--sent for Doctor Blake--but he couldn't do a thing for
her. She died--just as you see her. Blake thought the matter so
serious, so alarming, that he advised an immediate investigation.
That's why I called you so urgently."

Before us lay the body of the girl, remarkably beautiful even as
she lay motionless in death. Her masses of golden hair,
disheveled, added to the soft contours of her features. Her
wonderfully large blue-gray eyes with their rare gift for
delicate shades of expression were closed, but long curling
lashes swept her cheeks still and it was hard to believe that
this was anything more than sleep.

It was inconceivable that Stella Lamar, idol of the screen,
beloved of millions, could have been taken from the world which
worshiped her.

I felt keenly for the district attorney. He was a portly little
man of the sort prone to emphasize his own importance and so,
true to type, he had been upset completely by a case of genuine
magnitude. It was as though visiting royalty had dropped dead
within his jurisdiction.

I doubt whether the assassination of a McKinley or a Lincoln
could have unsettled him as much, because in such an event he
would have had the whole weight of the Federal government behind
him. There was no question but that Stella Lamar enjoyed a
country-wide popularity known by few of our Presidents. Her
sudden death was a national tragedy.

Apparently Mackay had appealed to Kennedy the moment he learned
the identity of Stella, the moment he realized there was any
question about the circumstances surrounding the affair. Over the
telephone the little man had been almost incoherent. He had heard
of Kennedy's work and was feverishly anxious to enlist his aid,
at any price.

All we knew as we took the train on the New York Central was that
Stella was playing a part in a picture to be called "The Black
Terror," that the producer was Manton Pictures, Incorporated, and
that she had dropped dead suddenly and without warning in the
middle of a scene being photographed in the library at the home
of Emery Phelps.

I was singularly elated at the thought of accompanying Kennedy on
this particular case. It was not that the tragic end of a film
star whose work I had learned to love was not horrible to me, but
rather because, for once, I thought Kennedy actually confronted a
situation where his knowledge of a given angle of life was hardly
sufficient for his usual analysis of the facts involved.

"Walter," he had exclaimed, as I burst into the laboratory in
response to a hurried message, "here's where I need your help.
You know all about moving pictures, so--if you'll phone your city
editor and ask him to let you cover a case for the Star we'll
just about catch a train at One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street."

Because the film world had fascinated me always I had made a
point of being posted on its people and their activities. I
remembered the very first appearance of Stella Lamar back in the
days of General Film, when pictures were either Licensed or
Independent, when only two companies manufactured worth-while
screen dramas, when any subject longer than a reel had to be of
rare excellence, such as the art films imported from France for
the Licensed program. In those days, Stella rose rapidly to
prominence. Her large wistful eyes had set the hearts of many of
us to beating at staccato rate.

Then came Lloyd Manton, her present manager, and the first of a
new type of business man to enter the picture field. Manton was
essentially a promoter. His predecessors had been men carried to
success by the growth of the new art. Old Pop Belman, for
instance, had been a fifth-rate oculist who rented and sold
stereopticons as a side line. With blind luck he had grasped the
possibilities of Edison's new invention. Just before the break-up
of General Film he had become many times a millionaire and it was
then that he had sent a wave of laughter over the entire country
by an actual cable to William Shakespeare, address London, asking
for all screen rights to the plays written by that gentleman.

Manton represented a secondary phase in film finance. Continent
Films, his first corporation, was a stockjobbing concern.
Grasping the immense popularity of Stella Lamar, he had coaxed
her away from the old studio out in Flatbush where all her early
successes had been photographed. With the magic of her name he
sold thousands of shares of stock to a public already fed up on
the stories of the fortunes to be made in moving pictures. When
much of the money so raised had been dissipated, when Continent's
quotation on the curb sank to an infinitesimal fraction, then it
developed that Stella's contract was with Manton personally.
Manton Pictures, Incorporated, was formed to exploit her. The
stock of this company was not offered to outside investors.

Stella's popularity had in no way suffered from the business
methods of her manager. Manton, at the least, had displayed rare
foresight in his estimation of public taste. Except for a few
attempts with established stage favorites, photographed generally
in screen versions of theatrical classics and backed by
affiliations with the producers of the legitimate stage,
Continent Films was the first concern to make the five-reel
feature. Stella, as a Continent player, was the very first
feature star. Under the banner of Manton Pictures, she had never
surrendered her position of pre-eminence.

Also, scandal somehow had failed to touch her. Those initiated to
the inner gossip of the film world, like myself, were under no
illusions. The relations between Stella and Manton were an open
secret. Yet the picture fans, in their blind worship, believed
her to be as they saw her upon the screen. To them the wide and
wistful innocence of her remarkably large eyes could not be
anything but genuine. The artlessness of the soft curves of her
mouth was proof to them of the reality of an ingenuous and very
girlish personality.

Even her divorce had helped rather than harmed her. It seemed
irony to me that she should have obtained the decree instead of
her husband, and in New York, too, where the only grounds are
unfaithfulness. The testimony in the case had been sealed so that
no one knew whom she had named as corespondent. At the time, I
wondered what pressure had been exerted upon Millard to prevent
the filing of a cross suit. Surely he should have been able to
substantiate the rumors of her association with Lloyd Manton.

Lawrence Millard, author and playwright and finally scenario
writer, had been as much responsible for the success of his wife
as Manton, and in a much less spectacular way. It was Millard who
had written her first great Continent success, who had developed
the peculiar type of story best suited for her, back in the early
days of the one reel and General Film.

It is commonly known in picture circles that an actress who
screens well, even if she is only a moderately good artist, can
be made a star with one or two or three good stories and that,
conversely, a star may be ruined by a succession of badly written
or badly produced vehicles. Those of us not blinded by an
idolatrous worship for the girl condemned her severely for
throwing her husband aside at the height of her success. The
public displayed their sympathy for her by a burst of renewed
interest. The receipts at the box office whenever her films were
shown probably delighted both Manton and Stella herself.

I had wondered, as Kennedy and I occupied a seat in the train,
and as he left me to my thoughts, whether there could be any
connection between the tragedy and the divorce. The decree, I
knew, was not yet final. Could it be possible that Millard was
unwilling, after all, to surrender her? Could he prefer
deliberate murder to granting her her freedom? I was compelled to
drop that line of thought, since it offered no explanation of his
previous failure to contest her suit or to start counter action.

Then my reflections had strayed away from Kennedy's sphere, the
solving of the mystery, to my own, the news value of her death
and the events following. The Star, as always, had been only too
glad to assign me to any case where Craig Kennedy was concerned;
my phone message to the city editor, the first intimation to any
New York paper of Stella's death, already had resulted without
doubt in scare heads and an extra edition.

The thought of the prominence given the personal affairs of
picture players and theatrical folk had disgusted me.

There are stars against whom there is not the slightest breath of
gossip, even among the studio scandal-mongers. Any number of
girls and men go about their work sanely and seriously, concerned
in nothing but their success and the pursuit of normal pleasures.
As a matter of fact it had struck me on the train that this was
about the first time Craig Kennedy had ever been called in upon a
case even remotely connected with the picture field. I knew he
would be confronted with a tangled skein of idle talk, from
everybody, about everybody, and mostly without justification. I
hoped he would not fall into the popular error of assuming all
film players bad, all studios schools of immorality. I was glad I
was able to accompany him on that account.

The arrival at Tarrytown had ended my reflections, and Kennedy's
--whatever they may have been. Mackay himself had met us at the
station and with a few words, to cover his nervousness, had
whisked us out to the house.

As we approached, Kennedy had taken quick note of the
surroundings, the location of the home itself, the arrangement of
the grounds. There was a spreading lawn on all four sides,
unbroken by plant or bush or tree--sheer prodigality of space,
the better to display a rambling but most artistic pile of gray
granite. Masking the road and the adjoining grounds was thick,
impenetrable shrubbery, a ring of miniature forest land about the
estate. There was a garage, set back, and tennis courts, and a
practice golf green. In the center of a garden in a far corner a
summerhouse was placed so as to reflect itself in the surface of
a glistening swimming pool.

As we pulled up under the porte-cochere Emery Phelps, the banker,
greeted us. Perhaps it was my imagination, but it seemed to me
that there was a repressed animosity in his manner, as though he
resented the intrusion of Kennedy and myself, yet felt powerless
to prevent it. In contrast to his manner was the cordiality of
Lloyd Manton, just inside the door. Manton was childishly eager
in his welcome, so much so that I was able to detect a shade of
suspicion in Kennedy's face.

The others of the company were clustered in the living room,
through which we passed to reach the library. I found small
opportunity to study them in the rather dim light. Mackay
beckoned to a man standing in a window, presenting him to Kennedy
as Doctor Blake. Then we entered the long paneled chamber which
had been the scene of the tragedy.

Now I stood, rather awed, with the motionless figure of Stella
Lamar before me in her last pitiable close-up. For I have never
lost the sense of solemnity on entering the room of a tragedy, in
spite of the long association I have had with Kennedy in the
scientific detection of crime. Particularly did I have the
feeling in this case. The death of a man is tragic, but I know
nothing more affecting than the sudden and violent death of a
beautiful woman--unless it be that of a child.

I recalled a glimpse of Stella as I had seen her in her most
recent release, as the diaphragm opened on her receiving a box of
chocolates, sent by her lover, and playfully feeding one of them
to her beautiful collie, "Laddie," as he romped about upon a
divan and almost smothered her with affection. The vivacity and
charm of the scene were in sad contrast with what lay before me.

As I looked more carefully I saw now that her full, well-rounded
face was contorted with either pain or fear--perhaps both. Even
through the make-up one could see that her face was blotched and
swollen. Also, the muscles were contorted; the eyes looked as if
they might be bulging under the lids; and there was a bluish
tinge to her skin. Evidently death had come quickly, but it had
not been painless.

"Even the coroner has not disturbed the body," Mackay hastened to
explain to Kennedy. "The players, the camera men, all were sent
out of the room the moment Doctor Blake was certain something
more than a natural cause lay behind her death. Mr. Phelps
telephoned to me, and upon my arrival I ordered the doors and
windows closed, posted my deputies to prevent any interference
with anything in the room, left my instructions that everyone was
to be detained, then got in touch with you as quickly as I
could."

Kennedy turned to him. Something in the tone of his voice showed
that he meant his compliment. "I'm glad, Mackay, to be called in
by some one who knows enough not to destroy evidence; who
realizes that perhaps the slightest disarrangement of a rug, for
instance, may be the only clue to a murder. It's--it's rare!"

The little district attorney beamed. If he had found it necessary
to walk across the floor just then he would have strutted. I
smiled because I wanted Kennedy to show again his marvelous skill
in tracing a crime to its perpetrator. I was anxious that nothing
should be done to hamper him.




II

THE TINY SCRATCH


Kennedy, before his own examination of the body, turned to Doctor
Blake. "Tell me just what you found when you arrived," he
directed.

The physician, whose practice embraced most of the wealthy
families in and around Tarrytown, was an unusually tall, iron-
gray-haired man of evident competency. It was very plain that he
resented his unavoidable connection with the case.

"She was still alive," he responded, thoughtfully, "although
breathing with difficulty. Nearly everyone had clustered about
her, so that she was getting little air, and the room was stuffy
from the lights they had been using in taking the scene. They
told me she dropped unconscious and that they couldn't revive
her, but at first it did not occur to me that it might be
serious. I thought perhaps the heat--"

"You saw nothing suspicious," interrupted Kennedy, "nothing in
the actions or manner of anyone in the room?"

"No, when I first entered I didn't suspect anything out of the
way. I had them send everyone into the next room, except Manton
and Phelps, and had the doors and windows thrown open to give her
air. Then when I examined her I detected what seemed to me to be
both a muscular and nervous paralysis, which by that time had
proceeded pretty far. As I touched her she opened her eyes, but
she was unable to speak. She was breathing with difficulty; her
heart action was weakening so rapidly that I had little
opportunity to apply restorative measures."

"What do you think caused the death?"

"So far, I can make no satisfactory explanation." The doctor
shrugged his shoulders very slightly. "That is why I advised an
immediate investigation. I did not care to write a death
certificate."

"You have no hypothesis?"

"If she died from any natural organic disorder, the signs were
lacking by which I could trace it. Everything indicates the
opposite, however. It would be hard for me to say whether the
paralysis of respiration or of the heart actually caused her
death. If it was due to poison--Well, to me the whole affair is
shrouded in mystery. The symptoms indicated nothing I could
recognize with any degree of certainty."

Kennedy stooped over, making a superficial examination of the
girl. I saw that some faint odor caught his nostrils, for he
remained poised a moment, inhaling reflectively, his eyes clouded
in thought. Then he went to the windows, raising the shades an
additional few inches each, but that did not seem to give him the
light he wished.

In the room were the portable arcs used in the making of scenes
in an actual interior setting. The connections ran to heavy
insulated junction boxes at the ends of two lines of stiff black
stage cable. Near the door the circuits were joined and a single
lead of the big duplex cord ran out along the polished hardwood
floor, carried presumably to the house circuit at a fuse box
where sufficient amperage was available. Kennedy's eyes followed
out the wires quickly. Then, motioning to me to help, he wheeled
one of the heavy stands around and adjusted the hood so that the
full strength of the light would be cast upon Stella. The arc in
place, he threw the switch, and in the sputtering flood of
illumination dropped to his knees, taking a powerful pocket lens
from his waistcoat and beginning an inch by inch examination of
her skin.

I gained a fresh realization of the beauty of the star as she lay
under the dazzling electric glow, and in particular I noticed the
small amount of make-up she had used and the natural firmness of
her flesh. She was dressed in a modish, informal dinner dress, of
embroidered satin, cut fairly low at front and back and with
sleeves of some gauzelike material reaching not halfway to her
elbow, hardly sleeves at all, in fact.

Kennedy with his glass went over her features with extreme care.
I saw that he drew her hair back, and that then he parted it, to
examine her scalp, and I wondered what infinitesimal clue might
be the object of his search. I had learned, however, never to
question him while he was at work.

With his eye glued to his lens he made his way about and around
her neck, and down and over her throat and chest so far as it
remained unprotected by the silk of her gown. With the aid of
Mackay he turned her over to examine her back. Next he returned
the body to its former position and began to inspect the arms.
Very suddenly something caught his eye on the inside of her right
forearm. He grunted with satisfaction, straightened, pulled the
switch of the arc, wiped his eyes, which were watering.

"Find anything, Mr. Kennedy?" Doctor Blake seemed to understand,
to some extent, the purpose of the examination.

Kennedy did not answer, probably preoccupied with theories which
I could see were forming in his mind.

The library was a huge room of greater length than breadth. At
one end were wide French windows looking out upon the garden and
summer house. The door to the hallway and living room was very
broad, with heavy sliding panels and rich portieres of a velours
almost the tint of the wood-work. Between the door, situated in
the side wall near the opposite end, and the windows, was a
magnificent stone fireplace with charred logs testifying to its
frequent use. The couch where Stella lay had been drawn back from
its normal position before the fire, together with a huge table
of carved walnut. The other two walls were an unbroken succession
of shelves, reaching to the ceiling and literally packed with
books.

Facing the windows and the door, so as to include the fireplace
and the wide sweep of the room within range, were two cameras
still set up, the legs of their tripods nested, probably left
exactly as they were at the moment of Stella's collapse. I
touched the handle of one, a Bell & Howell, and saw that it was
threaded, that the film had not been disturbed. The lights,
staggered and falling away from the camera lines, were arranged
to focus their illumination on the action of the scenes. There
were four arcs and two small portable banks of Cooper-Hewitts,
the latter used to cut the sharp shadows and give a greater
evenness to the photography. Also there were diffusers
constructed of sheets of white cloth stretched taut on frames.
These reflected light upward upon the faces of the actors,
softening the lower features, and so valuable in adding to the
attractiveness of the women in particular.

All this I had learned from visits to a studio with the Star's
photoplay editor. I was anxious to impress my knowledge upon
Kennedy. He gave me no opportunity, however, but wheeled upon
Mackay suddenly.

"Send in the electrician," he ordered. "Keep everyone else out
until I'm ready to examine them."

While the district attorney hurried to the sliding doors, guarded
on their farther side by one of the amateur deputies he had
impressed into service, Kennedy swung the stand of the arc he had
used back into the place unaided. I noticed that Doctor Blake was
nervously interested in spite of his professional poise. I
certainly was bursting with curiosity to know what Kennedy had
found.

The electrician, a wizened veteran of the studios, with a bald
head which glistened rather ridiculously, entered as though he
expected to be held for the death of the star on the spot.

"I don't know nothin'," he began, before anyone could start to
question him. "I was outside when they yelled, honest! I was
seeing whether m'lead was getting hot, and I heard 'em call to
douse the glim, an'--"

"Put on all your lights"--Kennedy was unusually sharp, although
it was plain he held no suspicion of this man, as he added--"just
as you had them."

As the electrician went from stand to stand sulkily, there was a
sputter from the arcs, almost deafening in the confines of the
room, and quite a bit of fine white smoke. But in a moment the
corner of the library constituting the set was brilliantly,
dazzlingly lighted. To me it was quite like being transported
into one of the big studios in the city.

"Is this the largest portion of the room they used?" Kennedy
asked. "Did you have your stands any farther back?"

"This was the biggest lay-out, sir!" replied the man.

"Were all the scenes in which Miss Lamar appeared before her
death in this corner of the room?"

"Yes, sir!"

"And this was the way you had the scene lighted when she dropped
unconscious?"

"Yes, sir! I pulled m'lights an'--an' they lifted her up and put
her right there where she is, sir!"

Kennedy paid no attention to the last; in fact, I doubt whether
he heard it. Dropping to hands and knees immediately, he began a
search of the floor and carpet as minutely painstaking as the
inspection he had given Stella's own person. Instinctively I drew
back, to be out of his way, as did Doctor Blake and Mackay. The
electrician, I noticed, seemed to grasp now the reason for the
summons which undoubtedly had frightened him badly. He gave his
attention to his lights, stroking a refractory Cooper-Hewitt tube
for all the world as if some minor scene in the story were being
photographed. It was hard to realize that it was not another
picture scene, but that Craig Kennedy, in my opinion the founder
of the scientific school of modern detectives, was searching out
in this strange environment the clue to a real murder so
mysterious that the very cause of death was as yet undetermined.

I was hoping for a display of the remarkable brilliance Craig had
shown in so many of the cases brought to his attention. I half
expected to see him rise from the floor with some tiny something
in his hand, some object overlooked by everyone else, some
tangible evidence which would lead to the immediate apprehension
of the perpetrator of the crime. That Stella Lamar had met her
death by foul means I did not doubt for an instant, and so I
waited feverishly for the conclusion of Kennedy's search.

As it happened, this was not destined to be one of his cases
cleared up in a brief few hours of intensive effort. He covered
every inch of the floor within the illuminated area; then he
turned his attention to the walls and furniture and the rest of
the room in somewhat more perfunctory, but no less skillful
manner. Fully fifteen minutes elapsed, but I knew from his
expression that he had discovered nothing. In a wringing
perspiration from the heat of the arcs, but nevertheless glad to
have had the intense light at his disposal, he motioned to the
electrician to turn them off and to leave the room.

"Find anything, Mr. Kennedy?" queried the physician once more.

Kennedy beckoned all of us to the side of the ill-fated actress.
Lifting the right arm, finding the spot which had caused his
exclamation before, he handed his pocket lens to Doctor Blake.
After a moment a low whistle escaped the lips of the physician.

Next it was my turn. As I stooped over I caught, above the faint
scent of imported perfume which she affected, a peculiar
putrescent odor. This it was which had caught Kennedy's nostrils.
Then through the glass I could detect upon her forearm the
tiniest possible scratch ending in an almost invisible puncture,
such as might have been made by a very sharp needle or the point
of an incredibly fine hypodermic syringe. Drawing back, I glanced
again at her face, which I had already noted was blotched and
somewhat swollen beneath the make-up. Again I thought that the
muscles were contorted, that the eyes were bulging slightly, that
there was a bluish tinge to her skin such as in cyanosis or
asphyxiation. It may have been imagination, but I was now sure
that her expression revealed pain or fear or both.

When I looked at her first I had been unable to forget my
impression of years. Before me there had been the once living
form of Stella Lamar, whom I had dreamed of meeting and whom I
had never viewed in actual life. I had lacked the penetration to
see beneath the glamour. But to Kennedy there had been signs of
the poisoning at once. Doctor Blake had searched merely for the
evidences of the commoner drugs, or the usual diseases such as
cause sudden death. I recalled the cyanides. I thought of curare,
or woorali, the South American arrow poison with which Kennedy
once had dealt. Had Stella received an injection of some new and
curious substance?

Mackay glanced up from his inspection of the mark on the arm.

"It's an awfully tiny scratch!" he exclaimed.

Kennedy smiled. "Yet, Mackay, it probably was the cause of her
death."

"How?"

"That--that is the problem before us. When we learn just exactly
how she scratched herself, or was scratched--" Kennedy paced up
and down in front of the fireplace. Then he confronted each of us
in turn, suddenly serious. "Not a word of what I have
discovered," he warned.




III

TANGLED MOTIVES


"Do you wish to examine the people now?" Mackay asked.

Kennedy hesitated. "First I want to make sure of the evidence
concerning her actual death. Can you arrange to have the clothes
she has on, and those she brought with her, all of them bundled
up and sent in to my laboratory, together with samples of her
body fluids as soon as the coroner can supply you?"

Mackay nodded. This pleased him. This seemed to be tangible
action, promising tangible results.

Again Kennedy glanced about in thought. I knew that the scratch
was worrying him. "Did she change her clothes out here?" he
inquired.

The district attorney brightened. "She dressed in a small den
just off the living room. I have a man posted and the door
closed. Nothing has been disturbed."

He started to lead the way without further word from Kennedy,
proud to have been able once more to demonstrate his foresight.

As we left the library, entering the living room, there was an
appreciable hush. Here were grouped the others of the party
brought out by the picture company, a constrained gathering of
folk who had little in common beyond the highly specialized needs
of the new art of the screen, an assembly of souls who had been
forced to wait during all the time required for the trip of
Kennedy and myself out from New York, who were compelled to wait
now until he should be ready to examine them.

I picked out the electrician in the semi-gloom and with him his
fellow members of the technical staff needed in the taking of the
scenes in the library. The camera men I guessed, and a property
boy, and an assistant director. The last, at any event, of all
those in the huge room, had summoned up sufficient nonchalance to
bend his mind to details of his work. I saw that he was thumbing
a copy of the scenario, or detailed working manuscript of the
story, making notations in some kind of little book, and it was
that which enabled me to establish his identity at a glance.

In a different corner were the principals, two men and a girl
still in make-up, and with them the director, and Manton and
Phelps. Apart from everyone else, in a sort of social ostracism
common to the studios, the two five-dollar-a-day extras waited, a
butler and a maid, also in make-up. Oddly enough the total number
of these material witnesses to the tragedy was just thirteen, and
I wondered if they had noticed the fact.

Doctor Blake turned to Kennedy the moment we left the library.

"Do you feel it is necessary for me to remain any longer?" he
asked. He was apologetic, yet distinctly impatient. "I have
neglected several very important calls as it is."

Kennedy and Mackay both hastened to assure the physician that
they appreciated his co-operation and that they would spare him
as much notoriety and inconvenience as possible. Then the three
of us hurried across and to the little den which had been
converted into a dressing room for Stella's use.

Here were all the evidences of femininity, the little touches
which a woman can impart to the smallest corner in a few brief
moments of occupancy. It was a tiny alcove shut off from the rest
of the living room by heavy silk hangings, drawn now and pinned
together so as to assure her the privacy she wished. The one
window was high and fitted with leaded glass, but it was raised
and afforded the maximum of light. Stella's traveling bag
sprawled wide open, with many of her effects strewn about in
attractive disarray. Her suit, in which she had made the trip to
Tarrytown, was thrown carelessly over the back of a chair. Her
mirror was fastened up ruthlessly, upon a handsome woven Oriental
hanging, with a long hatpin. Powder was spilled upon the couch
cover, another Oriental fabric, and her little box of rouge lay
face downward on the floor.

As we pulled the curtains aside I caught the perfume which still
clung to her clothes in the library beyond. As Mackay sniffed
also, Kennedy smiled.

"Coty's Jacqueminot rose," he remarked.

With his usual swift and practiced certainty Kennedy then
inspected the extemporized dressing room. He seemed to satisfy
himself that no subtle attack had been made upon the girl here,
although I doubt that he had held any such supposition seriously
in the first place. In my association of several years with
Kennedy, following our first intimacy of college days, I had
learned that his success as a scientific detective was the result
wholly of his thoroughness of method. To watch him had become a
never-ending delight, even in the dull preliminary work of a case
as baffling as this one. Mackay also seemed content just to enact
the role of spectator.

Kennedy thumbed through the delicate intimacies of her traveling
bag with the keen, impersonal manner which always distinguished
him; then he found her beaded handbag and proceeded to rummage
through that. Suddenly he paused as he unfolded a piece of note
paper, and we gathered around to read:

MY DEAR STELLA: Have something very important to tell you. Will
you lunch Tuesday at the P. G. tearoom? LARRY.

"Tuesday--" murmured Kennedy. "And this is Monday. Who--who is
Larry, I wonder?"

I hastened to answer the question for him. It was my first
opportunity to display my knowledge of the picture players.
"Larry--that's Lawrence, Lawrence Millard!" I exclaimed. Then I
went on to tell him of the divorce and the circumstances
surrounding Stella's life as I knew it. "It--it looks," I
concluded, "as if they might have been on the point of composing
their differences, after all."

Kennedy nodded. I could see, however, that he made a mental note
of his intention to question the girl's former husband.

All at once another thought struck me and I became eager. It was
a possible explanation of the mystery.

"Listen, Craig," I began. "Suppose Millard wanted to make up and
she didn't. Suppose that she refused to see him or to meet him.
Suppose that in a jealous fit he--"

"No, Walter!" Kennedy headed me off with a smile. "This wasn't an
ordinary murder of passion. This was well thought out and well
executed. Not one medical examiner in a thousand would have found
that tiny scratch. It may be very difficult yet to determine the
exact cause of death. This, my dear Jameson"--it was playful
irony--"is a scientific crime."

"But Millard--"

"Of course! Anyone may be the culprit. Yet you tell me Millard
did not contest her divorce and that it would have been very easy
for him to file a counter-suit because everyone knew of her
relationship with Manton. That, offhand, shows no ill-will on his
part. And now we find this note from him, which at least is
friendly in tone--"

I shrugged my shoulders. It was the same blind alley in which my
thoughts had strayed upon the train on our way out.

"It's too early to begin to try to fasten the guilt upon anyone,"
Kennedy added, as we returned to the library through the living
room. Then he turned to Mackay. "Have you succeeded in gleaning
any facts about the life of Miss Lamar?" he asked. "Anything
which might point to a motive, so that I can approach the case
from both directions?"

"If you ask me," the little district attorney rejoined, "it's a
matter of tangled motives throughout. I--I had no sword to cut
the Gordian knot and so"--graciously--"I sent for you."

"What do you mean by tangled motives?" Kennedy ignored the
other's compliment.

"Well!" Mackay indicated me. "Mr. Jameson explained about her
divorce. No one heard whom she named as corespondent. That's an
unknown woman in the case, although it may not mean anything at
all. Then there's Lloyd Manton and all the talk about his affair
with Miss Lamar. Some one told one of my men that Manton's wife
has left him on that account."

"Did you question Manton?"

"No, I thought I ought to leave all that to you. I was afraid I
might put them on their guard."

"Good!" Kennedy was pleased. "Did you learn anything else?"

"This deputy of mine obtained all these things by gossiping with
the girl who plays the maid, and so they may not be reliable. But
among the players it is reported that Werner, the director, was
having an affair with Stella also, and that Merle Shirley, the
'heavy' man, was seen with her a great deal recently, and that
Jack Gordon, the leading man, who was engaged to marry her as
soon as her decree was final, was jealous as a consequence, and
that Miss Loring, playing the vampire In the story and engaged to
Shirley, was even more bitter against the deceased than Gordon,
Miss Lamar's fiance.

"That made eight people with possible motives for the crime. When
I got that far I gave it up. In fact"--Mackay lowered his voice,
suddenly--"I don't like the attitude of Emery Phelps. This is his
house, you know, and he is the financial backer of Manton
Pictures, yet there seems to be an undercurrent of friction
between Manton and himself. I--I wanted him to show me some
detail of the arrangement of things in the library, but he
wouldn't come into the room. He said he didn't want to look at
Miss Lamar. There--there was something--and, I don't know. If he
is concerned in any way--that would make nine."

"You think Miss Lamar and Phelps--"

Mackay shook his head. "I don't know."

Kennedy turned to me, expression really serious. "Is this the way
they carry on in the picture world, Walter?" he asked. "Is this
the usual thing or--or an exception?"

I flushed. "It's very much an exception," I insisted. "The film
people are just like other people, some good and some bad.
Probably three-quarters of all this is gossip."

"I hope so." He straightened. "The only thing to do is to go
after them one at a time and disentangle all the conflicting
threads. It looks as though there will be any number of possible
false leads and so we must be careful and deliberate. I think
I'll question each in turn--here."

He walked over to the fireplace, stopping for just a moment to
glance at the body of Stella. Then he pulled the blinds down
halfway, so that the room seemed somber and gruesome. He drew a
chair so that the different individuals as he examined them,
would be unable to lose sight of the dead woman. His arrangements
completed, he faced the district attorney.

"Manton first," he directed.

In an instant I caught the psychology of it--the now darkened
library, the beautiful body still lying on the davenport, the
quiet and quick arrival of ourselves. If anything could be
extracted from these people, surely it would be betrayed under
these surroundings.




IV

THE FATAL SCRIPT


I had no real opportunity to study Manton when he greeted us upon
our arrival, and at that time neither Kennedy nor I possessed
even a passing realization of the problem before us. Now I felt
that I was ready to grasp at any possible motive for the crime. I
was prepared to suspect any or all of the nine people enumerated
by Mackay, so far as I could speak for myself, and at the very
least I was certain that this was one of the most baffling cases
ever brought to Craig's attention.

Yet I was sure he would solve it. I waited most impatiently for
the outcome of his examination of Lloyd Manton.

The producer-promoter was a well-set-up man just approaching
middle age. About him was a certain impression of great physical
strength, of bulk without flabbiness, and in particular I noticed
the formation of his head, the square broad development which
indicated his intellectual power, and I found, too, a fascinating
quality about his eyes, deeply placed and of a warm dark gray-
brown, which seemed to hold a fundamental sincerity which, I
imagined, made the man almost irresistible in a business deal.

His weakness, so far as I could ascertain it, was revealed by his
mouth and chin, and by a certain nervousness of his hands, hands
where a square, practical palm was belied by the slight tapering
of his fingers, the mark of the dreamer. His mouth was
unquestionably sensuous, with the lips full and now and then
revealing out of the studied practiced calm of his face an almost
imperceptible twitching, as though to betray a flash of emotion,
or fear. His chin was feminine, softening his expression and
showing that his feelings would overbalance the cool calculation
denoted by his eyes and the rather heavy level brows above.

As he entered the room, taking the chair indicated by Kennedy, he
seemed perfectly cool and his glance, as it strayed to the
lifeless form of Stella, revealed his iron self-control. The
little signs which I have mentioned, which betrayed the real man
beneath, were only disclosed to me little by little as Kennedy's
questioning progressed.

"Tell me just what happened?" Kennedy began.

"Well--" Manton responded quickly enough, but then he stopped and
proceeded as though he chose each word with care, as if he framed
each sentence so that there would be no misunderstanding, no
chance of wrong impression; all of which pleased Kennedy.

"In the scene we were taking," he went on, "Stella was crouched
down on the floor, bending over her father, who had just been
murdered. She was sobbing. All at once the lights were to spring
up. The young hero was to dash through the set and she was to see
him and scream out in terror. The first part went all right. But
when the lights flashed on, instead of looking up and screaming,
Stella sort of crumpled and collapsed on top of Werner, who was
playing the father. I yelled to stop the cameras and rushed in.
We picked her up and put her on the couch. Some one sent for the
doctor, but she died without saying a word. I--I haven't the
slightest idea what happened. At first I thought it was heart
trouble."

"Did she have heart trouble?"

"No, that is--not that I ever heard."

Kennedy hesitated. "Why were you taking these scenes out here?"

It was on the tip of my tongue to answer for Manton. I knew that
at one time many fine interiors were actually taken in houses, to
save expense. I was sorry that Kennedy should draw any conclusion
from a fact which I thought was too well known to require
explanation. Manton's answer, however, proved a distinct surprise
to me.

"Mr. Phelps asked us to use his library in this picture."

"Wouldn't it have been easier and cheaper in the long run to
reproduce it in the studio?"

Manton glanced up at Kennedy, echoing my thought. Had Kennedy,
after all, some knowledge of motion pictures stored away with his
vast fund of general and unusual information?

"Yes," replied the producer. "It would save the trip out here,
the loss of time, the inconvenience--why, in an actual dollars
and cents comparison, with overhead and everything taken into
account, the building of a set like this is nothing nowadays."

"Do you know Mr. Phelps's reason?"

Manton shrugged his shoulders. "Just a whim, and we had to humor
it."

"Mr. Phelps is interested in the company?"

"Yes. He recently bought up all the stock except my own. He is in
absolute control, financially."

"What is the story you are making? I mean, I want to understand
just exactly what happened in the scenes you were photographing
today. It is essential that I learn how everyone was supposed to
act and how they did act. I must find out every trivial little
detail. Do you follow me?"

Manton's mouth set suddenly, showing that it possessed a latent
quality of firmness. He glanced about the room, then rose, went
to the farther end of the long table, and returned with a thick
sheaf of manuscript bound at the side in stiff board covers.
"This is the scenario, the script of the detailed action," he
explained.

As Kennedy took the binder, Manton opened it and turned past
several sheets of tabulation and lists, the index to the sets and
exterior locations, the characters and extras, the changes of
clothes, and other technical detail. "The scenes we are taking
here," he went on, "are the opening scenes of the story. We left
them until now because it meant the long trip out to Tarrytown
and because it would take us away from the studio while they were
putting up the largest two sets, a banquet and a ballroom which
need the entire floor space of the studio." He turned over two or
three pages, pointing. "We had taken up to scene thirteen; from
scenes one to thirteen just as you have them in order there. It--
it was in the unlucky thirteenth that she"--was it my imagination
or did he tremble, for just an instant, violently?--"that she
died."

Kennedy started to read the script. I hurried to his side,
glancing over his shoulder.

THE BLACK TERROR

FEATURING STELLA LAMAH

SCENE 1

LOCATION.--Remsen library. This is a modern, luxurious library
set with a long table in the center of the room, books around the
walls, French windows leading from the rear, and an entrance
through a hallway to the right through a pair of portieres. Note:
E. P. wishes us to use his library at Tarrytown.

ACTION.--Open diaphragm slowly on darkened set as a spot of light
is being played on the walls and French windows in the rear. As
the diaphragm opens slowly the light vanishes, leaving the scene
dark at times and then brightened until, as the diaphragm opens
full, we discover that the light is that of a burglar's flash
light, traveling over the walls of the library. When the
diaphragm is fully opened we discover also a faint line of light
streaming through the almost closed portieres leading to the
hallway outside. This ray of light, striking along the floor,
pauses by the library table, just disclosing the edge of it but
not revealing anything else in the room. The spotlight in the
hands of a shadowy figure roves across the wall and to the
portieres. As it pauses there the portieres move and the fingers
of a girl are seen on the edge of the silk. A bare and beautiful
arm is thrust through the portieres almost to the shoulder, and
it begins to move the portieres aside, reaching upward to pull
the curtains apart at the rings.

SCENE 2

LOCATION.--Remsen library. Close foreground of portieres.

ACTION.--Our heroine parts the portieres and stands revealed in
the spotlight's glare. She is in dinner gown and about her throat
is a peculiar locket of flashing jewels. She cries out and backs
away, closing the portieres. The spotlight retreats from the
curtains, leaving them dark.

SCENE 3

LOCATION.--Hallway, Remsen house. Close foreground of portieres
leading to library. This hallway is lighted.

ACTION.--The girl holding the portieres shut screams for help.

SCENE 4

LOCATION.--Foot of stairway, Remsen house.

ACTION.--The butler and maid are discovered talking. They hear
the girl's scream and start running.

SCENE 5

LOCATION.--Hallway, Remsen house. Close foreground of portieres.

ACTION.--The girl hears help coming and glances off to indicate
that she sees the butler and the maid. She continues to cling to
the closed curtains.

SCENE 6

LOCATION.--Remsen library. Full shot.

ACTION.--The unknown drops the spotlight to the floor and we
first see his legs crossing the rays of light on the floor. Then
the spotlight rolls, revealing the body of an elderly man of the
American millionaire type, lying crumpled against the table.
Finally it rolls a little farther and stops, directing its rays
into the fireplace.

SCENE 7

LOCATION.--Remsen hallway, outside library.

ACTION.--The girl indicates determined resolve. She throws apart
the portieres with a quick motion of her arms and dashes inside.
The portieres close after her. The butler and maid come on
running and looking about.

SCENE 8

LOCATION.--Remsen library. Full shot.

ACTION.--The spotlight is showing into the fireplace when the
girl crosses quickly into its rays. She stoops into the light,
revealing her face and picking up the spotlight. She flashes it
about the room, pausing as it strikes the French windows and
reveals the murderer making his escape out on a balcony which is
revealed in the background. When the rays of light reach the
murderer he deliberately turns.

SCENE 9

LOCATION.--Remsen library. Close foreground of French windows.

ACTION.--The intruder, now in the close foreground, pauses as he
is about to shut the window and blinks deliberately into the rays
of light, then laughs and closes the French windows.

SCENE 10

LOCATION.--Hallway, Remsen home. Close foreground of portieres to
library.

ACTION.--The butler and maid look around hopelessly. A young man,
the exact counterpart of the man who in the previous scene looked
into the spotlight at the French windows, comes up to the butler
and demands to know what has happened. The butler explains
hurriedly that he heard his mistress cry out for help. The young
man steps to the portieres and pauses.

SCENE 11

LOCATION.--Remsen library. Full shot.

ACTION.--The girl, using the spotlight, flashes it about the room
and down on the floor, seeing for the first time the body of the
American millionaire.

SCENE 12

LOCATION.--Exterior Remsen house. Night tint.

ACTION.--The murderer scrambles down a column from the upper
porch and leaps to the ground, darting across the lawn out of the
picture.

SCENE 13

LOCATION.--Remsen library. Full shot.

ACTION.--The spotlight on the floor reveals the girl sobbing over
the body of the millionaire and trying to revive him. She screams
and cries out. The portieres are parted and from the lighted
hallway we see the young man, the butler, and the maid, who
enter. The young man switches on the lights and the room is
revealed. The three cry out in horror. The young man, glancing
about, leaps toward the partly opened French windows, drawing a
revolver. As the girl sees him she screams again and denotes
terror.

Finishing the thirteenth scene, Kennedy closed the covers and
handed the script to me. Then he confronted Manton once more.

"What became of the locket about the girl's neck? In the
manuscript Miss Lamar is supposed to have a peculiar pendant at
her throat. There was none."

"Oh yes!" The promoter remained a moment in thought. "The doctor
took it off and gave it to Bernie, the prop. boy, who's helping
the electrician."

"Is he outside?"

"Yes."

"Now try to remember, Mr. Manton." Kennedy leaned over very
seriously. "Just who approached closely to Miss Lamar in the
making of that thirteenth scene? Who was near enough to have
inflicted a wound, or to have subjected her, suppose we say, to
the fumes of some subtle poison?"

"You think that--" Manton started to question Kennedy, but was
given no encouragement. "Gordon, the leading man, passed through
the scene," he replied, after a pause, "but did not go very near
her. Werner was playing the dead millionaire at her feet."

"Who is Werner?"

"He's my director. Because it was such a small part, he played it
himself. He's only in the two or three scenes in the beginning
and I was here to be at the camera."

While Kennedy was questioning Manton I had been glancing through
the script of the picture. My own connection with the movies had
consisted largely of three attempts to sell stories of my own to
the producers. Needless to remark I had not succeeded, in that
regard falling in the class with some hundreds of thousands of my
fellow citizens. For everybody thinks he has at least one motion
picture in him. And so, though I had managed to visit studios and
meet a few of the players, this was my very first shot at a
manuscript actually in production. I took advantage of Kennedy's
momentary preoccupation to turn to Manton.

"Who wrote this script, Mr. Manton?" I asked.

"Millard! Lawrence Millard."

"Millard?" Kennedy and I exclaimed, simultaneously.

"Why, yes! Millard is still under contract and he's the only man
who ever could write scripts for Stella. We--we tried others and
they all flivved."

"Is Millard here?"

Manton burst into laughter, somehow out of place in the room
where we still were in the company of death. "An author on the
lot at the filming of his picture, to bother the director and to
change everything? Out! When the scenario's done he's through.
He's lucky to get his name on the screen. It's not the story but
the direction which counts, except that you've got to have a good
idea to start with, and a halfway decent script to make your lay-
outs from. Anyhow--" He sobered a bit, perhaps realizing that he
was going counter to the tendency to have the author on the lot.
"Millard and Stella weren't on speaking terms. She divorced him,
you know."

"Do you know much about the personal affairs of Miss Lamar?"

"Well"--Manton's eyes sought the floor for a moment--"Like
everyone else in pictures, Stella was the victim of a great deal
of gossip. That's the experience of any girl who rises to a
position of prominence and--"

"How were the relations between Miss Lamar and yourself?"
interrupted Kennedy.

"What do you mean by that?" Manton flushed quickly.

"You have had no trouble, no disagreements recently?"

"No, indeed. Everything has been very friendly between us--in a
strictly business way, of course--and I don't believe I've had an
unpleasant word with her since I first formed Manton Pictures to
make her a star."

"You know nothing of her difficulties with her husband?"

"Naturally not. I seldom saw her except at the studio, unless it
was some necessary affair such as a screen ball here, or perhaps
in Boston or Philadelphia or some near-by city where I would take
her for effect--"

Kennedy turned to Mackay. "Will you arrange to keep the people I
have yet to question separate from the ones I have examined
already?"

As the district attorney nodded, Kennedy dismissed Manton rather
shortly; then turned again to Mackay as the promoter drew out of
earshot.

"Bring in Bernie, the property-boy, before anyone can tell him to
hide or destroy that locket."




V

AN EMOTIONAL MAZE


Bernie proved to be as stupid a youth as any I had ever seen. He
possessed frightened semi-liquid eyes and overshot ears and hair
which might have been red beneath its accumulation of dust.
Without doubt the boy had been coached by the electrician,
because he began to affirm his innocence in similar fashion the
moment he entered the door.

"I don't know nothin', honest I don't," he pleaded. "I was out in
the hall, I was, and I didn't come in at all until the doc.
came."

"I suppose you were anxious to see if the cable was becoming
hot," Kennedy suggested, gravely.

"That's it, sir! We was lookin' at it because it was on the
varnish and the butler he says--"

"Where's the locket?" interrupted Kennedy. "The one Miss Lamar
wore in the scenes."

"Oh!" in disdain, "that thing!" With some effort Bernie fished it
from the capacious depths of a pocket, disentangling the sharp
corners from the torn and ragged lining of his coat.

I glanced at it as Kennedy turned it over and over in his hands,
and saw that it was a palpable stage prop, with glass jewels of
the cheapest sort. Concealing his disappointment, Kennedy dropped
it into his own pocket, confronting the frightened Bernie once
more.

"Do you know anything about Miss Lamar's death?"

"No! I don't know nothing, honest!"

"All right!" Kennedy turned to Mackay. "Werner, the director."

Of Stanley Werner I had heard a great deal, through interviews,
character studies, and other press stuff in the photoplay
journals and the Sunday newspaper film sections. Now I found him
to be a high-strung individual, so extremely nervous that it
seemed impossible for him to remain in one position in his chair
or for him to keep his hands motionless for a single instant.
Although he was of moderate build, with a fair suggestion of
flesh, there were yet the marks of the artist and of the creative
temperament in the fine sloping contours of his head and in his
remarkably long fingers, which tapered to nails manicured
immaculately. Kennedy seemed to pay particular attention to his
eyes, which were dark, soft, and amazingly restless.

"Who was in the cast, Mr. Werner? What were they playing and just
exactly what was each doing at the time of Miss Lamar's
collapse?"

"Well"--Werner's eyes shifted to mine, then to Mackay's, and
there was a subtle lack of ease in his manner which I was hardly
prepared to classify as yet--"Stella Lamar was playing the part
of Stella Remsen, the heroine, and--uh, I see your associate has
the script--"

He paused, glancing at me again. When Kennedy said nothing,
Werner went on, growing more and more nervous. "Jack Gordon plays
Jack Daring, the hero--the handsome young chap who runs down the
steps and encounters the butler and the maid in the hall just
outside the library--"

"Wasn't it his face in the French windows of the library at the
same time?" Kennedy asked. "Wasn't he the murderer of the father,
also?"

"No!" Werner smiled slightly, and there was an instant's flash of
the man's personality, winning and, it seemed to me, calculated
to inspire confidence. "That is the mystery; it is a mystery
plot. While the parts are played by Jack in both cases now, we
explain in a subtitle a little later that the criminal himself,
the 'Black Terror,' is a master of scientific impersonation, and
that he changes the faces of his emissaries by means of plastic
surgery and such scientific things, so that they look like the
characters against whom he wishes to throw suspicion. So while
Jack plays the part it is really an accomplice of the 'Black
Terror' who kills old Remsen."

Kennedy turned to me. "A new idea in the application of science
to crime!" he remarked, dryly. "Just suppose it were
practicable!"

"The 'Black Terror'" Werner continued, "is played by Merle
Shirley. You've heard of him, the greatest villain ever known to
the films? Then there's Marilyn Loring, the vampire, another good
trouper, too. She plays Zelda, old Remsen's ward, and it's a
question whether Zelda or Stella will be the Remsen heir. Marilyn
herself is an awfully nice girl, but, oh, how the fans hate her!"
The director chuckled. "No Millard story is ever complete without
a vamp and Marilyn's been eating them up. She's been with Manton
Pictures for nearly a year."

"You played the millionaire yourself?"

"Yes, I did old Remsen."

I realized suddenly, for the first time, that Werner was still in
the evening clothes he had donned for the part. On his face were
streaks in the little make-up that remained after his frequent
mopping of his features with his handkerchief. Too, his collar
was melted. I could imagine his discomfort.

"Did you have any business with Stella?" Kennedy asked, using the
stage term for the minor bits of action in the playing of a
scene. "Did you move at all while she was going through her
part?"

"No, Mr. Kennedy, I was 'dead man' in all the scenes."

"Show me how you lay, if you will."

Obligingly, Werner stretched out on the carpet, duplicating his
positions even to the exact manner in which he had placed his
hands and arms. Rather to my own distaste, Kennedy impressed me
to represent, I am sure in clumsy fashion, the various positions
of Stella Lamar. Most painstakingly Kennedy worked back from the
thirteenth scene to the first, referring to the script and
coaxing details of memory from the mind of Werner.

I grasped Kennedy's purpose almost at once. He was endeavoring to
reproduce the action which had been photographed, so as to
determine just how the poison had been administered. Of course he
made no reference to the tiny scratch and Mackay and I were
careful to give no hint of it to Werner. The director, however,
seemed most willing to assist us. I certainly felt no suspicion
of him now. As for Kennedy, his face was unrevealing.

"When the film in the camera is developed--" I suggested to
Kennedy, suddenly.

He silenced me with a gesture. "I haven't overlooked that, but
the scenes will be from one angle only and in a darkened set. I
can determine more this way."

Somewhat crestfallen, I continued my impersonation of the slain
star not altogether willingly. Soon Kennedy had completed his
reconstruction of the action.

"Who else entered the scene besides Gordon?" he asked.

"The butler and the maid, after the lights were flashed on."

"I'll question the camera men," he announced. "Who are they?"

"Harry Watkins is the head photographer," Werner explained. "He's
a crackerjack, too! One of the best lighting experts in the
country. Al Penny's grinding the other box."

"Let's have Watkins first." Kennedy nodded to Mackay to escort
the director from the room.

Neither Watkins nor Penny were able to add anything to the facts
which Kennedy had gleaned from Manton and Werner. When he had
finished his patient examination of the junior camera man he
recalled Watkins and had both, under his eyes, close and seal the
film cartridges which contained the photographic record of the
thirteen scenes. Dismissing the men, he handed the two black
boxes to Mackay.

"Can you arrange to have these developed and printed, quickly,
but in some way so neither negative nor positive will be out of
your sight at any time?"

Mackay nodded. "I know the owner of a laboratory in Yonkers."

"Good! Now let's have the leading man."

Jack Gordon immediately impressed me very unfavorably. There was
something about him for which I could find no word but "sleek."
Learning much from my long association with Kennedy I observed at
once that he had removed the make-up from his face and that he
had on a clean white collar. Since the linen worn before the
camera is dyed a faint tint to prevent the halation caused by
pure white, it was a sure sign to me that he had spruced up a
bit. I knew that he was engaged to Stella. Here in this room she
lay dead, under the most mysterious circumstances. There was
little question, in fact, that she had been murdered. How could
he, really loving her, think of such things as the make-up left
on his face, or his clothes?

I had to admit that he was a handsome individual. Perhaps
slightly less than average in height, and very slender, he had
the close-knit build of an athlete. The contour of his head and
the perfect regularity of rather large features made him an ideal
type for the screen at any angle; in close-ups and foregrounds as
well as full shots. In actual life there were little things
covered by make-up in his work, such as the cold gray tint of his
eyes and the lines of dissipation about his mouth.

Kennedy questioned him first about his movements in the different
scenes, then asked him if he had seen or noticed anything
suspicious during the taking of any of them or in the intervals
between.

"I had several changes, Mr. Kennedy," he replied. "Part of the
time I was Jack Daring, my regular role, but I was also the
emissary who looked like Daring. I went out each time because I
make up the emissary to look hard. Werner wanted to fool the
people a little bit, but he didn't want them to be positive the
emissary was Daring, as would happen if both make-ups were the
same."

"Did you have any opportunity to talk to Miss Lamar?"

"None at all. Werner was pushing us to the limit."

"Did she seem her usual self at the start of the scene?"

"No, she seemed a little out of sorts. But"--Gordon hesitated--
"something had been troubling her all day. She hardly would talk
to me in the car on the way out at all. It didn't strike me that
she acted any different when she went in to take the scene."

"You were engaged to her?"

"Yes." Gordon's eyes caught the body on the davenport before him.
He glanced away hastily, taking his lower lip between his teeth.

"Had you been having any trouble?"

"No--that is, nothing to amount to anything."

"But you had a quarrel or a misunderstanding."

His face flushed slowly. "She was to obtain her final decree
early next week. I wanted her to marry me then at once. She
refused. When I reproached her for not considering my wishes she
pretended to be cool and began an elaborate flirtation with Merle
Shirley." "You say she only pretended to be cool?"

For a few moments Gordon hesitated. Then apparently his vanity
loosened his tongue. He wished it to be understood that he had
held the love of Stella to the last.

"Last night," he volunteered, "we made everything up and she was
as affectionate as she ever had been. This morning she was cool,
but I could tell it was pretense and so I let her alone."

"There has been no real trouble between you?"

The leading man met Kennedy's gaze squarely. "Not a bit!"

Kennedy turned to Mackay. "Mr. Shirley," he ordered.

By a miscalculation on the part of the little district attorney
the heavy man entered the room a moment before Gordon left. They
came face to face just within the portieres. There was no
mistaking the hostility, the open hate, between the two men. Both
Kennedy and I caught the glances.

Then Merle Shirley approached the fireplace, taking the chair
indicated by Kennedy.

"I wasn't in any of the opening scenes," he explained. "I
remained out in the car until I got wind of the excitement. By
that time Stella was dead."

"Do you know anything of a quarrel between Miss Lamar and
Gordon?"

Shirley rose, clenching his fists. For several moments he stood
gazing down at the star with an expression on his face which I
could not analyze. The pause gave me an opportunity to study him,
however, and I noticed that while he had heavier features than
Gordon, and was a larger man in every way, ideally endowed for
heavy parts, there was yet a certain boyish freshness clinging to
him in subtle fashion. He wore his clothes in a loose sort of way
which suggested the West and the open, in contrast to Gordon's
metropolitan sophistication and immaculate tailoring. He was
every inch the man, and a splendid actor--I knew. Yet there was
the touch of youth about him. He seemed incapable of a crime such
as this, unless it was in anger, or as the result of some deep-
running hidden passion.

Now, whether he was angry or in the clutch of a broad disgust, I
could not tell. Perhaps it was both. Very suddenly he wheeled
upon Kennedy. His voice became low and vibrant with feeling. Here
was none of the steeled self-control of Manton, the deceptive
outer mask which Werner used to cover his thoughts, the
nonchalant, cold frankness of Gordon.

"Mr. Kennedy," the actor exclaimed, "I've been a fool, a fool!"

"How do you mean?"

"I mean that I allowed Stella to flatter my vanity and lead me
into a flirtation which meant nothing at all to her. God!"

"You are responsible for the trouble between Miss Lamar and
Gordon, then?"

"Never!" Shirley indicated the body of the star with a quick,
passionate sweep of his hand. Now I could not tell whether he was
acting or in earnest. "She's responsible!" he exclaimed. "She's
responsible for everything!"

"Her death--"

"No!" Shirley sobered suddenly, as if he had forgotten the
mystery altogether. "I don't know anything at all about that, nor
have I any idea unless--" But he checked himself rather than
voice an empty suspicion.

"Just what do you mean, then?" Kennedy was sharp, impatient.

"She made a fool of me, and--and I was engaged to Marilyn Loring--"

"Were engaged? The engagement--"

"Marilyn broke it off last night and wouldn't listen to me, even
though I came to my senses and saw what a fool I had been."

"Was"--Kennedy framed his question carefully--"was your
infatuation for Miss Lamar of long duration?"

"Just a few weeks. I--I took her out to dinner and to the theater
and--and that was all."

"I see!" Kennedy walked away, nodding to Mackay.

"Will you have Miss Loring next?" asked the district attorney.

Kennedy nodded.

Marilyn Loring was a surprise to me. Stella Lamar both on the
screen and in real life was a beauty. In the films Marilyn was a
beauty also, apparently of a cold, unfeeling type, but in the
flesh she was disclosed as a person utterly different from all my
preconceived notions. In the first place, she was not
particularly attractive except when she smiled. Her coloring,
hair frankly and naturally red, skin slightly mottled and pale,
produced in photography the black hair and marble, white skin
which distinguished her. But as I studied her, as she was now,
before she had put on any make-up and while she was still dressed
in a simple summer gown of organdie, she looked as though she
might have stepped into the room from the main street of some
mid-Western town. In repose she was shy, diffident in appearance.
When she smiled, naturally, without holding the hard lines of her
vampire roles, there was the slight suggestion of a dimple, and
she was essentially girlish. When a trace of emotion or feeling
came into her face the woman was evident. She might have been
seventeen or thirty-seven.

To my surprise, Kennedy made no effort to elicit further
information concerning the personal animosities of these people.
Perhaps he felt it too much of an emotional maze to be
straightened out in this preliminary investigation. When he found
Marilyn had watched the taking of the scenes he compared her
account with those which he had already obtained. Then he
dismissed her.

In rapid succession, for he was impatient now to follow up other
methods of investigation, he called in and examined the remaining
possible witnesses of the tragedy. These were the two extra
players--the butler and the maid, the assistant director,
Phelps's house servants, and Emery Phelps himself. For some
unknown reason he left the owner of the house to the very last.

"Why did you wish these scenes photographed out here?" he asked.

"Because I wanted to see my library in pictures."

"Were you watching the taking of the scenes?"

"Yes!"

"Will you describe just what happened?"

Phelps flushed. He was irritated and in no mood to humor us any
more than necessary. A man of perhaps forty, with the portly
flabbiness which often accompanies success in the financial
markets, he was accustomed to obtaining rather than yielding
obedience. A bachelor, he had built this house as a show place
merely, according to the gossip among newspaper men, seldom
living in it.

"Haven't about a dozen people described it for you already?" he
asked, distinctly petulant.

Kennedy smiled. "Did you notice anything particularly out of the
way, anything which might be a clue to the manner in which Miss
Lamar met her death?"

Phelps's attitude became frankly malicious. "If I had, or if any
of us had, we wouldn't have found it necessary to send for Prof.
Craig Kennedy, or"--turning to me--"the representative of the New
York Star."

Kennedy, undisturbed, walked to the side of Mackay. "I'll leave
Mr. Phelps and his house in your care," he remarked, in a low
voice.

Mackay grinned. I saw that the district attorney had little love
for the owner of this particular estate in Tarrytown.

Kennedy led the way into the living room. Immediately the various
people he had questioned clustered up with varying degrees of
anxiety. Had the mystery been solved?

He gave them no satisfaction, but singled out Manton, who seemed
eager to get away.

"Where is Millard? I would like to talk to him."

"I'll try to get him for you. Suppose--" Manton looked at his
watch. "I should be in at the studio," he explained. "Everything
is at a standstill, probably, and--and so, suppose you and Mr.
Jameson ride in with me in my car. Millard might be there."

Kennedy brightened. "Good!" Then he looked back to catch the eye
of Mackay. "Let everyone go now," he directed. "Don't forget to
send me the samples of the body fluids and"--as an afterthought--
"you'd better keep a watch on the house."




VI

THE FIRST CLUE


Manton's car was a high-powered, expensive limousine, fitted
inside with every luxury of which the mind of even a prima donna
could conceive, painted a vivid yellow that must have made it an
object of attention even on its familiar routes. It was quite
characteristic of its owner, for Manton, as we learned, missed no
chance to advertise himself.

In the back with us was Werner, while the rest of the company
were left to return to the city in the two studio cars which had
brought them out in the morning. The director, however, seemed
buried with his reflections. He took no part in the conversation;
paid no attention to us upon the entire trip.

Manton's mind seemed to dwell rather upon the problems brought up
by the death of Stella than upon the tragedy itself. The Star's
photoplay editor once had remarked to me that the promoter was 90
per cent "bull," and 10 per cent efficiency. I found that it was
an unfair estimation. With all his self-advertisement and almost
obnoxious personality, Manton was a more than capable executive
in a business where efficiency and method are rare.

"This has been a hoodoo picture from the start," he exclaimed,
suddenly. "We have been jinxed with a vengeance. Some one has
held the Indian sign on us for sure."

Kennedy, I noticed, listened, studying the man cautiously from
the corners of his eyes, but making no effort to draw him out.

"First there were changes to be made in the script, and for those
Millard took his own sweet time. Then we were handed a lot of
negative which had been fogged in the perforator, a thing that
doesn't happen once in a thousand years. But it caught us just as
we sent the company down to Delaware Water Gap. A whole ten days'
work went into the developer at once. Neither of the camera men
caught the fog in their tests because it came in the middle of
the rolls. Everything had to be done over again.

"And accidents! We carefully registered the principal accomplice
of the 'Black Terror,' a little hunchback with a face to send
chills down your back. After we had him in about half the scenes
of a sequence of action he was taken sick and died of influenza.
First we waited a few days; then we had to take all that stuff
over again.

"Our payroll on this picture is staggering. Stella's three
thousand a week is cheap for her, the old contract, but it's a
lot of money to throw away. Two weeks when she was under the
weather cost us six thousand dollars salary and there was half a
week we couldn't do any work without her. Gordon and Shirley and
Marilyn Loring draw down seventeen hundred a week between them.
The director's salary is only two hundred short of that. All told
'The Black Terror' is costing us a hundred thousand dollars over
our original estimate.

"And now"--it seemed to me that Manton literally groaned--"with
Stella Lamar dead--excuse me looking at it this way, but, after
all, it is business and I'm the executive at the head of the
company--now we must find a new star, Lord knows where, and we
must retake every scene in which Stella appeared. It--it's enough
to bankrupt Manton Pictures for once and all."

"Can't you change the story about some way, so you won't lose the
value of her work?" asked Kennedy.

"Impossible! We've announced the release and we've got to go
ahead. Fortunately, some of the biggest sets are not taken yet."

The car pulled up with a flourish before the Manton studio, which
was an immense affair of reinforced concrete in the upper Bronx.
Then, in response to our horn, a great wide double door swung
open admitting us through the building to a large courtyard
around which the various departments were built.

Here, there was little indication that the principal star of the
company had just met her death under mysterious and suspicious
circumstances. Perhaps, had I been familiar with the ordinary
bustle of the establishment, I might have detected a difference.
Indeed, it did strike me that there were little knots of people
here and there discussing the tragedy, but everything was
overshadowed by the aquatic scene being filmed in the courtyard
for some other Manton picture. The cramped space about the
concrete tank was alive with people, a mob of extras and stage
hands and various employees, a sight which held Kennedy and me
for some little time. I was glad when Manton led the way through
a long hall to the comparative quiet of the office building. In
the reception room there was a decided hush.

"Is Millard here?" he asked of the boy seated at the information
desk.

"No, sir," was the respectful reply. "He was here this morning
and for a while yesterday."

"You see!" Manton confronted Kennedy grimly. "This is only one of
the things with which we have to contend in this business. I give
Millard an office but he's a law unto himself. It's the artistic
temperament. If I interfere, then he says he cannot write and he
doesn't produce any manuscript. Ordinarily he cannot be bothered
to work at the studio. But"--philosophically--"I know where to
get him as a general thing. He does most of his writing in his
rooms downtown; says there's more inspiration in the confusion of
Broadway than in the wilds of the Bronx. I'll phone him."

We followed the promoter up the stairs to the second and top
floor. Here a corridor gave access to the various executive
offices. Its windows at frequent intervals looked down upon the
courtyard and the present confusion.

Werner, who had preceded us into the building, now came up. As
Manton bustled into his own office to use the telephone the
director turned to Kennedy, indicating the next doorway.

"This is my place," he explained. "It connects with Manton, on
one side, through his reception room. You see, in addition to
directing Stella Lamar I have been in general charge of
production and most of the casting is up to me."

Kennedy entered after Werner, interested, and I followed. The
door through to the reception room stood open and beyond was the
one to Manton's quarters. I could see the promoter at his desk,
receiver at his ear, an impatient expression upon his face. In
the reception room a rather pretty girl, young and of a shallow-
pated type I thought, was busy at a clattering typewriter. She
rose and closed the door upon Manton, so as not to disturb him.

"The next office on this side is Millard's," volunteered Werner.
"He's the only scenario writer dignified with quarters in this
building."

"Manton has other writers, hasn't he?" Kennedy asked.

"Yes, the scenario department is on the third floor across the
court, above the laboratory and cutting rooms."

"Who else is in the building here?"

"There are six rooms on this floor," Werner replied. "Manton, the
waiting room, myself, Millard, and the two other directors. Below
is the general reception room, the cashier, the bookkeepers and
stenographers."

As Manton probably was having trouble obtaining his connection,
and as Kennedy continued to question Werner concerning the
general arrangement of the different floors in the different
buildings about the quadrangle, all uninteresting to me, I
determined to look about a bit on my own hook. I was still
anxious to be of genuine assistance to Kennedy, for once, through
my greater knowledge of the film world.

Strolling out into the corridor, I went to the door of Millard's
room. To my disappointment, it was locked. Continuing down the
hall, I stole a glance into each of the two directors' quarters
but saw nothing to awaken my suspicion or justify my intrusion.
Beyond, I discovered a washroom, and, aware suddenly of the
immense amount of dust I had acquired in the ride in from
Tarrytown, I entered to freshen my hands and face at the least.
It was a stroke of luck, a fortunate impulse.

The amount of money to be made in the movies had resulted, in the
case of Manton, in luxurious equipment for all the various
departments of his establishment. I had noticed the offices,
furnished with a richness worthy of a bank or some great downtown
institution. Now, in the lavatory, immaculate with its white tile
and modern appointments, I saw a shelf literally stacked, in this
day of paper, with linen towels of the finest quality.

As I drew the water, hot instantly, my eye caught, half in and
half out of the wire basket beneath the stand, one of the towels
covered with peculiar yellow spots. Immediately my suspicions
were awakened. I picked it up gingerly. At close range I saw that
the spots were only chrome yellow make-up, but there were also
spots of a different nature. I did not stop to think of the
unlikeliness of the discovery of a real clue under these
circumstances, analyzed afterward by Kennedy. I folded the towel
hastily and hurried to rejoin him, to show it to him.

I found him with Werner, waiting for the results of Manton's
efforts to locate Millard. Almost at the moment I rejoined the
two a boy came to summon Werner to one of the sets out on the
stage itself. Kennedy and I were alone. I showed him the towel.

At first he laughed, "You'll never make a detective, Walter," he
remarked. "This is only simple coloring matter-Chinese yellow, to
be exact. And will you tell me, too"--he became ironical--"how do
you expect to find clues of this sort here for a murder committed
in Tarrytown when all the people present were held out there and
examined, when we are the first to arrive back here?

"Yellow, you know, photographs white. Chinese yellow is used
largely in studios in place of white in make-up because it does
not cause halation, which, to the picture people, is the bane of
their existence. White is too glaring, reflects rays that blur
the photography sometimes.

"If you will notice, the next time you see them shooting a scene,
you will find the actors' faces tinged with yellow. Even
tablecloths and napkins and 'white' dresses are frequently
colored a pale yellow, although pale blue has the actinic
qualities of white for this purpose, and is now perhaps more
frequently used than yellow."

I was properly chastened. In fact, though I did not say much, I
almost determined to let him conduct his case himself.

Kennedy saw my crestfallen expression and understood. He was
about to say something encouraging, as he handed back the towel,
when his eye fell on the other end of it, which, indeed, I myself
had noticed.

He sobered instantly and studied the other spots. Indeed, I had
not examined them closely myself. They were the very faint stains
of some other yellow substance, a liquid which had dried and did
not rub off as the make-up, and there were also some small round
drops of dark red, almost hidden in the fancy red scrollwork of
the lettering on the towel, "Manton Pictures, Inc." The latter
had escaped me altogether.

"Blood!" Kennedy exclaimed. Then, "Look here!" The marks of the
pale yellow liquid trailed into a slender trace of blood. "It
looks as if some one had cleaned a needle on it," he muttered,
"and in a hurry."

I remembered his previous remark. The murder had been in
Tarrytown. We had just arrived here.

"Would anyone have time to do it?" I asked.

"Whoever used the towel did so in a hurry," he reiterated,
seriously. "It may have been some one afraid to leave any sort of
clue out there at Phelps's house. There were too many watchers
about. It might have seemed better to have run the risk of a
search. With no sign of a wound on Miss Lamar's person, it was
pretty certain that neither Mackay nor I would attempt to frisk
everyone. It was not as though we were looking for a revolver, if
she were shot, or a knife, if she had been stabbed. And"--he
could not resist another dig at me--"and that we should look in a
washroom here for a towel was, well, an idea that wouldn't occur
to anyone but the most amateur and blundering sort of sleuth.
It's beginner's luck, Walter, beginner's luck."

I ignored the uncomplimentary part of his remarks. "Who could
have been in the washroom just before me?" I asked.

Suddenly he hurried through the waiting room to the door to
Manton's office, opening it without ceremony. Manton was gone. We
exchanged glances. I remembered that Werner had preceded us
upstairs. "It means Werner or Manton himself," I whispered, so
the girl just behind us would not hear.

Kennedy strode out to the hall, and to a window overlooking the
court. After a moment he pointed. I recognized both the cars used
to transport the company to the home of Emery Phelps. There was
no sign that either had just arrived, for even the chauffeurs
were out of sight, perhaps melted into the crowd about the tank
in the corner.

"They must have arrived immediately behind us," Kennedy remarked.
"We wasted several valuable minutes looking at that water stuff
ourselves."

At that moment Werner's voice rose from the reception room below.
It was probable that he would be up to rejoin us again. I
remembered that he had not been at all at ease while Kennedy
questioned him in Tarrytown; that here at the studio he had been
palpably anxious to remain close at our heels. I felt a surge of
suspicion within me.

"Listen, Craig," I muttered, in low tones. "Manton had no
opportunity to steal down the hall after the girl closed the
door, and--"

"Why not!" he interrupted, contradicting me. "We had our backs to
the door while we were talking with Werner."

"Well, anyhow, it narrows down to Manton and Werner because that
is the washroom for these offices--"

"'Sh!" Kennedy stopped me as Werner mounted the stairs. He turned
to the director with assumed nonchalance. "How long have the
other cars been here?" he asked. "I thought we came pretty fast."

Werner smiled. "I guess those boys had enough of Tarrytown. They
rolled into the yard, both of them, while you and Mr. Jameson and
Manton were stopping to watch the people in the water."

"I see!" Kennedy gave me a side glance. "Where are the dressing
rooms?" he inquired. It was a random shot.

Werner pointed to the end of the hall, toward the washroom. "In
the next building, on this floor--that is, the principals'. It's
a rotten arrangement," he added. "They come through sometimes and
use our lavatory, because it's a little more fancy and because it
saves a trip down a flight of stairs. Believe me, it gets old
Manton on his ear."




VII

ENID FAYE


Behind Werner was the assistant director, to whom I had given
little attention at the time of the examination of the various
people in the Phelps library. Even now he impressed me as one of
those rare, unobtrusive types of individuals who seem, in spite
of the possession of genuine ability and often a great deal of
efficiency, to lack, nevertheless, any outstanding personal
characteristics. As a class they are human machines, to be
neither liked nor disliked, never intruding and yet always on
hand when needed.

"This is Carey Drexel, my assistant," Werner stated, forgetting
that Kennedy had questioned him at Tarrytown, and so knew him.
"There are a few people I simply must see and I'm tied up,
therefore, for perhaps half an hour; and Manton's downstairs
still trying to locate Millard for you. But Carey's at your
disposal, Mr. Kennedy, to show you the arrangement of the studio
and to cooperate with you in any way if you think there's any
possible chance of finding anything to bear upon Stella's death
here."

If Werner was the man who had used the towel, I could see that he
was an actor and a cool villain. Of course no one could know,
yet, that we had discovered it, but the very nonchalance with
which it had been thrown into the basket was a mark of the nerve
of the guilty man. It was more than carelessness. Nothing about
the crime had been haphazard.

Kennedy thanked Werner and asked to be shown the studio floor
used in the making of "The Black Terror." Carey led the way,
explaining that there were actually two studios, one at each end
of the quadrangle, connected on both sides by the other
buildings; offices and dressing rooms and the costume and
property departments at the side facing the street; technical
laboratories and all the detail of film manufacture in a four-
story structure to the rear. Most of Werner's own picture was
being made in the so-called big studio, reached through the
dressing rooms from the end of the corridor where we stood.

I had been in film plants before, but when we entered the huge
glass-roofed inclosure beyond the long hallway of dressing rooms
I was impressed by the fact that here was a place of genuine
magnitude, with more life and bustle than anything I had ever
imagined. The glass had, however, been painted over, because of
late years dark stages, with the even quality of artificial
light, had come into vogue in the Manton studios in place of
stages lighted by the uneven and undependable sunlight.

The two big sets mentioned by Manton, a banquet hall and a
ballroom, were being erected simultaneously. Carpenters were at
work sawing and hammering. Werner's technical director was
shouting at a group of stage hands putting a massive mirror in
position at the end of the banquet hall, a clever device to give
the room the appearance of at least double its actual length. In
one corner several electricians and a camera man were
experimenting with a strange-looking bank of lights. In the
ballroom set, where the flats or walls were all in place, an
unexcited paperhanger was busy with the paraphernalia of his
craft, somehow looking out of his element in this reign of
pandemonium.

It seemed hard indeed to believe that any sort of order or system
lay behind this heterogeneous activity, and the incident which
took Carey Drexel away from us only added to the wonder in my
mind, a wonder that anything tangible and definite could be
accomplished.

"Oh, Carey!" Another assistant director, or perhaps he was only a
property boy, rushed up frantically the moment he saw Drexel.
"Miss Miller's on a rampage because the grand piano you promised
to get for her isn't at her apartment yet, and Bessie Terry's in
tears because she left her parrot here overnight, as you
suggested, and some one taught the bird to swear." The intruder,
a youth of perhaps eighteen, was in deadly earnest. "For the love
of Mike, Carey," he went on, "tell me how to unteach that
screeching thing of Bessie's, or we won't get a scene today."

Carey Drexel looked at Kennedy helplessly.

With all these troubles, how could he pilot us about? Later we
learned that this was nothing new, once one gets on the inside of
picture making. Props., or properties, particularly the living
ones, cause almost as much disturbance as the temperamental
notions of the actors and actresses. Sometimes it is a question
which may become the most ridiculous.

Kennedy seemed to be satisfied with his preliminary visit to this
studio floor.

"We can get back to Manton's office alone," he told Drexel. "We
will just keep on circling the quadrangle."

Relieved, the assistant director pointed to the door of the
manufacturing building, as the four-story structure in the rear
was called. Then he bustled off with the other youth, quite
unruffled himself.

When we passed through the heavy steel fire door we found
ourselves in another long hallway of fire-brick and reinforced-
concrete construction. Unquestionably there was no danger of a
serious conflagration in any part of Manton's plant, despite the
high inflammability of the film itself, of the flimsy stage sets,
of practically everything used in picture manufacture.

Immediately we entered this building I detected a peculiar odor,
at which I sniffed eagerly. I was reminded of the burnt-almond
odor of the cyanides. Was this another clue?

I turned to Kennedy but he smiled, anticipating me.

"Banana oil, Walter," he explained, with rather a superior
manner. "I imagine it's used a great deal in this industry.
Anyway"--a chuckle--"don't expect chance to deliver clues to you
in wholesale quantities. You have done very well for today."

A sudden whirring noise, from an open door down the hall,
attracted us, and we paused. This, I guessed, was a cutting room.
There were a number of steel tables, with high steel chairs. At
the walls were cabinets of the same material. Each table had two
winding arrangements, a handle at the operator's right hand and
one at his left, so that he could wind or unwind film from one
reel to another, passing it forward or backward in front of his
eyes.

There were girls at the tables except nearest the hall. Here a
man stopped now and then to glance at the ribbon of film, or to
cut out a section, dropping the discarded piece into a fireproof
can and splicing the two ends of the main strip together again
with liquid film cement from a small bottle. He looked up as he
sensed our presence.

"Isn't it hell?" he remarked, in friendly fashion. "I've got to
cut all of Stella Lamar out of 'The Black Terror,' so they can
duplicate her scenes with another star, and meanwhile we had half
the negative matched and marked for colors and spliced in rolls,
all ready for the printer."

Without waiting for an answer from us, or expecting one, he gave
one of his reels a vicious spin, producing the whirring noise;
then grasping both reels between his fingers and bringing them to
an abrupt stop, so that I wondered he did not burn himself from
the friction, he located the next piece to be eliminated.

We followed the hall into the smaller studio and there found a
comedy company at work. Without stopping to watch the players,
ghastly under the light from the Cooper-Hewitts and Kliegel arcs,
we found a precarious way back of the set around and under stage
braces, to the covered bridge leading once more to the corridor
outside Manton's office.

Now the girl was absent from her place in the little waiting
room. Manton's door stood open. Without ceremony Kennedy led the
way in and dropped down at the side of the promoter's huge
mahogany desk.

"I'm tired, Walter," he said. "Furthermore, I think this picture
world of yours is a bedlam. We face a hard task."

"How do you propose to go about things?" I asked.

"I'm afraid this is a case which will have to be approached
entirely through psychological reactions. You and I will have to
become familiar with the studio and home life of all the long
list of possible suspects. I shall analyze the body fluids of the
deceased and learn the cause of death, and I will find out what
it is on the towel, but"--sighing--"there are so many different
ramifications, so many--"

Suddenly his eye caught the corner of a piece of paper slid under
the glass of Manton's desk. He pulled it out; then handed it to
me.

MEMORANDUM FOR MR. MANTON

Have learned Enid Faye is out of Pentangle and can be engaged for
about twelve hundred if you act quickly. Why not cancel Lamar
contract after "Black Terror," if she continues up-stage?

WERNER.

"I caught the name Lamar," Kennedy explained. Then an expression
of gratification crept into his face. "Miss Lamar was 'up-
stage'?" he mused. "That's a theatrical word for cussedness,
isn't it?"

I paid little attention. The name of Enid Faye had attracted my
own interest. This was the little dare-devil who had breezed into
the Pacific Coast film colony and had swept everything before
her. Not only had she displayed amazing nerve for her sex and
size, but she had been pretty and beautifully formed, had been as
much at home in a ballroom as in an Annette Kellermann bathing
suit. In less than six months she had learned to act and had been
brought to the Eastern studios of Pentangle. Now it was possible
that she would be captured by Manton, would be blazoned all over
the country by that gentleman, would become another star of his
making.

"Let's go, Walter!" Kennedy, impatient, rose. I noticed that he
folded the little note, slipping it into his pocket.

Out in the hall voices came to us from Werner's office. After
some little hesitation Kennedy opened the door unceremoniously.
At the table, littered with blue prints and drawings and colored
plates of famous home interiors, was the director. With him was
Manton. Seated facing them, in rare good humor, was a fascinating
little lady.

The promoter rose. "Professor Kennedy, I want you to meet Miss
Enid Faye, one of our real comers. And Mr. Jameson, Enid, of the
New York Star."

She acknowledged the introduction to Kennedy gracefully. Then she
turned, rising, and rushed to me most effusively, leading me to a
leather-covered couch and pulling me to a seat beside her.

"Mr. Jameson," she purred. "I just love newspaper men; I think
they're perfectly wonderful always. Tell me, do you like little
Enid?"

I nodded, confused and unhappy, and as red as a schoolboy.

"That's fine," she went on, in the best modulated and most
wonderful voice I thought I had ever heard. "I like you and I
know we're going to be the best of friends. Tell me, what's your
first name?"

"Now, Enid," reproved Manton, in fatherly tones, "you'll have
plenty of time to vamp your publicity later. For the present,
please listen to me. We're talking business."

"Shoot every hair of this old gray head!" she directed, pertly.

She did not move away, however, I could feel the warmth of her,
could catch the delicacy of the perfume she used. I noted the
play of her slender fingers, the trimness of her ankle, the
piquancy of a nose revealed to me in profile--and nothing else.

"This is your chance, Enid," Manton continued, earnestly and
rather eagerly. "You know the film will be the most talked about
one this year. We've got the Merritt papers lined up and that's
the best advertising in the world. Everyone will know you took
Stella's place, and--well, you'll step right in."

She studied the tips of her boots, stretching boyish limbs
straight in front of her, then smoothing the soft folds of her
skirt.

"Talk money to me, Mr. Man!" she exclaimed. "Talk the shekels,
the golden shekels."

"We're broke," he protested. "A thousand--"

She shook her head.

Werner broke in, suddenly anxious. "Don't pass up the chance,
Enid," he pleaded. "What can Pentangle do for you? And I've
always wanted to direct you again--"

"I'll make it twelve hundred," Manton interrupted, "if you'll
make the contract personally with me. Then if Manton Pictures--"

"All right!" She jumped to her feet, extending a hand straight
forward to each, the right to Manton, the left to Werner. "You're
on!"

I thought that I was forgotten. A wave of jealousy swept over me.
After all, she simply wanted me to write her up. In a daze I
heard Manton.

"You're a wise little girl, Enid," he told her. "Play the game
right with me and you'll climb high. The sky's the limit, now.
I'll make you--make you big!"

With a full, warm smile she swung around to me and I knew I was
not being slighted, after all.

"That's what Longfellow said, isn't it, Mr. Jameson?"

"What?" My heart began to beat like a trip hammer.

"Excelsior! Excelsior! It packs them in!"

She laughed so infectiously that we all joined in. Then Manton
turned to Kennedy.

"I've located Millard for you. He's to meet us at my apartment at
seven. It's six-thirty now. And you, Enid"--facing her--"if
you'll come, too, there's another man I want you to meet, and
Larry, of course, will be there--"

Enid studied Kennedy. He was hesitating as though not sure
whether to accompany Manton or not. I never did learn what other
course of action had occurred to him.

But I did notice that the little star, with her pert, upturned
face, seemed more anxious to have Kennedy go along than she was
to meet the mysterious individual mentioned without name by
Manton. For an instant she was on the point of addressing him,
flippantly, no doubt. Then, I think she was rather awed at
Craig's reputation.

All at once she shrugged her shoulders and turned to me, plucking
my sleeve, her expression brightening irresistibly. "You'll come,
too"--dimpling--"Jamie!"




VIII

LAWRENCE MILLARD


It struck me on the trip to Manton's apartment that the film
people were wholly unfeeling, were even uninterested in the death
of Stella Lamar except where it interfered with their business
arrangements. Werner excused himself and did not accompany us, on
the score of the complete realignment of production necessary to
place Enid in Stella's part. It seemed to me that he felt a
certain relish in the problem, that he was almost glad of the
circumstances which brought Enid to him. His last words to Manton
were, to be sure to have Millard recast the action of the scenes
wherever possible, so as to give Enid the better chance to
display her own personality.

I marveled as I realized that the remains of Stella Lamar were
scarcely cold before these people were figuring on the star to
take her place.

As Manton talked, the thought crossed my mind that such a man
needed no publicity manager. I dismissed the idea that he might
be capable even of murder for publicity. But at least it was an
insight into some methods of the game.

As our car mounted to the Concourse and turned Manhattanward I
was distinctly unhappy. Manton monopolized Enid completely,
insisting upon talking over everything under the sun, from the
wardrobe she would need in Stella's part and the best sort of
personal advertising campaign for her, to the first available
evening when she could go to dinner with him.

She sat in the rear seat, between Kennedy and the promoter, which
did not add to my sense of comfort. The only consoling feature
from my viewpoint was that I was admirably placed to study her,
and that Manton held her so engrossed that I had every
opportunity to do so unnoticed. Because she had overwhelmed me so
completely I did nothing of the kind. I knew we were riding with
the most beautiful woman in New York, but I did not know the
color of her hair or eyes, or even the sort of hat or dress she
wore. In short I was movie-struck.

We stopped at last at a huge, ornate apartment house on Riverside
Drive and Manton led the way through the wide Renaissance
entrance and the luxurious marble hall to the elevator. His
quarters, on the top floor, facing the river, were almost exotic
in the lavishness and barbaric splendor of their furnishings. My
first impression as we entered the place was that Manton had
purposely planned the dim lights of rich amber and the clinging
Oriental fragrance hovering about everything so as to produce an
alluring and enticing atmosphere. The chairs and wide upholstered
window seats, the soft, yielding divans in at least two corners,
with their miniature mountains of tiny pillows, all were
comfortable with the comfort one associates with lotus eating and
that homeward journey soon to be forgotten. There was the smoke
of incense, unmistakably. On a taboret were cigarettes and cigars
and through heavy curtains I caught a glimpse of a sideboard and
decanters, filled and set out very frankly.

A Japanese butler, whom Manton called Huroki, took our hats and
retreated with a certain emanating effluvium of subtlety such as
I had known only once before, when the Oriental attendant left me
on the occasion of my only visit to an opium den in Chinatown.

A moment later Millard, who had been waiting, rose to greet us.

I would have guessed him to be an author, I believe, had I met
him at random anywhere in the city. He affected all the
professional marks and mannerisms, and yet he did so gracefully.
I noticed, in the little hall where Huroki placed our headgear, a
single-jointed Malacca stick, a dark-colored and soft-brimmed
felt hat, and a battered brief-case. That was Millard,
unquestionably. The man himself was tall and loose-limbed, heavy
with an appearance of slenderness. His face was handsome, rather
intellectual in spite of rather than because of large horn-rimmed
glasses. His mouth and chin showed strength and determination,
which was a surprise to me. In fact, in no way did he seem to
reveal the artist. Lawrence Millard was a commercial writer, a
dreamer never.

First he greeted Enid, taking both of her hands in his. In this
one brief moment all my own little romance went glimmering, for I
could not blind myself to the softening of his expression, the
welcoming light in hers, the long interval in which their fingers
remained interlaced.

And then another thought came to me, hastened, fed and fattened
upon my jealousy. The sealed testimony in the case of Millard vs.
Millard! Could Enid, by any chance, be concerned in that?

The next moment I dismissed the thought, or at least I thought I
did so. I tried to picture Enid's work on the Coast, to remember
the short time she had been in the East. It was possible Millard
had known her before she went to Los Angeles, but unlikely.

Millard next turned to Kennedy.

"I just learned of the tragedy a short while ago, Professor," he
exclaimed. "It is terrible, and so amazingly sudden, too! It--it
has upset me completely. Tell me, have you found anything? Have
you discovered any possible clue? Is there anything at all I can
do to help?"

"I would like to ask a few questions," Kennedy explained.

"By all means!"

He extended a hand to me and I found it damp and flabby, as
though he were more concerned than his manner betrayed. He faced
Kennedy again, however, immediately.

"Stella and I didn't make a go of our married life at all," he
went on, frankly enough. "I was very sorry, too, because I was
genuinely fond of her."

"How recently have you seen her?"

"Stella? Not for over a month--perhaps longer than that."

Manton took Enid by the arm. It was evidently her first visit to
the apartment and he was anxious to show her his various
treasures.

Millard, Kennedy, and I found a corner affording a view out over
the Hudson. After Kennedy had described, briefly, the
circumstances of Stella's death, at Millard's insistence, he
produced the note he had found in her handbag. The author
recognized it at once, without reading it.

"Yes, I wrote that!" Then just a trace of emotion crept into his
voice. "I was too late," he murmured.

"What was it you wanted to say?" Kennedy inquired.

Millard's glance traveled to Manton and Enid, a troubled
something in his expression. I could see that the promoter was
making the most of his tete-a-tete with the girl, but she seemed
perfectly at ease and quite capable of handling the man, and I,
certainly, was more disturbed at the interest of Millard.

"I thought there was something about the business I ought to tell
Stella," he answered, finally. "Manton Pictures is pretty shaky."

"Oh! Then Manton wasn't talking for effect when he told Miss Faye
that the company was broke?"

"No, indeed! In fact, didn't Enid make her agreement with Manton
personally? That's what I advised her to do."

Kennedy nodded. "But is Manton himself financially sound?"

Millard laughed. "Lloyd Manton always has a dozen things up his
sleeve. He may have a million or he may owe a million." In the
author's voice was no respect for his employer. A touch of malice
crept into his tone. "Manton will make money for anyone who can
make money for him," he added, "that is, provided he has to do
it."

Kennedy and I exchanged glances. This was close to an assertion
of downright dishonesty. At that moment Huroki stole in on padded
feet, as noiseless as a wraith.

"Yes, Huroki?" His master turned, inquiringly.

"Mr. Leigh," was the butler's announcement.

"Show him in," said Manton; then he hurried over to us.
"Courtlandt Leigh, the banker, you know."

I imagine I showed my surprise, for Kennedy smiled as he caught
my face. Leigh was a bigger man than Phelps, of the highest
standing in downtown financial circles. If Manton had interested
Courtlandt Leigh in moving pictures he was a wizard indeed.

It seemed to me that the banker was hardly in the apartment
before he saw Enid, and from that moment the girl engrossed him
to the exclusion of everything else. For Enid, I will say that
she was a wonder. She seemed to grasp the man's instant
infatuation and immediately she set about to complete the
conquest, all without permitting him so much as to touch her.

"You'll excuse us?" remarked Manton, easily, as he drew Phelps
and Enid away.

"See!" exclaimed Millard, in a low voice, frowning now as he
watched the girl. "Manton's clever! I've never known him unable
to raise money, and that's why I wanted Enid to have her contract
with him personally. If Manton Pictures blows up he'd put her in
some other company."

"He has more than one?" This seemed to puzzle Kennedy.

"He's been interested in any number on the side," Millard
explained. "Now he's formed another, but it's a secret so far.
You've heard of Fortune Features, perhaps?"

Kennedy looked at me, but I shook my head.

"What is 'Fortune Features'?" Kennedy asked the question of
Millard.

"Just another company in which Manton has an interest," he
replied, casually. "That was why I said I advised that Enid make
her contract personally with Manton. If Manton Pictures goes up,
then he will have to swing her into Fortune Features--the other
Manton enterprise, don't you see?" He paused, then added: "By the
way, don't say anything outside about that. It isn't generally
known--and as soon as anyone does hear it, everybody in the film
game will hear it. You don't know how gossip travels in this
business."

Kennedy asked a few personal questions about Stella, but
Millard's answers indicated that he had not contemplated or even
hoped for a reconciliation, that his interest in his former wife
had become thoroughly platonic. Just now, however, he seemed
unable to keep Manton out of his mind.

"Oh, Manton's clever!" he said, confidentially to Kennedy, as he
watched the promoter deftly maneuvering Leigh and Enid into a
position side by side.

And indeed, as Millard talked, I began to get some inkling of how
really clever was the game which Manton played.

"Why," continued Millard, warming up to his story--for, to him,
above all, a good story was something that had to be told,
whatever might result from it--"I have known him to pay a visit
some afternoon to Wall Street--go down there to beard the old
lions in their den. He always used to show up about the closing
time of the market.

"I've known him to get into the office of some one like Leigh or
Phelps. Then he'll begin to talk about his brilliant prospects in
the company he happens to be promoting at the time. If you listen
to Manton you're lost. I know it--I've listened," he added,
whimsically.

"Well," he continued, "the banker will begin to get restless
after a bit--not at Manton, but at not getting away. 'My car is
outside,' Manton will say. 'Let me drive you uptown.' Of course,
there's nothing else for the banker to do but to accept, and when
he gets into Manton's car he's glad he did. I don't know anyone
who picks out such luxurious things as he does. Why, that man
could walk right out along Automobile Row, broke, and some one
would GIVE him a car."

"How does he do it?" I put the question to him.

"How does a fish swim?" said Millard, smiling. "He's clever, I
tell you. Once he has the banker in the car, perhaps they stop
for a few moments at a club. At any rate, Manton usually
contrives it so that, as they approach his apartment, he has his
talk all worked up to the point where the banker is genuinely
interested. You know there's almost nothing people will talk to
you longer about than moving pictures.

"Well, on one pretext or another, Manton usually persuades the
banker to step up here for a moment. Poor simp! It's all over
with him then. I'll never forget how impressed Phelps was with
this place the first time. There, now, watch this fellow, Leigh.
He thinks this looks like a million dollars. We're all here,
playing Manton's game. We're his menagerie--he's Barnum. I tell
you, Leigh's lost, lost!"

I did not know quite what to make of Millard's cynicism. Was he
trying to be witty at Manton's expense? I noticed that he did not
smile himself. Although he was talking to us, his attention was
not really on us. He was still watching Enid.

"Then, along would happen Stella, as if by chance."

Millard paused bitterly, as though he did not quite relish the
telling it, but felt that Kennedy would pry it out of him or some
one else finally, and he might as well have it over with frankly.

"Yes," he said, thoughtfully, "but it all wasn't really Manton's
fault, after all. Stella liked the Bohemian sort of life too
much--and Manton does the Bohemian up here wonderfully. It was
too much for Stella. Then, when Phelps came along and was roped
in, she fell for him. It was good-by, poor Millard! I wasn't
rapid enough for that crowd."

I almost began to sympathize with Millard in the association into
which, for his living's sake, his art had forced him. I realized,
too, that really the banker, the wise one from Wall Street, was
the sucker.

Indeed, as Millard told it, I could easily account for the
temptation of Stella. To a degree, I suppose, it was really her
fault, for she ought to have known the game, shown more sense
than to be taken in by the thing. I wondered at the continued
relations of Millard with Manton, under the circumstances.
However, I reflected, if Stella had chosen to play the little
fool, why should Millard have allowed that to ruin his own
chances?

What interested me now was that Millard did not seem to relish
the attentions which the banker was paying to Enid. Was Manton
framing up the same sort of game again on Leigh?

However, when Enid shot a quick glance at Millard in an aside of
the conversation, accompanied by a merry wink, I saw that
Millard, though still doubtful, was much more at ease.

Evidently there was a tacit understanding between the two.

Kennedy glanced over at me. Bit by bit the checkered history of
Stella Lamar's life was coming to light.

I began to see more clearly. Deserting Millard and fascinated by
Manton and his game, she had been used to interest Phelps in the
company. In turn she had been dazzled by the glitter of the
Phelps gold. She had not proved loyal even to the producer and
promoter.

Perhaps, I reflected, that was why Millard was so apparently
complacent. One could not, under the circumstances, have expected
him to display wild emotion. His attitude had been that of one
who thought, "She almost broke me; let her break some one else."

That, however, was not his attitude toward Enid now. Indeed, he
seemed genuinely concerned that she should not follow in the same
steps.

Later, I learned that was not all of the history of Stella.
Fifteen hundred dollars a week of her own money, besides lavish
presents, had been too much for her. Even Phelps's money had had
no over-burdening attraction for her. The world--at least that
part of it which spends money on Broadway, had been open to her.
Jack Daring had charmed her for a while--hence the engagement. Of
Shirley, I did not even know. Perhaps the masterful crime roles
he played might have promised some new thrill, with the
possibility that they expressed something latent in his life. At
any rate, she had dilettanted about him, to the amazement and
dismay of Marilyn. That we knew.

The dinner hour was approaching, and, in spite of the urgent
invitation of Manton, Leigh was forced to excuse himself to keep
a previous appointment. I felt, though, that he would have broken
it if only Enid had added her urging. But she did not, much to
the relief of Millard. Manton took it in good part. Perhaps he
was wise enough to reflect that many other afternoons were in the
lap of the future.

"What is Manton up to?" Kennedy spoke to Millard. "Is it off with
the old and on with the new? Is Phelps to be cast aside like a
squeezed-out lemon, and Leigh taken on for a new citrus fruit?"

Millard smiled. He said nothing, but the knowing glance was
confirmation enough that in his opinion Kennedy had expressed the
state of affairs correctly.

Millard hastened to the side of Enid at once and we learned then
that they had a theater engagement together and that Millard had
the tickets in his pocket. Once more I realized it was no new or
recent acquaintanceship between these two. Again I wondered what
woman had been named in Stella Lamar's divorce suit, and again
dismissed the thought that it could be Enid.

Kennedy took his hat and handed me mine. "We must eat, Walter, as
well as the rest of them," he remarked, when Manton led the way
to the door.

I was loath to leave and I suppose I showed it. The truth was
that little Enid Faye had captivated me. It was hard to tear
myself away.

In the entrance I hesitated, wondering whether I should say good-
by to her. She seemed engrossed with Millard.

A second time she took me clean off my feet. While I stood there,
foolishly, she left Millard and rushed up, extending her little
hand and allowing it to rest for a moment clasped in mine.

"We didn't have a single opportunity to get acquainted, Mr.
Jameson," she complained, real regret in the soft cadences of her
voice. "Won't you phone me sometime? My name's in the book, or
I'll be at the studio--"

I was tongue-tied. My glance, shifting from hers because I was
suddenly afraid of myself, encountered the gaze of Millard from
behind. Now I detected the unmistakable fire of jealousy in the
eyes of the author. I presume I was never built to be a heavy
lover. Up and down my spine went a shiver of fear. I dropped
Enid's hand and turned away abruptly.




IX

WHITE-LIGHT SHADOWS


"What do you think of it?" I asked Kennedy, when we were half
through our meal at a tiny restaurant on upper Broadway.

"We're still fumbling in the dark," he replied.

"There's the towel--"

"Yes, and almost any one on Mackay's list of nine suspects could
have placed it in that washroom."

"Well--" I was determined to draw him out. My own impressions, I
must confess, were gloriously muddled. "Manton heads the list," I
suggested. "Everyone says she was mixed up with him."

"Manton may have philandered with her; undoubtedly he takes a
personal interest in all his stars." Kennedy, I saw, remembered
the promoter's close attentions to Enid Faye. "Nevertheless,
Walter, he is first and foremost and all the time the man of
business. His heart is in his dollars and Millard even suggests
that he is none too scrupulous."

"If he had an affair with Stella," I rejoined, "and she became
up-stage--the note you found suggested trouble, you know--then
Manton in a burst of passion--"

"No!" Kennedy stopped me. "Don't forget that this was a cold-
blooded, calculated crime. I'm not eliminating Manton yet, but
until we find some tangible evidence of trouble between Stella
and himself we can hardly assume he would kill the girl who's
made him perhaps a million dollars. Every motive in Manton's case
is a motive against the crime."

"That eliminates Phelps, then, too. He nearly owned the company."

"Yes, unless something happened to outweigh financial
considerations in his mind also."

"But, good heavens! Kennedy," I protested. "If you go on that way
you'll not eliminate anyone."

"I can't yet," he explained, patiently. "It's just as I said.
We're fishing in the dark, absolutely. So far we haven't a single
basic fact on which to build any structure of hypothesis. We must
go on fishing. I expect you to dig up all the facts about these
people; every odd bit of gossip or rumor or anything else. I'll
bring my science to play, but there's nothing I can do except
analyze Stella's stomach contents and the spots on the towel;
that is, until we've got a much more tangible lead than any which
have developed so far."

"Is there anything I can do to-night?"

"Yes!" He looked at his watch. "There are two men who were very
close to Miss Lamar. Jack Gordon was engaged to her, Merle
Shirley seemed to have been mixed up with her seriously. All the
picture people have night haunts. See what you can find about
these two men."

"But I don't know where to find them offhand, and--"

"Both belong to the Goats Club, probably. Try that as a start."

I nodded and began to hurry my dessert. But I could not resist
questioning him.

"You think they are the most likely suspects?"

"No, but they were intimately associated with Miss Lamar in her
daily life and they are the two we have learned the least about."

"Oh!" I was disappointed. Then I rallied to the attack for a
final time. "Who is the most likely one. Just satisfy my
curiosity, Craig."

He took a folded note from his pocket, opening it. It was the
memorandum from Manton's desk which I had mentioned. In a flash I
understood.

"Werner!" I exclaimed. "They said he was mixed up with her, too.
He was the first back and out of the car and he had time to clean
a needle on the towel, had a better opportunity than anyone else.
More"--I began to get excited--"he was lying on the floor close
to her in the scene and could have jabbed her with a needle very
easily, and--and he was extremely nervous when you questioned
him, the most nervous of all, and--and, finally, he had a motive,
he wanted to get Enid Faye with Manton Pictures, as this note
shows."

"Very good, Walter." Kennedy's eyes were dancing in amusement.
"It is true that Werner had the best motive, so far as we know
now, but it's a fantastic one. Men don't commit cold-blooded
murder just to create a vacancy for a movie star. If Werner was
going to kill Miss Lamar he never would have written this note
about Miss Faye."

"Unless to divert suspicion," I suggested.

He shook his head. "The whole thing's too bizarre."

"Werner was close to her in the dark. All the other things point
to him, don't they?"

"It's too bad everyone wasn't searched, at that," Kennedy
admitted. "Nevertheless, at the time I realized that Werner had
had the best opportunity for the actual performance of the crime
and I watched him very closely and made him go through every
movement just so I could study him. I believe he's innocent--at
least as far as I've gone in the case."

I determined to stick to my opinion. "I believe it's Werner," I
insisted.

"By the time you've dug up all the gossip about Gordon and
Shirley you won't be so sure, Walter."

I was, however. Kennedy was not as familiar with the picture
world as I. I had heard of too many actual happenings more
strange and bizarre and wildly fantastic than anything
conceivable in other walks of life. People in the film game, as
they call it, live highly seasoned lives in which everything is
exaggerated. The mere desire to make a place for Enid might not
have actuated Werner, granting he was the guilty man.
Nevertheless it could easily have contributed. And it struck me
suddenly, an additional argument, that Werner, of all of them,
was the most familiar with the script. He had been able to cast
himself for the part of old Remsen. There was not a detail which
he could not have arranged very skillfully.

At the Goats Club I was lucky to discover a member whom I knew
well enough to take into my confidence by stating my errand. He
was one of the Star's former special writers and an older
classman of the college which had graduated Kennedy and myself.

"Merle Shirley is not a member here," he said. "As a matter of
fact, I've only just heard the name. But Jack Gordon's a Goat,
worse luck. That fellow's a bad actor--in real life--and a
disgrace to us."

"Tell me all you know about him?" I asked.

"Well, to give you an example, he was in here just about a week
ago. I was sitting in the grill, eating an after-theater supper,
when I heard the most terrible racket. He and Emery Phelps, the
banker, you know, were having an honest-to-goodness fight right
out in the lobby. It took three of the men to separate them."

"What was it all about."

"Well, Gordon owes money right and left, not a few hundred or
some little personal debts like that, but thousands and thousands
of dollars. I got it from some of the other men here that he has
been speculating on the curb downtown, losing consistently. More
than that, he's engaged to Stella Lamar--you knew that?--and he's
been blowing money on her. Then they tell me his professional
work is suffering, that his recent screen appearances are
terrible; the result of late hours and worry, I suppose."

"The fight with Phelps was over money?"

"Of course! I figure that he kept drawing against his salary at
the studio until the film company shut down on him. Then probably
he began to borrow from Phelps, who's Manton's backer now, until
the banker shut down on him also. At any rate, Phelps had begun
to dun him and it led to the fight."

"That's all you know about Gordon?"

"Lord! Isn't it enough?"

I walked out of the club and toward Broadway, reflecting upon
this information. Could Gordon's debts have any bearing upon the
case? All at once one possibility struck me. He had been
borrowing from Phelps. Perhaps he had borrowed from Stella also.
Perhaps that was the cause of their quarrel. Perhaps she had
threatened to make trouble--it was a slender motive, but worth
bringing to the attention of Kennedy.

My immediate problem, however, was to obtain some information
about Merle Shirley. At first I thought I would make the rounds
of some of the better-known cafes, but that seemed a hopeless
task. Suddenly I remembered Belle Balcom, formerly with the Star.
I recollected a previous case of Kennedy's where she and I had
been great rivals in the quest of news. I recalled a trip we had
made to Greenwich Village together. Belle knew more people about
town than any other newspaper woman. Now, for some months, she
had been connected with Screenings, a leading cinema "fan"
magazine, and would unquestionably be posted upon the
photoplayers.

Luckily, I caught her at home.

"Bless your soul," she told me over the phone, in delight, "I've
just been aching for some one to take me out to-night. We'll go
to the Midnight Fads and if Shirley isn't there the head waiter
will tell you all I don't remember. It was a glorious fight."

She wouldn't say any more over the phone, but I was hugely
curious. Had there been another encounter with fists? And who had
been involved?

When she met me finally, at the Subway station, and when we
obtained an out-of-the-way table at the Fads, she explained. It
seemed that Shirley had met Stella there a number of times and
that Gordon, at last, had got wind of it. Gordon first had come
up himself, quietly, pleading with Stella. She had been in a high
humor and had refused even to listen to him. Then he had become
insulting. At that Shirley knocked him down.

The head waiter, a witness of the affair, ordered Gordon put out,
but did not request Shirley or Stella to leave, because the other
man had been the aggressor without any question. After more than
an hour Gordon returned, quietly and unobtrusively, with another
girl. From Belle's description I knew it was Marilyn Loring.
Taking another table, Marilyn had stared at Shirley reproachfully
while Gordon had glared at Stella.

Shirley put up with this for just about so long. As Belle
described it, his face gradually became more and more red and he
controlled himself with increasing difficulty. Stella, seeing the
coming of the storm, tried to get him to go. He refused. She
threatened to leave him. He paid no attention. All at once he
boiled over and with great strides walked over to Gordon and
mauled him all over the place. The leading man had no chance
whatever in the hands of the irate Westerner. Several waiters,
attempting to intervene, were flung aside. Only when Shirley
began to cool off were they able to eject the two men. Both
Stella and Marilyn had left, separately, before that. Neither of
the men or women had been at the Fads since, or at least the head
waiter, called over by Belle, so informed us.

Unable to obtain any other facts of interest, I returned finally
to the apartment shared by Kennedy and myself. First he listened
to my account, plainly interested. Then, when I had concluded, he
rose and faced me rather gravely.

"It's getting more and more complicated, Walter," he exclaimed.
"After you left I remembered that there was one point of
investigation I had failed to cover--Miss Lamar's home here in
the city. I got our old friend, First-Deputy O'Connor, on the
wire and learned that at the request of Mackay, from Tarrytown,
they had sent a man up to the place and that just an hour or less
before I called they had located and were holding her colored
maid. I hurried down to headquarters and questioned the girl."

"Yes?" To me it sounded promising.

"The negress didn't know a thing so far as the crime is
concerned," Kennedy went on, "but I gained quite an insight into
the private life of the star."

"You mean--"

"I mean I know the men who went to Miss Lamar's apartment,
although beyond the fact of her receiving them I can tell
nothing, for she sent the maid home at night; there were no
maid's quarters."

"Their visits may have been perfectly innocent?"

"Of course! We can only draw conclusions."

"Who were the various callers?"

"Jack Gordon--"

"Her fiance!"

"Merle Shirley--"

"Shirley admitted it when you questioned him."

"Manton--"

"Everyone knows that!"

"Werner--" A side glance at me.

I said nothing. My expression spoke for me.

"And Emery Phelps!"

At that I did show surprise. Although Mackay had hinted at
something of the kind, I, for one, had not considered the banker
seriously.

"Good heavens! Kennedy," I exploded. "She was mixed up with just
about every man connected with the company."

"Exactly!" As usual, he seemed calm and unconcerned.

I could regard the case only with increasing amazement--the
bitter, conflicting emotions of Manton and Phelps, of Daring,
Shirley, and Millard. With them all Stella had been the pretty
trouble maker.

"How do you suppose they could all remain in the same company?" I
showed my surprise at the situation.

Kennedy pondered a moment, then replied:

"A moment's reflection ought to give you one answer. I think,
Walter, they were either under contract or they had their money
in the company. They couldn't break."

"I suppose so. What I wonder is, was Marilyn as jealous of Stella
as her screen character would make her in a story? She's the only
one we don't hear much about."

Kennedy did not seem, at least at present, to give this phase of
it anything like the weight he credited to the frenzied financial
relations the case was uncovering.

It was true, as I learned later, that Manton was at that very
moment doing perhaps as much as anyone else ever did to discredit
the picture game in Wall Street.




X

CHEMICAL RESEARCH


The following morning I found Kennedy up ahead of me, and I felt
certain that he had gone to the laboratory. Sure enough, I found
him at work in the midst of the innumerable scientific devices
which he had gathered during years of crime detection of every
sort.

As usual, he was surrounded by a perfect litter of test tubes,
beakers, reagents, microscopes, slides, and culture tubes. He had
cut out the curious spots from the towel I had discovered and was
studying them to determine their nature. From the mass of
paraphernalia I knew he was neglecting no possibility which might
lead to the hidden truth or produce a clue to the crime.

"Have you learned anything yet?" I asked.

"Those brownish spots were blood, of course," was his reply as he
stopped a moment in his work. "In the blood I discovered some
other substance, though I can't seem to identify it yet. It will
take time. I thought it might be a drug or poison, but it doesn't
seem to be--at least nothing one might ordinarily expect."

"How about the other spots, not the Chinese yellow?"

"Another problem I haven't solved. I dissolved enough of them so
that I have plenty of material to study if I don't waste it. But
so far I haven't been able to identify the substance with
anything I know. There's a lot more work of elimination, Walter,
before we're on the road to the solution of this case. Whatever
stained the towel was very unusual. As near as I can make out the
spots are of some protein composition. But it's not exactly a
poison, although many proteins may be extremely poisonous and
extremely difficult to identify because they are of organic
nature."

I was disappointed. It seemed to me that he had made
comparatively little progress so far.

"There's one thing," he added. "Samples of the body fluids of the
victim have been sent down by the coroner at Tarrytown and I have
analyzed them. While I haven't decided what it was that killed
Stella Lamar, I am at least convinced that it has something to do
with these towel spots. They are not exactly the same--in fact, I
should say they were complementary, or, perhaps better,
antithetical."

"The mark wasn't made by the needle which scratched her, then?"

"That's what I thought at first, that the point used had been
wiped off on the towel. Then I decided that the spots had nothing
to do with the case at all. Now I believe there is some
connection, after all."

"I--I don't understand it," I protested.

"It's very baffling," he agreed, absent-mindedly.

"If the towel wasn't used to clean the fatal needle," I went on,
"then it may have been used before they went out instead of
afterward."

"Exactly. As a matter of fact, if I had not been so confused
yesterday by all the details of the case, by the many people
involved, I would have noticed at a glance that the blood spots
on the towel could not come from some one using it to wipe the
needle. And any hypothesis that it had been used out in Tarrytown
was ridiculous, because Miss Lamar was only scratched faintly and
lost no blood. If I had been a little more clever I might have
been altogether too clever. I might possibly have thrown the
towel away, because there certainly was no logical reason for
connecting it with the crime."

"Just when do you suppose Stella was pricked?" I asked.

"That's a vital consideration. Just now I do not know the poison
and so cannot tell how quickly it acted." He began to put aside
his various paraphernalia. "Suppose we go at this thing by a
process of deduction rather than from the end of scientific
analysis." He sat on a corner of the bench. "What do we find?" he
began.

"While I've been working here with the test tubes and the
microscope I've been trying to reconstruct what must have
happened, trying to trace out every action of Stella Lamar as
nearly as it is possible for us to do so. I don't think we need
to go back of their arrival at the house, for the present. They
seem to have been there a long while before the taking of the
particular scene, since there were twelve other scenes preceding
and since it requires time to put up the electric lights and make
the connections, as well as to set the cameras, take tests,
rearrange the furniture, and all the rest of it.

"They arrived at the house in two automobiles; with the exception
of Phelps, who was there already, and Manton, who came in his own
limousine. That means that Miss Lamar had company on the trip
out, the principals probably riding with each other in one car.
At the house they were all more or less together. There were
people about constantly and it would seem as if there was small
opportunity for anyone to inflict the scratch which caused her
death. I don't mean that it would have been impossible to prick
her. I mean that she would have felt the jab of the point. In all
likelihood she would have cried out and glanced around. Take a
needle yourself, sometime, Walter, and try to duplicate the
scratch on your own arm in such a way that you would not be aware
of it.

"So you see I'm counting upon some sort of exclamation from Miss
Lamar. If she were inoculated with the poison with other folks
about, it is sure some one would have remembered a cry, a
questioning glance, a quick grasp of the forearm--for the nerves
are very sensitive in the skin there--"

"No one did recall anything of the kind," I interrupted.

"It is from that fact that I hope to deduce something. Now let's
follow her, figuratively, to her little dressing room. This was a
part of the living room where the rest waited. It is not a
certainty, but yet rather a sure guess, that if she had received
a scratch behind those thin silk curtains her cry would have been
heard. What is even more plausible is that she would have hurried
out, or at least put her head out, to see who had pricked her.

"I made a very careful examination of that little alcove with the
idea that some artifice might have been used. It occurred to me
that a poisoned point could have been inserted in her belongings
in some way so that she would have brought about her own death,
directly. To have caught herself on a needle point in her bag,
for instance, would not have impressed her to the point of making
a disturbance. She might have checked her exclamation, in that
case, because she would be blaming herself.

"But I found nothing in her things, nor did I discover anything
in the library. It seems to me, therefore, that we must look for
a direct human agency."

A thought struck me and I hastened to suggest it. "Could some
device have been arranged in her clothes, Craig; something like
the poison rings of the Middle Ages, a tiny metal thing to spring
open and expose its point when pressed against her in the action
of the scenes?"

"That occurred to me at the time. That's why I asked Mackay to
send all her clothes down here, every stitch and rag of them.
I've gone over everything already this morning. Not only have I
examined the various materials for stains, but I've tested each
hook and eye and button and pin. I've been very careful to cover
that possibility."

"You think, then, she was scratched deliberately by some one
during the taking of the scenes?"

"If you've followed my line of reasoning you will see that we are
driven to that assumption. Perhaps later I will make tests on a
given number of girls of Stella's general age and type and
temperament to show that they will cry out at the unexpected
prick of a fine needle. It's illogical to expect that a cry from
Miss Lamar, even an exclamation, would have passed unnoticed
except during the excitement of actual picture taking."

Another inspiration came to me, but I was almost afraid to voice
it. It seemed a daring theory. "Could death have resulted from
poison administered in some other fashion, by something she had
eaten, for instance?" I ventured. "Couldn't the scratch be
coincidental?"

Kennedy shook his head. "There's the value of our chemical
analysis and scientific tests. Her stomach contents showed
nothing except as they might have been affected by her weakened
condition. From Doctor Blake's report--and he found no ordinary
symptoms, remember--and from my own observation, too, I can
easily prove in court that she was killed by the mark which was
so small that it escaped the physician altogether."

I turned away. Once more Kennedy's reasoning seemed to be leading
into a maze of considerations beyond me. How could the deductive
method produce results in a case as mysterious as this?

"Having determined that Miss Lamar received the inoculation
during the making of one of the scenes, as nearly as we can do
so," Kennedy went on, "suppose we take the scenes in order, one
at a time, from the last photographed to the first, analyzing
each in turn. Remember that we seek a situation where there is
not only an opportunity to jab her with a needle, but one in
which an outcry would be muffled or inaudible."

I now saw that Kennedy had brought in the bound script of the
story, "The Black Terror," and I wondered again, as I had often
before, at his marvelous capacity for attention to detail.

"'The spotlight on the floor reveals the girl sobbing over the
body of the millionaire,'" he read, aloud, musingly. "H'mm! 'She
screams and cries out.' Then the others rush in."

For several moments Kennedy paced the floor of the laboratory,
the manuscript open in his hands.

"We rehearsed that, with Werner; and we questioned everyone, too.
And remember! Miss Lamar, instead of crying out as she was
supposed to do, just crumpled up silently. So"--thumbing over a
page--"we work back to scene twelve. She--she was not in that at
all. Scene eleven--"

Slowly, carefully, Kennedy went through each scene to the
beginning. "Certainly a dramatic opening for a mystery picture,"
he remarked, suddenly, as though his mind had wandered from his
problem to other things. "We must admit that Millard can handle a
moving-picture scenario most beautifully."

Whether it was professional jealousy or the thought of Enid,
rather than the memory of my own poor attempts at screen writing,
I certainly was in no mood to agree with Kennedy, for all that I
knew he was correct.

"Here!" He thrust the binder in my hands. "Read that first
scene," he directed. "Meanwhile I am going to phone Mackay to
make sure he has had the house guarded and to make double sure no
one goes near the library. We're going out to Tarrytown again,
Walter, and in the biggest kind of hurry."

"What's the idea, Craig?" Kennedy's occasional bursts of
mysteriousness, characteristic of him and often necessary when
his theories were only half formed and too chaotic for
explanations, always piqued me.

He did not seem to hear. Already he was at the telephone,
manipulating the receiver hook impatiently. "What a dummy I am!"
he exclaimed, with genuine feeling. "What--what an awful dummy!"

Knowing I would get nothing out of him just yet, I turned to the
scene, reading as he told me. At first I could not see where the
detail concerned Stella Lamar in any way. Then I came to the
description of her introductory entrance, the initial view of her
in the film. The lines of typewriting suddenly stood out before
me in all their suggestive clearness.

     The spotlight in the hands of a shadowy figure roves across
     the wall and to the portieres. As it pauses there the
     portieres move and the fingers of a girl are seen on the
     edge of the silk. A bare and beautiful arm is thrust through
     almost to the shoulder and it begins to move the portieres
     aside, reaching upward to pull the curtains apart at the
     rings.

"You think there's something about the portieres--" I began.

Then I saw that Kennedy had his connection, that something
disturbed him, that some intelligence from the other end had
caught him by surprise.

"You say you were just trying to get me, Mackay? You've something
to tell me and you want me to come right out--you have summoned
Phelps and he's on his way from the city also--?"

"What happened?" I asked, as Kennedy hung up.

"I don't know, Walter. Mackay said he didn't want to talk over
the phone and that we had just time to catch the express."

"But--"

"Hurry!" He glanced about as if wondering whether any of his
scientific instruments would help him.




XI

FORESTALLED


On the train Kennedy left me, to look through the other cars,
having the idea that Phelps might be aboard also. But there were
no signs of the banker. We would reach Tarrytown first unless he
had chosen to motor out.

Mackay was waiting at the station to meet us and to take us to
the house. The little district attorney was obviously excited.

"Was the place guarded well last night?" asked Kennedy, almost
before we had shaken hands.

"Yes--that is, I thought it was. That's what I want to tell you.
After you left with Manton and Werner the rest of the company
packed up and pulled out in the two studio cars. I was a little
in doubt what to do about Phelps, but he settled it himself by
announcing that he was going to town. The coroner came and issued
the permit to remove the body and that was taken away. I think
the house and the presence of the dead girl and all the rest of
it got on Phelps's nerves, because he was irritable and
impatient, unwilling to wait for his own car, until finally I
drove him to the station myself."

"Was anyone, any of those on our list of possible suspects at
least, alone in the room--or in the house?"

"Not while I was there," Mackay replied. "I took good care of
that. Then, when everyone was gone and while Phelps was waiting
for me, I detailed two of my deputies to stay on guard--one
inside and one outside--for the night. I thought it sufficient
precaution, since you had made your preliminary examination."

"And--" Kennedy nodded, seeking to hurry the explanation.

"And yet," added Mackay, "some one entered the house last night
in spite of us."

Kennedy fairly swore under his breath. He seemed to blame himself
for some omission in his investigation the previous afternoon.

"How did it happen?" I asked, rather excitedly.

"It was about three o'clock, the guards tell me. The man inside
was dozing in a chair before the living-room fireplace. He was
placed so he could command a view of the doorway to the library
as well as the stairs and reception hall. All at once he was
awakened by a shot and a cry from outside. He jumped up and ran
toward the library. As he did so the portieres bellied in toward
him, as if in stiff sudden draught, or as if some one had darted
into their folds quickly, then out. With no hesitation he drew
his own weapon, rushing the curtains. There was no one secreted
about them. Then, with the revolver in one hand, he switched on
the lights. The room was empty. But one pair of French windows at
the farther end were wide open and it was that which had caused
the current of air. He ran over and found the lock had been
forced. It was not even an artistic job of jimmying."

"What about the deputy posted outside?" prompted Kennedy.

"That's the strange part of it. He was alert enough, but it's a
big house to watch. He swears that the first thing he knew of any
trouble was the sharp metallic click which he realized later was
the sound made by the intruder in forcing the catch of the French
window. It was pretty loud out in the quiet of a Tarrytown night.

"He started around from the rear and then the next thing he
caught was the outline of a shadowy slinking figure as a man
dropped out of the library. He called. The intruder broke into a
run, darting across the open space of lawn and crashing through
the shrubbery without any further effort at concealment. My man
called again and began to chase the stranger, finally firing and
missing. In the shrubbery a sharp branch whipped him under the
chin just as he obtained a clear view of the outlined figure of
his quarry and as he raised his weapon to shoot again. The
revolver was knocked from his hand and he was thrown back,
falling to the ground and momentarily stunned. Whoever broke into
the library got away, of course."

"What did the intruder look like?" There was an eagerness in
Kennedy's manner. I grasped that the case was beginning to
clarify itself in his mind.

Mackay shook his head. "There was no moon, you know, and
everything happened swiftly.

"But was he tall or short or slender or stout--the deputy must
have got some vague idea of him at least."

"It was one of my amateur deputies," Mackay admitted,
reluctantly. "He thought the man was hatless, but couldn't even
be sure of that."

"Were there footprints, or fingerprints--"

"No, Mr. Kennedy, we're out of luck again. When he jumped out he
fell to his hands and knees in a garden bed. The foot marks were
ruined because his feet slid and simply made two irregular
gashes. The marks of his hands indicated to me, anyhow, that he
wore heavy gloves, rubber probably."

"Any disturbance in the library?"

"Not that I could notice. That's why I phoned you at once. I'm
hoping you'll discover something."

"Well--" Kennedy sighed. "It was a wonderful opportunity to get
to the bottom of this."

"I haven't told you all yet, Mr. Kennedy," Mackay went on. "There
was a second man, and--"

"A second man?" Kennedy straightened, distinctly surprised. "I
would swear this whole thing was a one-man job."

"They weren't together," the district attorney explained. "That's
why I didn't mention them both at once. But my deputy says that
when he was thrown by the lash of the branch he was unable to
move for a few seconds, on account of the nerve shock I suppose,
and that while he was motionless, squatted in a sort of sitting
position with hands braced behind him, just as he fell, he was
aware of a second stranger concealed in the shrubbery.

"The second fellow was watching the first, without the question
of a doubt. While the deputy slowly rose to his feet this other
chap started to follow the man who had broken into the house. But
at that moment there was the sudden sound of a self-starter in a
car, then the purr of a motor and the clatter of gears. Number
one spun off in the darkness of the road as pretty as you please.
Number two grunted, in plain disgust.

"By this time my deputy had his wind. His revolver was gone, but
he jumped the second stranger with little enough hesitation and
they battled royally for several minutes in the dark.
Unfortunately, it was an unequal match. The intruder apparently
was a stocky man, built with the strength of a battleship. He got
away also, without leaving anything behind him to serve for
identification."

"You have no more description than of the first man?"

"Unfortunately not. Medium height, a little inclined to be
stocky, strong as a longshoreman--that's all."

"Are you sure your deputy isn't romancing?"

"Positively! He's the son of one of our best families here, a
sportsman and an athlete. I knew he loved a lark, or a chance for
adventure, and so I impressed him and a companion as deputies
when I met them on the street on my way up to Phelps's house just
after the tragedy."

Kennedy lapsed into thought. Who could the self-constituted
watcher have been? Who was interested in this case other than the
proper authorities? Apparently some one knew more than Mackay,
more than Kennedy. Whoever it was had made no effort to
communicate with any of us. This was a new angle to the mystery,
a mystery which became deeper as we progressed.

At the house Kennedy first made a careful tour of the exterior,
but found nothing. Mackay had doubled his guards and had sent
Phelps's servants away so that there could be no interference.

Once inside, I noticed that Kennedy seemed indisposed to make
another minute search of the library. He went over the frame of
the French window with his lens carefully, for fingerprints.
Finding nothing, he went back directly to the portieres.

For several moments he stood regarding them in thought. Then he
began a most painstaking inspection of the cloth with the pocket
glass, beginning at the library side.

I remembered that first scene in the manuscript which Kennedy had
insisted I read. I recalled the suspicion which had flashed to me
before the message from Mackay had disturbed both Kennedy's
thoughts and mine. Stella Lamar had thrust her bare arm through
this curtain. A needle, cleverly concealed in the folds, might
easily have inflicted the fatal scratch. It was for a trace of
the poison point that Kennedy searched. Of that I was sure,
knowing his methods.

I glanced up and down the heavy hanging silk, looking for the
glint of fine sharp steel as Kennedy had done before starting his
inspection with the glass. The color of the silk, a beautiful
heavy velour, was a strange dark tint very close to the grained
black-brown of the woodwork. Both the thickness of the material
and its dull shade made the portieres serve ideally for the
purpose assumed now both by Kennedy and myself. A tiny needle
might remain secreted within their folds for days. Nothing,
certainly, caught my naked eye.

At last a little exclamation from Kennedy showed us that he had
discovered something. I moved closer, as did Mackay.

"It's lucky none of us toyed with these curtains yesterday," he
remarked, with a slight smile of gratification. "There might have
been more than one lying where Stella Lamar lies at the present
moment."

With wholesome respect neither Mackay nor myself touched the silk
as Kennedy pointed. There were two small holes, almost
microscopic, in the close-woven material. About the one there was
the slightest discoloration. Not a fraction of an inch away I saw
two infinitesimal spots of a dark brownish-red tinge.

"What does it mean?" I asked, although I could guess.

"The dark spots are blood, the discoloration the poison from the
needle."

"And the needle?"

He shrugged his shoulders. "That's where our very scientific
culprit has forestalled me, Walter! The needle was in these
curtains all day yesterday. Unfortunately, I did not study the
manuscript, did not attach any importance to Miss Lamar's scene
at the portieres."

"The man who broke in last night--"

"Removed the needle, but"--almost amused--"not the traces of it.
You see, Walter, after all, the scientific detective cannot be
forestalled even by the most scientific criminal. There is
nothing in the world which does not leave its unmistakable mark
behind, provided you can read it. The hole in the cloth serves me
quite as well as the needle itself."

Very suddenly a voice from behind us interrupted.

"Find something?"

I turned, startled, to see Emery Phelps. There was a distinct
eagerness in the banker's expression.

"Yes!" Kennedy faced him, undisturbed, apparently not surprised.
His scrutiny of Phelps's face was frank and searching. "Yes," he
repeated, "bit by bit the guilty man is revealing himself to us."




XII

EMERY PHELPS


"There--there is something the matter with the curtains?" Phelps
suggested.

Kennedy pointed to the two holes and the spots. "Miss Lamar met
her death from poison introduced into her system through a tiny
scratch from a prepared needle."

"Yes?" Phelps was calm now, and cool. I wondered if it were
pretense on his part. "What have these little marks to do with
that?"

"Don't you see?" rejoined Kennedy. "If some one had come here
before the scene in the picture was played; had thrust a small
needle, perhaps a hollow needle from a hypodermic syringe,
through the heavy thickness of this silk--thrust it in here, the
point sticking out here--well, there would be two holes left
where the threads were forced apart, like this!" Kennedy took his
stickpin, demonstrating.

"How could that cause Stella's death?" Phelps, at first quite
upset apparently by Kennedy's discovery, now was lapsing again
into his hostile mood. His question was cynical.

"Try to recall Miss Lamar's actions," Kennedy went on, patiently.
"What was she supposed to do in the very first scene? 'The
portieres move and the fingers of a girl are seen on the edge of
the silk. A bare and beautiful arm is thrust through almost to
the shoulder and it begins to move the portieres aside, reaching
upward to pull the curtains apart at the rings.'"

"Do you mean to tell me--" Phelps's eyes were very wide as he
paused, grasping the scheme and yet disbelieving--unless it all
were a bit of fine acting--"do you mean to tell me it is possible
to calculate a thing like that? How would anyone know where her
arm would be?"

"It is simpler than it sounds, Mr. Phelps." Kennedy was suddenly
harsh. "There is only one natural movement of an arm in that
case. The culprit was undoubtedly familiar with Miss Lamar's
height and with her manner of working. It is a bit of action
which has to be repeated in both the long shot and close-up
scenes. Jameson here can tell you how many times a scene is
rehearsed. There probably were a dozen sure chances of the needle
striking the girl's bare flesh. You will see from the position of
the holes that it was arranged point downward and slightly turned
in, and on a particular fold of the curtain, too; showing that
some one placed it there only after a nice bit of calculation.
Furthermore, it was high enough so that there was little chance
of anyone being pricked except the star, whose death was
intended."

Phelps either seemed convinced, or else he felt it inadvisable to
irritate Kennedy by a further pretense of skepticism.

A point occurred to me, however. "Listen, Craig!" I spoke in a
low voice. "Remember all the emphasis you placed upon the fact
that she would cry out. She was not supposed to cry out in that
first scene."

"No, Walter, but if you'll read the second, the close-up, you'll
see that the script actually calls for a cry. Now suppose she
makes an exclamation in the first instead. Nobody would think
anything of it. They would assume that she had played her action
a little in advance, perhaps.

"And then consider this, too! Miss Lamar, receiving the scratch,
would cry out unquestionably. But she has been before the camera
for years and she is trained in the idea that film must not be
wasted uselessly. She would not interrupt her action for a little
scratch because in these circumstances any little startled
movement would fit in with the action. By the time the scene was
over she would have forgotten the incident. It would mean very
little to her in the preoccupation of bringing the mythical
Stella Remsen into flesh-and-blood existence. The poison,
however, would be putting in its deadly work."

"Wouldn't it act before the thirteenth scene--" I began.

"Not necessarily. As a matter of fact, an actress, in the
excitement of her work, might resist the effects for a much
longer period than some one who realizes he is sick. Some day I'm
going to write a book on that. I'm going to collect hundreds of
examples of people who keep plugging along because they refuse to
admit anything's the matter with them. It's like Napoleon's
courier who didn't drop until he'd delivered his message and made
his last precise military salute."

One other thought struck me. "The blood spots on the curtain
cannot be Miss Lamar's if, as you say, the scratch brought no
blood."

"How about the nocturnal visitor who removed the needle in the
dark? Can't you imagine him pricking himself beautifully in his
hurry."

"Good heavens!" I felt the chills travel up and down my spine.
"There may be another fatality, then!" I exclaimed.

Kennedy was noncommittal. "It would be too bad for justice to be
cheated in that fashion," he remarked.

Phelps meanwhile had been listening to us impatiently. Finally he
turned to Mackay.

"Was that all you called me out here for? Did you just want to
show me the pinholes in those portieres?"

"Not exactly," Mackay replied, eyeing him sharply. "Some one
forced his way into this library last night. My guard saw him,
and also saw a second man who remained out in the shrubbery and
seemed to be watching the first. One shot was fired, but both men
got away. An automobile was waiting, perhaps two of them."

"How does this concern me?" Phelps's voice rose in anger. He
strode into the library and over to the French windows,
inspecting the damage to the fine woodwork with steadily rising
color. Then he hurried back to the side of Mackay.

"It's up to you, District-Attorney Mackay," he said, with a great
show of his ill feeling. "You practically forced me out of my own
house. You sent my servants away. You put your own guards in
charge, young, inexperienced deputies who don't know enough to
come in when it's wet. Now you have me make this trip out here in
business hours just to show me where a needle has been stuck in a
curtain and where a pair of imported window sashes have been
ruined."

Mackay was unruffled. "It is necessary, Mr. Phelps, that you look
over this room and see that nothing else has been disturbed; that
there is no further damage. Moreover, I thought you might be
interested, might wish to help us determine the identity of the
intruder."

"If there's any way I can really help you to do that"--
sarcastically--"I'll be delighted."

"Were you here the night before the murder?" Mackay asked.

"You know I seldom spend the night in Tarrytown. I have quarters
in New York, at the club, and recently I have been spending all
my time in New York, on account of the situation in the picture
business."

"You were not here the night before the murder, then?"

"No!"

"But you were out here yesterday before the actors arrived,
before Manton or any of his technical staff and crew came?"

"I was out very early, to make sure the servants had the house
ready." Phelps was red now. "Are you insinuating anything,
Mackay?"

The little district attorney was demonstrating a certain quality
of dogged perseverance. "Some one put the needle in the curtain
before the company arrived. You probably were in the house at the
time; or at the least your servants were. Whoever did was the one
who murdered Stella Lamar."

"And also," rejoined Phelps, tartly, "was the intruder who broke
in here last night and ruined my window sash. If you had had
better guards you might have caught him, too!"

"Are you sure of your servants? Are they reliable--"

"I never anticipated a murder and so I didn't question them as to
their poisoning proclivities when I engaged them. But you know
where they are and you can examine them. If I were you, Mackay--"

"Gentlemen!" Kennedy hastened to stop the colloquy before it
became an out-and-out quarrel. Then he faced the banker.

"Mr. Phelps," Kennedy's voice was soft, coaxing, "I don't think
Mr. Mackay quite understands. It would be a great service to me
if you would give the house a quick general inspection. You are
familiar with the things here, enough to state whether they have
been disturbed to any appreciable degree. You see, we do not know
the interior arrangements as they were before this unfortunate
happening."

With rather ill grace Phelps stalked up the steps, acceding to
Kennedy's request, but disdaining to answer.

Kennedy turned to Mackay as the banker disappeared out of
earshot. "That's just to cool him off a bit. I have everything I
came to get right here." Producing a pair of pocket scissors, he
cut the pierced and spotted bit of silk from the portieres,
ruthlessly. It was necessary vandalism.

"What was the poison, Mr. Kennedy?" Mackay asked, in a low voice.

"I think that it was closely allied to the cyanide groups in its
rapacious activity."

"But you haven't identified it yet?"

"No. So far I haven't the slightest idea of its true nature. It
seems to have a powerful affinity for important nerve centers of
respiration and muscular co-ordination, as well as possessing a
tendency to disorganize the blood. I should say that it produces
death by respiratory paralysis and convulsions. To my mind it is
an exact, though perhaps less active, counterpart of hydrocyanic
acid. But that is not what it is or I would have been able to
prove it before this."

Mackay nodded, listening in silence.

"You'll say nothing of this?" Kennedy added.

"I'll be silent, of course."

Heavy footsteps from the rear marked the return of Phelps, who
had covered the upper floors, descending by the back stairs so as
to have a look at the kitchen.

"Everything seems to be all right," he remarked, half graciously.

Kennedy led the way to the front porch. There he seemed more
interested in the weather than in the case, for he studied the
sky intently. Glancing up, I saw that the morning was still gray
and cloudy, with no promise that the sun would be able to
struggle through the overhanging moisture.

"I don't think we'll go back to the city--that is, all the way
in," he remarked, speaking for both of us. "I want to go to the
Manton studio first. This is no day for exteriors and so they'll
probably be working there." He smiled at Phelps. "I want to see
if any of our possible suspects look as though they had been
engaging in nocturnal journeys."

Phelps had been rubbing his eyes. He dropped his hand so quickly
that I wanted to smile; then to cover his confusion he promptly
offered to drive us in. Mackay at the same time volunteered his
car.

Kennedy accepted the latter offer. As he thanked the banker I
wondered if any suspicion of that individual lurked in the back
of his mind. Phelps certainly had made a very bad impression upon
me with his antagonistic attitude, with his readiness to
transform every question into a personal affront.

"Just one other thing, Mr. Phelps," exclaimed Kennedy, as we were
about to descend to Mackay's car. "Why did you wish the scenes in
'The Black Terror' actually taken in your library?"

Kennedy had asked the question before. Had he forgotten? I
glanced at the banker and read the same thought in his
expression.

"I--I'm proud of my library and I wanted to see it in pictures,"
he replied, after some hesitation and with a little rancor.

"Not to save money?"

"It would be no appreciable saving."

"I see." Kennedy was tantalizingly deliberate. "How long have you
held the controlling interest in Manton Pictures, Mr. Phelps?"

"Uh"--in surprise--"nearly a year."

"You could have had your library photographed at any time, then,
simply by stating your request as you did in this case. In that
year there have been pictures which would have served the purpose
as well as this; better, in fact, because in this picture the
library seems to be dark almost altogether. In other stories
there probably were infinitely better chances for the exhibition
of the room. Why did you wait for 'The Black Terror'?"

As a clear understanding of Kennedy's question and all it
entailed filtered into the mind of Phelps he became so red and
flushed with anger that I felt sure he was going to explode on
the spot.

"Because I didn't think of it before," he sputtered.

"You said the situation in the picture business made it necessary
for you to stay in town. Is there any trouble between Manton and
yourself?"

"Not a bit!"

"Was Stella Lamar making any trouble, of a business nature, such
as threatening to quit Manton Pictures?"

"No!" Phelps' eyes now were narrowed to slits.

"Are you sure?"

With a great effort Phelps achieved a degree of self-control. He
forced a smile. His remark, presumed to be a pleasantry, I knew
masked the true state of his feelings.

"As sure, Mr. Kennedy," he rejoined, awed by Kennedy's reputation
even in the full flood of his anger, "as sure as I am that I'd
like to throw you down these steps!"




XIII

MARILYN LORING


The magic of Manton's name admitted us to the studio courtyard,
and at once I was struck by the change since the day before. Now
the tank was a dry, empty, shallow depression of concrete. The
scenery, all the paraphernalia assembled for the taking of water
stuff, was gone. Except for the parked automobiles in one corner
and a few loitering figures here and there the big quadrangle
seemed absolutely deserted.

In the general reception room Kennedy asked for Millard, but was
told he had not been out since the previous day. That was to be
expected. But Manton, it developed, was away also. He had
telephoned in that he would be detained until late afternoon on
important business. I know that I, for one, wondered if it were
connected with Fortune Features.

"It's just as well," Kennedy remarked, after convincing the boy
at the desk it was Manton's wish that we have the run of the
place. "My real object in coming was to watch the cast at work."

We found our way to the small studio, called so in comparison
with the larger one where the huge ballroom and banquet sets were
being built. In reality it possessed a tremendous floor space.
Now all the other companies had been forced to make room for "The
Black Terror" on account of the emergency created by the death of
Stella Lamar, and there were any number of sets put up hastily
for the retakes of the scenes in which Stella had appeared. The
effect of the whole upon a strange beholder was weird. It was as
though a cyclone had swept through a town and had gathered up and
deposited slices and corners and sections of rooms and hallways
and upper chambers, each complete with furniture and ornaments,
curtains, rugs, and hangings. Except for the artistic harmony of
things within the narrow lines of the camera's view, nothing in
this great armory-like place had any apparent relation to
anything else. Some of the sets were lighted, with actors and
technical crews at work. Others were dark, standing ready for
use. Still others were in varying states of construction or
demolition. Rising above every other impression was the noise. It
was pandemonium.

We saw Werner at work in a distant corner and strolled over. The
director was bustling about feverishly. I do not doubt that the
grim necessity of preparing the picture for a release date which
was already announced had resulted in this haste, without even a
day of idleness in respect for the memory of the dead star, yet
it seemed cold-blooded and mercenary to me. I thought that
success was not deserved by an enterprise so callous of human
life, so unappreciative of human effort.

Most of the cast were standing about, waiting. The scenes were
being taken in a small room, fitted as an office or private den,
but furnished luxuriously. Later I learned it was in the home of
the millionaire, Remsen, close off the library for which the
actual room in Phelps's home was photographed.

Shirley and Gordon, I noticed, kept as far apart as possible. It
was quite intentional and I again caught belligerent glances
between them. On the other hand, both Enid and Marilyn Loring
were calm and self-possessed. Yet between these two I caught a
coolness, a sort of armed truce, in which each felt it would be a
sign of weakness to admit consciously even the near presence of
the other.

Werner was irascible, swearing roundly at the slightest
provocation, raging up and down at every little error.

"Come now," he shouted, as we approached, "let's get this scene
now--number one twenty-six. Loring--Gordon! Shake a leg--here,
I'll read it again. 'Daring enters. He is scarcely seated at the
desk, examining papers, when Zelda enters in a filmy negligee.
Daring looks up amazed and Zelda pretends great agitation. Daring
is not unkind to her. He tells her he has not discovered the will
as yet. Spoken title: "I am sure that I can find a will and that
you are provided for." Continuing scene, Daring speaks the above.
Zelda thanks him and undulates toward the door with the well-
known swaying walk of the vampire. Daring turns to his papers and
does not watch her further. She looks over her shoulder, then
exits, registering that she will get him yet.'" Werner dropped
his copy of the script. "Understand?" he barked. "Make it fast
now. We shouldn't do this over, but you were lousy before, both
of you!" Gordon extinguished a cigarette and entered the set with
a scowl. Marilyn rose and slipped out of a dressing gown spotted
with make-up and dark from its long service in the studios.
Underneath the wrapper the finest of silken draperies clung to
her, infinitely more intimate here in actuality and in the bright
studio lights than it would be upon the screen. I noticed the
slim trimness of her figure--could not help myself, in fact. And
I saw also that she shrank back just the least little bit before
stepping to her place at the door. It was modesty, a genuine
girlish diffidence. In a moment I revised my conception of her.
Before, I had not been able to decide whether Marilyn Loring was
a woman with a gift for looking young, or a flapper with the
baffling sophistication affected these days by so many of them.
Now I knew somehow that she was just all girl, probably in her
early twenties. The brief instant of shyness had betrayed her.

In the scene she changed. Marilyn Loring was an actress. The
moment she caught the click of the camera's turn there was a
hardness about her mouth, a faint dishonest touch to the play of
her eye, a shameless boldness to her movements concealed without
concealment. In the flash of a second she was Marilyn no longer,
but Zelda, the ward of old Remsen, an unscrupulous and willing
ally of the "Black Terror."

Werner damned the amount of footage used in the scene, then
turned to the next, with Enid and Gordon, in the same set, one of
the necessary retakes for which the room had been put up again.

Enid had not noticed me and I somehow failed to shake off the
feeling of fear that the glance of Millard had given me. Faint
heart I was, and the answer was that I had yet to win the fair
lady. To excuse myself I pretended she was different under the
lights. It was really true that, as Zelda Remsen, Enid was not
the fascinating creature I had met in Werner's office. There was
too much Mascaro on her lashes, too great an amount of red and
blue and even bright yellow in her make-up. In striking contrast
was the little coloring used by Stella Lamar, or even Marilyn
Loring.

Enid's scene was a close-up in which the beginning of the love
interest in the story was shown. I noticed that as the cameras
turned upon the action the girl inch by inch shifted her
position, almost imperceptibly, until she was practically facing
the lens. The consequence was that Gordon, playing the lover, was
forced to move also in order to follow her face, and so was
brought with his back toward the camera. It was the pleasant
little film trick known as "taking the picture away" from a
fellow actor. Enid was a "lens hog."

The moment the scene was over Gordon rushed to Werner to protest.
The director, irritated and in a hurry, gave him small
satisfaction. Both players were called back under the lights for
the next "take." As Werner's back was turned Enid favored Gordon
with a mischievous, malicious glance. The leading man possessed
very few friends, from what I had heard. The new star evidently
did not propose to become one of them.

"Let's pay our respects, socially," suggested Kennedy, at my
elbow.

I followed his glance and saw that Marilyn was seated alone, away
from the others, apparently forlorn. As we approached she drew
her dressing robe about her, smiling. With the smile her face
lighted. It was in the rare moments, just as her smile broke and
spread, that she was pretty, strikingly so.

"Professor Kennedy," she exclaimed. "And Mr. Jameson, too! Sit
down and watch our new star."

"What do you think of her?" Kennedy asked.

"Enid?" Marilyn's expression became quizzical. "I think she's a
clever girl."

"You mean something by that, don't you?" prompted Kennedy.

She sobered. "No! Honestly!" For an instant she studied him with
a directness of gaze which I would have found disconcerting.
"Don't tell me"--she teased, again allowing the flash of a smile
to illuminate her features--"don't tell me the renowned and
celebrated Professor Kennedy suspects Enid Faye of murdering poor
Stella to get her position."

Kennedy laughed, turning to me. "There's the woman," he remarked.
"We may deduce and analyze and catalogue all the facts of
science, but"--he spread his palms wide, expressly--"it is as
nothing against a woman's intuition." Facing Marilyn again, he
became frank. "You caught my thought exactly, although it was not
as bad as all that. I simply wondered if Miss Faye might not have
had something to do with the case."

"Why?" I realized now that this Miss Loring, in addition to
considerable skill as an actress, in addition to rare beauty on
the screen, possessed a brain and the power to use it. She
followed Kennedy with greater ease than I, who knew him.

"Why?" she repeated.

"Perhaps it's the intuition of the male," he began, hesitatingly.

She shook her head. "A man's intuition is not dependable. You
see, a woman gets her intuition first and fits her facts to it,
while a man takes a fact and then has an intuitive burst of
inspiration as a result. The woman puts her facts last and so is
not thrown out when they're wrong, as they usually are. But the
man--I think, Professor Kennedy, that you have some facts about
Enid stored away and that that's why you put a double meaning in
my remark. Am I right?"

He smiled. "I surrender, Miss Loring. You are right."

"What is the little fact? Perhaps I can help you."

"Miss Faye and Lawrence Millard seem to be old friends."

"Oh! Maybe you wonder at the contents of the sealed testimony in
the case of Millard VS. Millard?"

Kennedy nodded.

"Do you want to know what I think?" she asked.

"Please."

"Well, I've worked with Stella nearly a year. It's my opinion she
divorced Millard because he asked her to do so."

"No, no!" I balked at that, interrupting. "He could have obtained
the divorce himself if he had wanted it. Stella Lamar and Manton--"

"That's talk!" she rejoined, with a show of feeling. "That's the
thing I hate about pictures. It's always talk, talk, talk! I'm
not saying Stella and old Papa Lloyd, as we used to call him,
never were mixed up with each other, but it's one thing to repeat
a bit of gossip and quite another thing to prove it. I'm not one
to help give currency to any rumor of immoral relationship until
I'm pretty dog-gone sure it's true."

"You think Miss Lamar wasn't as bad as painted?" asked Kennedy.

"I'm sure of it, Mr. Kennedy. I've known Stella and I've known
others of her type. Fundamentally they're the kindest, truest,
biggest-hearted people on earth. When Stella and I shared a
dressing room I often caught her giving away this or that--
frequently things she needed herself. I've known her to draw
against her salary to lend money to some actor or actress whom
she well knew would never repay her. Stella's biggest fault was
an overbalancing quality of sympathy. If she ever did get mixed
up with anyone you may bet it was because that person played upon
her feelings."

"Have you any theory as to who killed her?" It was a direct
question.

"No!" The answer was quick, but then an amazing thing happened.
Marilyn suddenly colored, a flush which gathered up around her
eyes above the make-up and made me think of a country girl. She
started to say something else and then bit her tongue. Her
confusion was surprising, due, probably, to the unexpectedness of
Kennedy's query.

Kennedy seemed to wish to spare her. Undoubtedly her prompt
negative had been the truth. Some afterthought had robbed her of
her self-control. "Tell me why you said Miss Faye was a clever
girl," he directed.

"Just because she puts her ambition above everything else and
works hard and honestly and sincerely, and will get there. That's
what people call being clever."

"I see."

Werner's voice, roaring through a megaphone, announced an
interval for lunch. Marilyn rose, laughing now, but still in a
high color, conscious perhaps that she had revealed some strong
undercurrent of feeling.

"If you'll escort me to my dressing room," she said, coaxingly,
"and wait until I slip into a skirt and waist, I'll initiate both
of you to McCann's across the street. We all eat there, players,
stage hands, chauffeurs--all but the stars, who have machines to
take them elsewhere."

Kennedy glanced at me. "Delighted!" said I.

"We haven't much time," she went on, leading the way. "Werner's
on a rampage to-day."

"He isn't usually that way?"

"It's Stella's death, I guess." She opened one of the steel fire
doors. "He's always that way, though, when he's been out the
night before."

I flashed a look at Kennedy. Could Werner have been at Tarrytown?

In the long hallway of dressing rooms Marilyn stopped, grasping
the knob of her door. "It'll only take me--" she began.

Then her face went white as the concrete of the floor, and that
was immaculate. An expression which might have been fear, or
horror, or hate--or all three, spread over her features,
transforming her.

Following the direction of her stare, I saw Shirley down the
hall, just as he stopped at his own door. He caught her glance
suddenly, and his own face went red. I thought that his hands
trembled.

Marilyn wheeled about, lips pressed tightly together. Throwing
open the door, she dashed into her room, slamming it with a bang
which echoed and re-echoed up and down the little hall. She had
forgotten our presence altogether.




XIV

ANOTHER CLUE


Kennedy looked at me quizzically. "I guess we'd better not wait
for Miss Loring to initiate us to McCann's," he remarked.

We found our way to the courtyard, and were headed for the gate
when a young man in chauffeur's cap and uniform intercepted us. I
had noticed him start forward from one of the cars parked in the
inclosure, but did not recognize him.

"May I speak to you a moment, Professor Kennedy--alone?"

"Mr. Jameson here is associated with me, is assisting me in this
case, if it is something concerning the death of Miss Lamar."

"It is, sir. I saw you out at Tarrytown yesterday. McGroarty is
my name and I drove one of the cars the company went in. They
were pointing you out to me, and I'd read about you, and just now
I says to myself there's something I ought to tell you."

"That's right." Kennedy lighted a cigar, offering one to the
chauffeur. "I'm not supernatural and often I'm able to solve a
mystery only with the help of all those who, like myself, want
justice done."

"Yes, sir! That's my way of looking at it. Well"--McGroarty blew
a cloud of smoke, appreciatively--"I do a good bit of driving for
these people, and this morning it was cloudy and dull, no good
for exteriors, but yet sort of so it might clear at any moment,
and so I was ordered. I brought my car and left it standing here
in the yard while I went over to McCann's--the lunch room, you
know--for a cup of coffee. When I came back"--again the cigar--
"there still was nothing doing, and so I thought--you know how it
is--I thought I'd clean up the back of the old boat, to kill
time, not saying it wasn't needed. So I took out the cocoa mat to
beat it and what do I find on the floor--between the mat and the
rear seat it was, I guess--but this."

He handed Kennedy some small object which glinted in the light.
Looking closely, I saw that it was a peculiarly shaped little
glass tube.

"An ampulla," Kennedy explained. "It's the technical name the
doctors have for such a container."

"It must have been between the mat and the rear seat," the
chauffeur repeated. Then he discovered that his cigar was out. He
struck a match.

Kennedy turned the bit of glass over and over in his hand,
examining it carefully. I felt rather fearful, wondering if it
might not contain some trace of the deadly poison which had so
quickly killed Stella Lamar. I even half expected to see Kennedy
find some infinitesimal jagged edge or point which could have
inflicted the fatal scratch. Then I realized that McGroarty had
handled the thing with impunity, perhaps had carried it about
half a day.

Kennedy took his scarf pin. On the outside of the little tube
there was no trace of a label or marking of any sort. All about,
on the inside, however, the glass was spotted with dried light-
yellow incrustations, resembling crystals and at first apt to
escape even the sharpest scrutiny. With the pin Kennedy scaled
off one of these and put it under his pocket lens. But he came to
no conclusion. Rather puzzled and nettled, he dropped the tiny
bit of substance back into the tube, then replaced his pin in his
scarf, and stowed this latest bit of possible evidence in his
pocket carefully.

"How do you suppose it got in the car?" he asked.

"Some one must have dropped it and it must have rolled in that
space by the edge of the mat," replied the chauffeur. "There was
just room for it, too! I never would have noticed it without
taking up the mat."

"It couldn't be broken, by being trampled on?"

"Nope! Not a chance!"

"How long could it have been there?"

"Two or three or four days--since I cleaned up last."

I remembered the cleverness shown by the guilty person in placing
the needle in the curtain. It seemed unlikely that this could be
an accident. "Isn't it possible," I suggested, "that this is a
plant; that the tube was put there deliberately, to throw us off
the track?"

"It's quite likely," he admitted. "On the other hand, Walter, the
very smartest criminal will do some foolish little thing, enough
to ruin the most careful plans and preparations." He turned to
McGroarty. "Who rode in your car yesterday?"

"Mine's the principals' car," boasted McGroarty. "Going out I had
Miss Lamar, Miss Loring, Mr. Gordon, Mr. Shirley, and Mr. Werner.
Coming back Mr. Werner was with you, and Miss Lamar--well, there
was only Miss Loring and Mr. Gordon and Mr. Shirley."

"Did you notice how they acted?"

"They never says a word to each other on all the trip back, but I
didn't think it strange after what happened, although usually
they're always joking and laughing."

"You brought the three to the studio here?"

"Yes. They had to get out of make-up."

"Did you leave the car then?"

"No, I hit it right for the garage."

"Were you away from the car at Tarrytown?"

"Sure! That was a long wait. Peters, Manton's chauffeur, and I
found a couple of horseshoes and we were throwing them most of
the time."

"How long was the machine alone here in the yard this morning?"

"A couple of hours, maybe. I knew the old boiler was safe enough,
and that if they wanted me they'd look over in McCann's."

"Well," Kennedy extended his hand, "I thank you, and I won't
forget you, McGroarty."

As soon as the chauffeur was out of earshot I faced Kennedy
rather eagerly, to forestall him if he had arrived at the same
conclusion as myself.

"See! It's just as I thought yesterday!"

"How's that, Walter?"

"Werner! He rode out in that machine, but not back. In Manton's
car he was worried all the time. He probably knew he had dropped
the tube. Then he hurried up ahead of us and wiped the needle--"
I stopped, lamely.

Kennedy smiled. "See, you're jumping at conclusions too fast. You
remember now that we decided that the towel has nothing directly
to do with the poison. In a way you cannot assume that this
ampulla has, either, although I myself feel sure on that point.
But in any case no one is eliminated. It is true Werner did not
return in the same automobile. It is also true that he had little
opportunity to drop it while others were in the car with him.
When McGroarty was away from the car anyone could have lost it,
or--as you suggested a moment ago--planted it there deliberately
to divert suspicion."

I felt the beginnings of a headache from all these confused
threads of the mystery. "Can't--Isn't there anyone we can say is
innocent, at least, even if we cannot begin to fasten the guilt
upon somebody?" I pleaded.

Kennedy shook his head. "At this stage the one is as hard as the
other. I consider myself lucky to have collected as much material
as I have for the analysis of the poison." He tapped his pocket
significantly.

"Yoo-hoo!" A frankly shrill call in a feminine voice interrupted.
We both turned, to see Marilyn Loring hastening toward us.

"Did you think I was going to forget you?" she asked, almost
reproachfully and much out of breath. "Let's hurry," she added.
"This is roast beef day."

We started toward the gate once more, Marilyn between us,
vivacious and rather charming. I noticed that she made no
reference to the incident in the hallway, the precipitate manner
in which she left us and the very evident confusion of Merle
Shirley. Kennedy, too, seemed disposed to drop the matter,
although it was obviously significant. For some reason his mind
was elsewhere, so that the girl was thrown upon my hands.

It struck me that, after all, she was attractive. At this moment
I found her distinctly good-looking.

"Why do you 'vamp'?" I asked, innocently. "You don't seem to me,
if you'll pardon the personal remark, at all that type."

She laughed. "It's all the fault of the public. They insist that
I vamp. I want to play girly-girly parts, but the public won't
stand for it; they won't come to see the picture. They tell the
exhibitor, and he tells the producer, and back I am at the
vamping again. Isn't it funny?" She paused a moment. "Take
Gordon. Doesn't it make you laugh, what the public think he is--
clean-cut, hero, and all that sort of thing? Little do they
know!"

All at once Kennedy stopped abruptly. We were close to the
entrance, just where a smart little speedster of light blue lined
with white was parked at the edge of the narrow sidewalk. The
sun, after a morning of uncertainty, had just struck through the
haze, and it illuminated Marilyn's face and hair most
delightfully as we both turned, somewhat in surprise.

"I know you'll never forgive me, Miss Loring," Kennedy began,
"but the fact is that just before you came out we stumbled into a
new bit of evidence in the case and I believe that Jameson and I
will have to hurry in to the laboratory. Much as I would like to
lunch with you, and perhaps chat some more during scene-taking
this afternoon--"

It seemed to me that her eyes widened a bit. Certainly there was
a perceptible change in her face. It was interest, but it was
also certainly more than that. I felt that she would have liked
to penetrate the mask of Kennedy's expression, perhaps learn just
what facts and theories rested in his mind.

"Is it--" Suddenly she smiled, realizing that Kennedy would
reveal only the little which suited his purpose. "Is it something
you can tell me?" she finished.

He shook his head. His answer was tantalizing, his glance
searching and without concealment. "Only another detail
concerning the chemical analysis of the poison."

"I see!" If she knew of the ampulla the answer would have been
intelligible to her. As it was, her face betrayed nothing. "I
guess I'll hurry on over alone, then," she added. She extended a
hand to each of us. Her grasp was warm and friendly and frank.
"So long, and--and good luck, for Stella's sake!"

"Hello, folks!"

The dancing bantering voice from behind us, with silvery cadence
to its laughter, could belong to no one but Enid Faye. I grasped
that it was her car which Kennedy leaned upon. I gasped a bit as
I saw her directly at my side, her dainty chamois motoring coat
brushing my sleeve, the sun which grew in strength every moment
casting mottled shadows upon her face through the transparent
brim of her bobbing hat, in mocking answer to the mirth in her
eyes.

For an instant she gazed after the retreating Marilyn.

"Good-by, Marilyn! DEAR," she called, mega-phoning her hands.

The other girl made no response. Laughing, Enid slipped a hand
under my arm, the firm pressure of her fingers thrilling me. She
addressed Kennedy, however.

"Do you want a ride in to the city, both of you?"

Kennedy brightened. "That would be fine! How far are you going?"

"The Burrage. I have a luncheon engagement. That's Forty-fourth."

"Can you drop us off at the university?"

"Surely! Climb in. It's a tight fit, three in the seat, but fun.
And"--facing me--"I want Jamie between us, next to me!"

As we rolled out of the studio inclosure she leaned forward on
the wheel to question Kennedy.

"What did Marilyn Loring want? You seemed in deep confab!"

"She volunteered to initiate us to McCann's, across the street."

"Oh!" She skidded about a corner skillfully. "And--"

"Well, we bumped into an additional piece of evidence and I
thought Jameson and I ought to hurry in to my laboratory
instead."

"I bet"--Enid giggled, readjusting her hat in the breeze--"I bet
she wanted to know what you'd found, right away. Didn't she?"

"Yes!" Kennedy's face was noncommittal, "Why do you say that?"

"Because she came into my room, just as we were getting ready for
work this morning. Perhaps I'm wrong, but from the way she kept
asking me questions about everyone from Manton down I got the
idea she was quizzing me, to see how much I knew. Of course this
is only my first day, but it seems to me that Marilyn is talking
a great deal, without saying very much. I've come to the
conclusion she knows a good deal more than she is telling anyone,
and that she'd like to find out just how much everyone else
knows."

Kennedy nodded almost absent-mindedly, without responding
further.

"Well"--Enid speeded up a bit--"not to change connections on the
switchboard, I think I'm going to like it with Manton Pictures."

"Will they do justice to your work," Kennedy inquired, "putting
you in a partially finished picture in this way?"

"That's where I'm in luck, real bang-up luck. Werner has directed
me before and knows just exactly how to handle me."

"What about the story? That was built for Stella, wasn't it?"

"Yes, but they're changing it here and there to fit me. Larry
knows my work, too! That's luck again for little Enid."

"How long have you known Millard?" In a flash I realized
Kennedy's cleverness. This was the fact he had wished to unearth.
The question was as natural as could be. He had led up to it
deliberately. I was sure of that.

"Four, nearly five years," she replied, unsuspiciously. Then
suddenly she bit her lip, although her expression was well
masked. "That is," she added, somewhat lamely--"that is, in a
casual way, like nearly everyone knows nearly everyone else in
the film game."

"Oh!" murmured Kennedy, lapsing into silence.




XV

I BECOME A DETECTIVE


Important as it was to watch Enid and Marilyn, Werner and the
rest, Kennedy decided that it was now much more important to hold
to his expressed purpose of returning to the laboratory with our
trophies of the day's crime hunt.

"For people to whom emotion ought to be an old story in their
everyday stage life, I must say they feel and show plenty of it
in real life," I remarked, as Enid set us down and drove off. "It
does not seem to pall."

"I don't know why the movie people buy stories," remarked Craig,
quaintly. "They don't need to do it--they live them."

When we were settled in the laboratory once more Kennedy plunged
with renewed vigor into the investigation he had dropped in the
morning in order to make the hurried trip to the Phelps home in
Tarrytown.

I had hoped he would talk further of the probabilities of the
connection of the various people with the crime, but he had no
comment even upon the admission of Enid that she had known
Millard for a period long antedating the trouble with Stella
Lamar.

It seemed that, after all, he was quite excited at the discovery
of the ampulla and was anxious to begin the analysis of its
scale-like contents. I was not sure, but it struck me that this
might be the same substance which had spotted the towel or the
portieres. If that were so, the finding of it in this form had
given him a new and tangible clue to its nature, accounting for
his eagerness.

I watched his elaborate and thorough preparations, wishing I
could be of assistance, but knowing the limitations of my own
chemical and bacteriological knowledge. I grasped, however, that
he was concentrating his study upon the spots he had cut from the
portieres, in particular the stain where the point of the needle
had been, and upon the incrustations on the inner surface of the
tube. He made solutions of both of these and for some little time
experimented with chemical reactions. Then he had recourse to
several weighty technical books. Though bursting with curiosity,
I dared not question him, nor distract him in any way.

Finally he turned to a cage where he kept on hand, always, a few
of those useful martyrs to science, guinea pigs. Taking one of
the little animals and segregating him from the others, he
prepared to inoculate him with a tiny bit of the solution made
from the stain on the piece cut from the portiere.

At that I knew it would be a long and tiresome analysis. It
seemed a waste of time to wait idly for Kennedy to reach his
conclusions, so I cast about in my mind for some sort of inquiry
of my own which I could conduct meanwhile, perhaps collecting
additional facts about those we were watching at the studio.

Somehow I could not wholly lose my suspicions of the director,
Werner; especially now as I marshaled the evidence against him.
First of all he was the only person absolutely in control of the
movements of Stella Lamar. If she did not bring up her arm
against the curtains in a manner calculated to press the needle
against her flesh it certainly would not seem out of the way for
him to ask her to do it over again, or even for him to direct
changes in her position. This he could do either in rehearsal or
in retakes after the scene had actually been photographed. It was
not proof, I knew. Practically all of them were familiar with the
action of the scene, could guess how Werner would handle it. The
point was that the director, next to Millard, was the most
thoroughly conversant with the scenes in the script, had to
figure out everything down to the very location and angles of the
camera.

Another matter, of course, was the placing of the needle in the
silk. For that purpose some one had to go to Tarrytown ahead of
the others, or at least had to precede the others into the living
room. Offhand I was compelled to admit that this was easiest for
Phelps--Phelps, the man who had insisted that the scene be taken
in his library. At the same time, I knew it was quite possible
for the director to have entered ahead of anyone else, possible
for him to have issued orders to his people which would keep them
out of the way for the brief moment he needed.

A third consideration was the finding of the ampulla in
McGroarty's car. Stella, Marilyn, Jack Gordon, Merle Shirley, and
Werner had ridden out together. Werner had not returned. While
this fact did not indicate definitely that he might have dropped
it, coupled with the other considerations it pointed the
suspicion of guilt at the director.

Then there was the finding of the towel in the washroom of the
office building at the studio. While Kennedy now said it was not
used to wipe the needle, while we now knew that the needle
remained in the portieres from the morning of Stella's death
until late that night, yet Kennedy affirmed the connection of the
towel with the crime in some subtle way. It was true that members
of the cast sometimes used the washroom, yet it was evident that
Manton, Millard, and Werner, who had rooms on the floor, were the
more apt to be concerned in the attempt to dispose of it. Against
Manton I could see no real grounds for suspicion. In a general
way we had been compelled to eliminate Millard early in our
investigation. Again I was brought, in this analysis of the
mystery, to Werner.

One other point remained--the identity of the nocturnal visitor
to Tarrytown. In connection with that I remembered the remark of
Marilyn. Werner was acting as he always acted when he was out
late the night before, she had said. While my theories offered no
explanation of the second man, the watcher, I saw--with an inner
feeling of triumph--that everything again pointed to the
director.

I determined not to tell my conclusion to Kennedy, yet. I did not
want to distract him. Besides, I felt he would disagree.

"What do you think of this, Craig?" I suggested. "Suppose I start
out while you're busy and try to dig up some more facts about
these people?"

"Excellent!" was his reply. "I can't say how much longer my
analysis will keep me. By all means do so, Walter. I shall be
here, or, if not, I'll leave a note so you can find me."

Accordingly, I took up my search, determined to go slowly and
carefully, not to be misled by any promising but fallacious
clues. I knew that Werner would be working at the studio, from
all we had heard in the morning. I determined upon a visit to his
apartment in his absence.

From the telephone book I discovered that he lived at the
Whistler Studios, not far from Central Park on the middle West
Side--a new building, I remembered, inhabited almost entirely by
artists and writers. As I hurried down on the Subway, then turned
and walked east toward the Park, I racked my brain for an excuse
to get in. Entering the lower reception hall, I learned from the
boy that the director had a suite on the top floor, high enough
to look over the roofs of the adjoining buildings directly into
the wide expanse of green and road, of pond and trees beyond.

"Mr. Werner isn't in, though," the boy added, doubtfully, without
ringing the apartment.

"I know it," I rejoined, hastily. "I told him I'd meet him here
this afternoon, however." On a chance I went on, with a knowing
smile, "I guess it was pretty late when he came in last night?"

"I'll say so," grinned the youth, friendly all of a sudden. He
had interpreted the remark as I intended he should. He believed
that Werner and I had been out together. "I remember," he
volunteered, "because I had to do an extra shift of duty last
night, worse luck. It must have been after four o'clock. I was
almost asleep when I heard the taxi at the door."

"I wonder what company he got the taxi from?" I remarked,
casually. "I tried to get one uptown--" I paused. I didn't want
to get into a maze of falsehood from which I would be unable to
extricate myself.

"I don't know," he replied. "It looked like one of the Maroon
taxis, from up at the Central Park Hotel on the next block, but
I'm not sure."

"I think I won't go upstairs yet," I said, finally. "There's
another call I ought to make. If Mr. Werner comes in, tell him
I'll be back."

I knew very well that Werner would not return, but I thought that
the bluff might pave the way for getting upstairs and into the
apartment a little later. Meanwhile I had another errand. The boy
nodded a good-by as I passed out through the grilled iron doors
to the street. Less than five minutes afterward I was at the
booth of the Maroon Taxi Company, at the side of the main
entrance of the Central Park Hotel.

Here the starter proved to be a loquacious individual, and I
caught him, fortunately, in the slowest part of the afternoon.
Removing a pipe and pushing a battered cap to the back of a bald
head, he pulled out the sheets of the previous day. Before me
were recorded all the calls for taxicab service, with the names
of drivers, addresses of calls, and destinations. Although the
quarters in the booth were cramped and close and made villainous
by the reek of the man's pipe, I began to scan the lists eagerly.

It had been a busy night even down to the small hours of the
morning and I had quite a job. As I came nearer and nearer to the
end my hopes ebbed, however. When I was through I had failed to
identify a single call that might have been Werner's. Several
fares had been driven to and from the Grand Central Station,
probably the means by which he made the trip to Tarrytown. In
each case the record had shown the Central Park Hotel in the
other column, not the Whistler Studios. I was forced to give up
this clue, and it hurt. I was not built for a detective, I guess,
for I almost quit then and there, prepared to return to the
laboratory and Kennedy.

But I remembered my first intention and made my way back to the
Whistler Studios. Anyhow, I reflected, Werner would hardly have
summoned a car from a place so near his home had he wished to
keep his trip a secret. It was more important for me to gain
access to his quarters. There it was quite possible I might find
something valuable. I wondered if I would be justified in
breaking in, or if I would succeed if I attempted it.

Things proved easier than I expected. My first visit
unquestionably had prepared the way. The hallboy took me up in
the elevator himself without telephoning, took me to Werner's
door, rang the bell, and spoke to the colored valet who opened
it. As I grasped the presence of the servant in the little suite
I was glad I had not tried my hand at forcing an entrance. I had
quite anticipated an empty apartment.

The darky, pleasant voiced, polite, and well trained, bowed me
into a little den and proceeded to lay out a large box of
cigarettes on the table beside me, as well as a humidor well
filled with cigars of good quality. I took one of the latter,
accepting a light and glancing about.

Certainly this was in contrast with Manton's apartment. There was
nothing garish, ornate, or spectacular here. Richly, lavishly
furnished, everything was in perfect taste, revealing the hand of
an artist. It might have been a bit bizarre, reflecting the
nervous temperament of its owner. Even the servant showed the
touch of his master, hovering about to make sure I was
comfortable, even to bringing a stack of the latest magazines. I
hope he didn't sense my thoughts, for I cursed him inwardly. I
wanted to be alone. Ordinarily I would have enjoyed this, but now
I had become a detective, and it was necessary to rummage about,
and quickly.

The sudden ringing of the telephone took the valet out into the
tiny hall of the suite and gave me the opportunity I wished.

Phelps apparently was calling up to leave some message for
Werner, which I could not get, as the valet took it. What, I
wondered, was Phelps telephoning here for? Why not at the studio?
It looked strange.

I lost no time in speculation over that, however. The moment I
was left to myself I jumped up and rushed to a writing desk, a
carved antique which had caught my eye upon my entrance, which I
had studied from my place in the easy chair. It was unlocked, and
I opened it without compunction. With an alert ear, to warn me
the moment the colored boy hung up, I first gazed rather
helplessly at a huge pile of literary litter. Clearly there was
no time to go through all of that.

I gave the papers a cursory inspection, without disturbing them,
hoping to catch some name or something which might prove to be a
random clue, but I was less lucky than Kennedy had been in his
casual look at Manton's desk the afternoon before. Still able to
hear the valet at the telephone, I reached down and opened the
top drawer of the desk. Here perhaps I might be more fortunate.
One glance and my heart gave a startled leap.

There in a compartment of the drawer I saw a hypodermic needle--
in fact, two of them--and a bottle. On the desk was a fountain
pen ink dropper, a new one which had never been used. I reached
over, pressed its little bulb, uncorked the bottle, inserted the
glass point, sucked up some of the contents, placed the bulb
right side up in my waistcoat pocket, and recorked the bottle.
Next I took and pocketed one of the two needles, both of which
were alike as far as I could see.

Then I heard a good-by in the hall. I closed drawer and desk
hastily. As I caught the click of the receiver of the telephone
on its hook I was halfway across the floor. Before the colored
boy could enter again I was back in my chair, my head literally
in a whirl.

What a stroke of good fortune! I had no expectation of proving
Werner to be the guilty man by so simple a method as this,
however. If he were the slayer of the star he would be too clever
to leave anything so incriminating about. I have always quarreled
with Poe's theory in The Purloined Letter, believing that the
obvious is no place to hide anything outside of fiction. What I
conceived, rather, was that Werner really was a dope fiend. The
nature of the drug Kennedy would tell me very easily, from the
sample. Establishing Werner's possession of the needles was
another point in my chain of presumptions, showing that he was
familiar with their use; and added to that was the psychological
effect upon him of the habit, a habit responsible in many other
cases for murders as skillfully carried out as that of Stella
Lamar, often, too, without the slightest shred of real motive.

I recalled Werner's habitually nervous manner and was sure now
that the needles actually were used by him. Was it due to the
high pressure of his profession? Had that constant high tension
forced him to find relief in the most violent relaxation?

Elated, I was tempted at first to crowd my luck. I wondered if I
could not discover another ampulla such as the chauffeur,
McGroarty, had picked up in his car. When Werner's servant,
almost apologetically, explained that the telephone message was
from a near-by shop and that he would have to leave me for a
matter of ten or fifteen minutes, I assured him that it was all
right and that I would occupy myself with a magazine. The moment
he was out the door I sprang to action and began a minute search
of every nook and cranny of the rooms.

But gradually a sense of growing fear and trepidation took hold
of me. Suppose, after all, Werner should return home
unexpectedly? The colored boy did not seem surprised that I
should wait, a slight indication that it was possible. Further, I
could never tell when the darky might not return himself,
breaking in upon me without warning and discovering me. At the
best I was not a skillful investigator. I did not know just where
to look for hidden evidences of poison, nor was I able to work
fast, for fear of leaving too tangible marks of my actions behind
me. A great perspiration stood out on my forehead. Gradually a
trembling took hold of my limbs and communicated itself to my
fingers.

After all, it was essential that Werner be kept in ignorance of
my suspicions, granting they were correct. It would be fatal if I
should frighten him inadvertently, so that he would take to
flight. Realizing my foolhardiness, I returned to my chair at
last, picking up a magazine at random. I did so not a moment too
soon. A slight sound caught my ear and I looked up to see the
valet already halfway into the room. His tread was so soft I
never would have heard him.

"I don't think I'll wait any longer," I remarked, rising and
stretching slightly, as though I had been seated all the time.
"I'll ring up a little later; perhaps come back after I get in
touch with Mr. Werner."

"Who shall I say was here, sah?" the boy asked, with just a trace
of darky dialect.

Above all I didn't want to alarm Werner. I could not repeat the
explanation I had allowed the attendant downstairs to assume from
my remark, that I was a friend who had been out with the director
the night before. I should have to take a chance that Werner's
servant and the hallboy would not compare notes, and that the
latter would say nothing to the director upon his arrival.

"I'm an old friend from the Coast," I explained, with a show of
taking the negro into my confidence. "I wanted to surprise him
and so"--I slipped a half dollar into a willing palm--"if you'll
say nothing until I've seen him--"

He beamed. "Yes, sah! You jus' count on George, sah!"

Downstairs I wondered if I could seal the tongue of the youth who
had accommodated me before. Then I discovered that he had gone
off duty. It would be extremely unlikely that he would be about
until the following day. I smiled and hastened out to the street.

Once in the open air again, I realized the full extent of the
risk I had taken. All at once it struck me that no amount of
explanation from either Kennedy or myself would serve to mollify
Werner if he were innocent and learned of my visit. I doubted, in
this moment of afterthought, that I would escape censure from
Kennedy, who surely would not want his case jeopardized by
precipitate actions upon my part. I began to run, to get away
from the Whistler Studios as fast as possible.

Then I saw I had grown panicky and I checked myself. But I
hurried to the Subway and up to the university again, and to the
laboratory, eager to compare notes with Kennedy.

"If I were Alphonse Dupin," he remarked, calmly, grasping my
excitement, "I would deduce that you have discovered something. I
would also deduce that you believe it important and that you have
no intention of withholding the information from me, whatever it
is."

"Correct," I answered, grinning in spite of myself.

Then I handed him the needle, telling him in a few brief words of
my visit to Werner's apartment, of the hallboy's confirmation of
a nocturnal trip of some sort, of my search of the desk and some
other parts of the suite. "I fixed it so that he won't hear of my
visit, at least for some time. He won't suspect who it was, in
any case."

Kennedy examined the hypodermic.

"Not like the one used," he murmured.

"I thought that," I explained. "It simply indicates he is a dope
fiend and is familiar with the use of a needle. Here!" I produced
the ink filler which I had used to bring a sample of the contents
of the bottle. "This seems to be what he uses. What is it?"

Kennedy sniffed, then looked closely at the liquid through the
glass of the tube. "It's a coca preparation," he explained. "If
Werner uses this, he's unquestionably a regular drug addict."

"Well," I paused, triumphantly, "the case against the chief
director of Manton Pictures grows stronger all the time."

"Not necessarily," contradicted Kennedy, perhaps to draw me out.

"He's familiar with hypodermic syringes," I repeated.

"Which doesn't prove that no one else would use one."

"Anyhow, he was out until four A.M. last night and some one broke
into Phelps's house to--"

"You can't establish the fact that he went out there. There are
plenty of other places he could have been until four in the
morning."

"But I can assume--"

"If you are going to assume anything, Walter, why not assume he
was the second man, the man who watched the actual intruder?"

I turned away, despairing of my ability to convince Kennedy. As a
matter of fact I had forgotten the other prowler at Tarrytown.

Then I noticed that the one guinea pig in the separate cage was
dead. In an instant I was all curiosity to know the results of
Kennedy's investigations.

"Did you make any progress?" I asked.

"Yes!" Now I noticed for the first time that he was in fine
humor. "I had quite finished the first stage of my analysis when
you came in."

"Then what was it? What was the poison that killed Stella Lamar?"
I glanced at the stiff, prone figure of the little animal.

Kennedy cleared his throat. "Well," he replied, "I began the
study with the discovery I made, which I told you, that strange
proteins were present." He picked up the ampulla and regarded it
thoughtfully. Then he fingered the bit of silk cut from the
portieres. "It is a poison more deadly, more subtle, than any
ever concocted by man, Walter."

"Yes?" I was painfully eager.

"It is snake venom!"




XVI

ENID ASSISTS


"A poison more subtle than any concocted by man!" repeated
Kennedy.

It was a startling declaration and left me quite speechless for
the moment.

"We know next to nothing of the composition of the protein bodies
in the snake venoms which have such terrific and quick
physiological effects on man," Kennedy went on. "They have been
studied, it is true, and studied a great deal, but we cannot say
that there are any adequate tests by which the presence of these
proteins can be recognized.

"However, everything points to the conclusion now that it was
snake venom, and my physiological tests on the guinea pig seem to
confirm it. I see no reason now to doubt that it was snake venom.
The fact of the matter is that the snake venoms are about the
safest of poisons for the criminal to use, for the reason of the
difficulty they give in any chemical analysis. That is only
another proof of the diabolical cleverness of our guilty person,
whoever it may be.

"Later I'll identify the particular kind of venom used. Just now
I feel it is more important to discover the actual motive for the
crime. In the morning I have a plan which may save me further
work here in the laboratory, but for to-night I feel I have
earned a rest and"--a smile--"I shall rest by searching out the
motives of these temperamental movie folk a little more." As he
spoke he slipped out of his acid-stained smock.

"What do you mean?" As often, he rather baffled me.

"It's nearly dinner time and we're going out together, Walter,
down to Jacques'."

"Why Jacques'?"

"Because I phoned your friend Belle Balcom and she informed me
that that was the place where we would be apt to find the elite
of the film world dining."

I acquiesced, of course. We hurried to the apartment first for a
few necessary changes and preparations, then we started for the
Times Square section in a taxi.

"I never heard of the use of snake venom before," I remarked,
settling back in the cushions--"that is, deliberately, by a
criminal, to poison anyone."

"There are cases," replied Craig, absently.

"Just how does the venom act?"

"I believe it is generally accepted that there are two agents
present in the secretion. One is a peptone and the other a
globulin. One is neurotoxic, the other hemolytic. Not only is the
general nervous system attacked instantly, but the coagulability
of the blood is destroyed. One agent in the venom attacks the
nerve cells; the other destroys the red corpuscles."

"You suspected something of this kind, then, when you first
examined Stella Lamar?"

"Exactly! You see, the victim of a snake bite often is unable to
move or speak. Doctor Blake observed that in the case of the
stricken star. Her nerves were affected, resulting in paralysis
of the muscles of the heart and lungs and giving us some symptoms
of suffocation. Then the blood, as a result of the attack of the
venom, is always left dark and liquid. That, too, I observed in
the sample sent me from Tarrytown.

"The snake," Kennedy continued, "administers the poison by fangs
more delicate than any hypodermic. Nature's apparatus is more
precise than the finest appliances devised for the use of a
surgeon by our instrument makers. The fangs are like needles with
obliquely cut points and slit-like outlets. The poison glands
correspond to the bulb of a syringe. They are, in reality, highly
modified salivary glands. From them, when the serpent strikes, is
ejected a pale straw-colored half-oleaginous fluid. You might
swallow it with impunity. But once in the blood, through a cut or
wound, it is deadly."

"There could be no snake in this case," I remarked. "The fangs of
a serpent make two punctures, don't they; while here there was
just the one scratch--"

"Of course there were no fangs when the deed was actually done,"
he rejoined, impatiently. "We've traced everything to the needle
in the portieres and it is my belief that it was part of an all-
glass hypodermic with a platinum-iridium point. It could hardly
have been anything like the coarser syringe used by Werner, nor
do I think it possible that the point of an ordinary needle would
hold sufficient venom, since it would dry and form a coating like
the incrustation on the inside of the ampulla McGroarty found."

"That was the venom?" I asked.

"Yes, I found it in the ampulla and in the stain on the portiere
where the needle had pierced through."

"The towel, though--"

"Is something else. First thing in the morning we'll follow that
up, as I promised you. Meanwhile let's concentrate on motives."

A long line of private cars and taxicabs outside Jacques'
testified to the popularity of the restaurant. At the door stood
a huge, bulking negro resplendent in the glaring finery of his
uniform. It seemed to me that people literally were thronging
into the place, for it was cleverly advertised as a center of
night life.

Inside, the famous darky jazz band was in full swing. There was
lilt and rhythm to the melody produced by the grinning blacks,
and not a free arm or foot or shoulder or head of any of them but
did not sway in time to their syncopated music.

We were shown to a table on a sort of gallery or mezzanine floor
which extended around three sides of the interior. Below, in the
center, was the space for dancing, surrounded by groups and pairs
of diners. Stairs led to the balcony on both sides, as though the
management expected none of their guests to resist the lure of
the dance between courses. The band, I noticed, was at the
farther end, on an elevated dais, so that the contortions of the
various players could be seen above the heads of those on the
floor.

We were at the rail so that we commanded a view of the entire
place, a location I guessed had been maneuvered by Kennedy with a
word to the head waiter. The only tables invisible to us were
those directly beneath, but it would be a simple matter to cross
around during any dance number to view them.

As we took our seats the lights were dimmed suddenly. I realized
that we had arrived in the midst of the cabaret and that it was
the turn of one of the performers. Kennedy, however, seemed to
enjoy the entertainment, an example of his ability to gain
recreation whenever and however he wished, to find relaxation
under the oddest or most casual circumstances, out of anything
from people passing on the street to an impromptu concert of a
street band. In scanty garments, in the glare of a multi-colored
spotlight, the girl danced a hybrid of every dance from the
earliest Grecian bacchanal to the latest alleged Apache
importation from Paris.

I have often wondered at Jacques' and places of the sort. The
intermingling of eating and drinking and dancing was curious.
What possible bearing this terpsichorean monstrosity might have
upon the gastronomic inclinations of the audience it would have
been difficult to fathom.

The lights flashed bright again and Kennedy gave our order.
Meanwhile I glanced about at the people below us. There was no
one in sight I knew until I leaned well over the rail, but upon
doing that I felt little chills of excitement run from the top to
the bottom of my spine, for I discovered in a very prominent
situation at the very edge of the dance floor a party of four, of
whom three very much concerned us. Lloyd Manton, back to the
polished space behind him, was unmistakable in evening clothes.
These bunched at his neck and revealed his habitual stoop as
impartially as his business suits. Across from him, lounging upon
the table likewise, but more immaculately and skillfully
tailored, was Lawrence Millard. The writer, I noticed, flourished
his cigarette holder, fully a foot in length, and emphasized his
remarks to the girl on his right with a rather characteristic
gesture made with the second finger of his left hand. The girl
was Enid, quite mistress of herself in a gown little more than no
gown; and the remarks were obviously confidential. The other
girl, engrossed in Manton, seemed a dangerously youthful and
self-conscious young lady. Her hair flamed Titian red and her
neck, of which she displayed not half as much as Enid, gave her
much concern.

"Kennedy! Look!" I reached over to attract his attention.

"Who's the second girl, I wonder?" He became as interested as I
was.

With a blatant flourish of saxophone and cornet and traps the
band began a jazzy fox-trot. Instantly there was a rush from the
tables for the floor. Enid jumped to her feet, moving her bare
shoulders in the rhythm of the music. Then Millard took firm hold
of her and they wove their way into the crush. It seemed to me
that the little star was the very incarnation of the dance. I
envied her partner more than I dared admit to myself.

Manton and his companion rose also, but more leisurely. On her
feet the girl did not seem so young, although the second
impression may have been the result of the length of her skirt
and the long slim, lines of her gown. We watched both couples
through the number, then gave our attention to the food we had
ordered. Another dance, a modified waltz, revealed Enid in the
arms of Manton. I tried to determine from her actions if she felt
any preference for the producer, or for Millard when again she
took the floor with him. It was an idle effort, of course. The
people surged out perhaps three or four times while we were at
our meal. Each time the party below jumped up in response to the
music. At our cigars, finally, I took to observing the other
diners, wondering what we had gained by coming here.

Suddenly I realized that Kennedy was rising to greet some one
approaching our table. Turning, rising also, I went through all
the miseries of the bashful lover. It was Enid herself.

"I caught sight of you looking over the rail while I was
dancing," she told Kennedy, accepting a chair pulled around by
the waiter. "I knew you saw me. Also I glanced up and found that
you were perfectly well aware of the location of our table. So"--
engagingly--"unsociable creature! Why didn't you come down and
say 'Hello!' or ask me for a dance?"

"Perhaps I intended to a little later."

"Yes!" she exclaimed, in mockery. "You see, since Mecca won't go
to the pilgrim, the pilgrim has to come to Mecca."

"Did you ever hear of Mohammed and the mountain, Miss Faye?"
Kennedy asked.

"Of course! That's the regular expression. But I agree with
Barnum. As he said, some people can be original some of the time
and some people can be original all of the time, and I propose to
be original always, like a baby with molasses."

Kennedy laughed, for indeed she was irresistible. Then she turned
to me, placing one of her warm little hands upon mine.

"And Jamie!" she purred. "Have you forgotten little Enid
altogether? Won't--won't YOU come down and dance?"

"I--I can't!" I exploded, in agony. "I don't know how!" And I
thought that I would never dare trust myself with her glistening
shoulders clasped close to me, with her slim bare arm placed
around my neck as I had watched it slip about the collar of
Millard.

"Now that the pilgrim is at Mecca--" Kennedy suggested,
interrupting cruelly, as I thought.

"Oh!" In an instant I sensed that I was forgotten, and I was
hurt. "There's something which came out this afternoon at the
studio," she began, "and I wonder if you know. Larry--that's Mr.
Millard--assures me it is true, and--and I think you ought to
hear about it. I--I want to assist all I can in solving the
mystery of Stella Lamar's death, even though Stella's unfortunate
end has meant my opportunity."

"What is it, Miss Faye?" Kennedy was studying her.

"It's about Jack Gordon. He's been trying to hold up the company
for fifteen hundred a week, which would double his salary--
perhaps you've heard that?"

Kennedy nodded, although it was news to him. "I've been thinking
about Gordon," he murmured.

"Anyway," she went on, "it's gone around that he's desperately in
need of money and that that is why he's so insistent upon the
increase. It seems he owes everyone. In particular he owes Phelps
some huge sums and old Phelps is on his tail, hollering and
raising Ned. Phelps, you know, has uses for money himself just
now. You had heard?"

Again Kennedy evaded a direct answer. "Money is fearfully tight,
of course," he remarked, encouraging her to continue.

"Yes," she repeated, "Phelps is terribly hard up and after
Gordon. And that's not all about our handsome leading man, Mr.
Kennedy." She leaned forward. A certain intensity crept into her
voice. She began to toy with his sleeve with the slender fingers
of one hand, as though in that manner to compel his greater
attention. "You know Stella Lamar really was in love with Jack
Gordon. In fact she was daffy over him. And now I've found out
that he was borrowing money from her, was taking nearly every
cent she earned to sink in his speculations. Do you get that?"
Enid's eyes snapped.

Most certainly I understood. I knew well the type of Stella. She
had made many men give up to her motor cars, expensive furs,
jewelry, all manner of presents. But in the end she had found one
man to whom she in turn was willing to yield all. But what of
him?

"In the last few weeks, they tell me, poor Stella disposed of
many of her handsome presents from men like Manton and Phelps and
others, all to get money to give to him. At the end she even
raised money on her jewelry. I--I think you'll find it all in
pawn now, if you'll investigate. I don't doubt but that poor
Stella died without a penny to her name."

I was so surprised at this information that I failed to study
Kennedy's face. I was completely jolted from my own rapt
contemplation of the very soft curves of Enid's back. For here
was a motive at last! Gordon was a possible suspect I had failed
to take even halfway seriously. Yet the leading man was
desperately pressed for money, had had a disgraceful fight with
Phelps as we already knew; and not only owed huge sums to his
fiancee as Enid now explained, but had quarreled with her just
prior to her death, according to his own admission in the
investigation at Tarrytown.

Suddenly the music struck up once more. Enid rose, adjusting the
straps of her gown.

"There!" she exclaimed, smiling abruptly. "I thought you ought to
know that, though I hate to peddle gossip. Now I must hurry back.
I've been away long enough. But come down later and dance."

She swept off without further formality. An instant afterward we
saw her in the clasp of Millard once again. We watched during the
number and encore; then Kennedy called for the check.

"Let's go up to the apartment," he suggested. "I'd like to talk
some of these things out with you. It will help me clarify my own
impressions."

Underneath the balcony I noticed Kennedy turn for a last glance
at Manton's party. I paused to look, also. Enid was leaning
forward, talking to Millard earnestly, emphasizing what she had
to say with characteristic movements of her head.

"She's pumping Millard for more information about Stella Lamar,"
I remarked.

Kennedy had no comment.




XVII

AN APPEAL


We strolled up Broadway, resisting the attraction of a garish new
motion-picture palace at which Manton's previous release with
Stella Lamar was now showing to capacity--much to the delight of
the exhibitor who greatly complimented himself on his good
fortune in being able to take advantage of the newspaper
sensation over the affair.

On we walked, Kennedy mostly in silent deduction, I knew, until
we came to the upper regions of the great thoroughfare, turned
off, and headed toward our apartment on the Heights, not far from
the university.

We had scarcely settled ourselves for a quiet hour in our
quarters when the telephone rang. I answered. To my amazement I
found that it was Marilyn Loring.

"Is Professor Kennedy in?" she asked.

"Yes, Miss Loring. Just a--"

"Never mind calling him to the phone, Mr. Jameson. I've been
trying to find him all evening. He was not at the laboratory,
although I waited over an hour. Just tell him that there's
something I am very anxious to consult him about. Ask him if it
will be all right for me to run up to see him just a few
minutes."

I explained to Kennedy.

"Let her come along," he said, as surprised as I was. Then he
added, humorously, "I seem to be father confessor to-night."

After sinking back in my seat in comfort once more I observed a
quiet elation in Kennedy's manner. All at once it struck me what
he was doing. The multitude of considerations in this case, the
many cross leads to be followed, had confused me. But now I
realized that, after all, this was only the approved Kennedy
method, the mode of procedure which had never failed to produce
results for him. Without allowing himself to be disturbed by the
great number of people concerned, he had calmly started to pit
them one against the other, encouraging each to talk about the
rest, making a show of his apparent inaction and lack of haste so
that they, in turn, would shake off the excitement immediately
following the death of the girl and thereby reveal their normal
selves to his keen observation.

Not five minutes passed before Marilyn was announced. Evidently
she had been seeking us eagerly, for she had probably telephoned
from a near-by pay station.

"Mr. Kennedy," she began, "I am going to find this very hard to
say."

"Really," he assured her, "there is no reason why you should not
repose your confidence in me. My only interest is to solve the
mystery and to see that justice is satisfied. Beyond that nothing
would give me greater happiness than to be of service to you."

"It's--it's about Merle Shirley--" she started, bravely. Then all
at once she broke down. The strain of two days had been too much
for her.

Kennedy lighted a fresh cigar, realizing that he could best aid
her to recover her composure by making no effort to do so. For
several moments she sobbed silently, a handkerchief at her eyes.
Then she straightened, with a half smile, dabbing at the drops of
moisture remaining. With her wet eyes and flushed cheeks she was
revealed to me again as a very genuine girl, wholly unspoiled by
her outward mask of sophistication. Furthermore, at this instant
she was gloriously pretty.

"Again--why do you play vampire roles, Miss Loring?" I asked, as
quickly as the thought flashed to me. "I think you'd be an ideal
ingenue!"

"About a thousand people have told me that," she rejoined. As she
replied her smile took full possession of her features. My
idiotic repetition, entirely out of place, had served to restore
her self-control to her. "No, the public won't stand for it.
They've been trained to know me as a vamp, and a vamp I remain."

Facing Kennedy, she sobered. "Merle Shirley and I were engaged,"
she went on. "That you know. Then poor Stella made a fool of him.
She didn't mean any harm, any real harm, but I don't think she
knew how deep he feels or just what a fiery temper he has.
Finally he found out that she was only playing with him. He was
perfectly terrible. At first I thought he had killed her in a
burst of passion. I really thought that."

"Yes?" Kennedy was interested. He needed no pretense.

"When I asked him point blank he said he didn't." A very
wonderful light came into Marilyn Loring's eyes at this instant.
"Whatever else he would do, Professor Kennedy, he wouldn't lie to
me; that I know. He would tell me the truth because he knows I
would shield him, no matter what the cost."

"You simply want to assure me of his innocence?" suggested
Kennedy.

"No!" There was a touch of scorn to the little negative. "You
don't believe him guilty; you didn't even when I did."

"Then--"

"But he knows something--something about the murder of Stella--
and he won't tell me what it is. I--I'm afraid for him. He isn't
sleeping at night, and I believe he's watching somebody at the
studio, and I know--it's the WOMAN'S intuition, Professor"--she
emphasized the word, and paused--"he's in danger. He's in some
great threatening danger!"

"What do you wish me to do, Miss Loring?"

"I want you to protect him and"--slowly she colored, up and
around and about her eyes as she always did, until she wasn't
unlike an Indian maid--"and no one must know I've been up to see
you."

Gravely Kennedy bowed her to the door, assuring her he would do
all that lay in his power. When he returned I was ready for him.

"Now!" I exclaimed. "Now say it isn't Werner! Here is Merle
Shirley watching some one at the studio. Isn't that likely to be
the director? And if Shirley is watching Werner you have the
explanation for the second intruder at Tarrytown last night.
Shirley is big enough and strong enough to have given the deputy
a nice swift tussle."

"A little tall, I'm afraid," Kennedy remarked.

"You can't go by the deputy's impressions. He didn't really
remember much of anything. Certainly he was unobserving."

"Perhaps you're right, Walter." Kennedy smiled. "But how about
Gordon?" he added. "There's genuine motive--money!"

"Or Shirley himself!" I attempted to be sarcastic. "There's
genuine motive. Stella made a fool out of him."

"It wasn't a murder of passion," Kennedy reminded me. "No one in
a white heat of rage would study up on snake venoms."

"If it were a slow-smoldering--"

"Shirley's anger wasn't that kind."

"But good heavens!" As usual I arrived nowhere in an argument
with Kennedy. "Circumstantial evidence points to Werner almost
altogether--"

"You've forgotten one point in your chain, Walter."

"What's that?"

"Whoever took the needle from the curtain last night scratched
himself on it and left blood spots on the portieres, tiny ones,
but real blood spots, nevertheless. That means the intruder
inoculated himself with venom. I doubt that the poison was so dry
as to be ineffectual. If it was Werner, how do you account for
the fact that he is still alive?"

"Do you"--I guess my eyes went wide--"do you expect to dig up a
dead man somewhere? Is there some one we suspect and haven't seen
since yesterday?"

He didn't answer, preferring to tantalize me.

"How do you account for it yourself?" I demanded, somewhat hotly.

"Let's call it a day, Walter," he rejoined. "Let's go to bed!"




 XVIII

THE ANTIVENIN


I slept late in the morning, so that Kennedy had to wake me. When
we had finished breakfast he led the way to the laboratory, all
without making any effort to satisfy my curiosity. There he
started packing up the tubes and materials he had been studying
in the case, rather than resuming his investigations.

"What's the idea?" I asked, finally, unable to contain myself any
longer.

"You carry this package," he directed. "I'll take the other."

I obeyed, somewhat sulkily I'm afraid.

"You see," he added, as we left the building and hurried to the
taxi stand near the campus, "the next problem is to identify the
particular kind of venom that was used. Besides, I want to know
the nature of the spots on the towel you found. They certainly
were not of venom. I have my suspicions what they really are."

He paused while we selected a vehicle and made ourselves
comfortable. "To save time," he went on, "I thought I'd just go
over to the Castleton Institute. You know in their laboratories
the famous Japanese investigator, Doctor Nagoya, has made some
marvelous discoveries concerning the venom of snakes. It is his
specialty, a matter to which he has practically devoted his life.
Therefore I expect that he will be able to confirm certain
suspicions of mine very quickly, or"--a shrug--"explode a theory
which has slowly been taking form in the back of my head."

When we dismissed the taxi in front of the institute I realized
that this would be my first visit to this institution so lavishly
endowed by the multi-millionaire, Castleton, for the advancement
of experimental science. Kennedy's card, sent in to Doctor
Nagoya, brought that eminent investigator out personally to see
us. He was the very finest type of Oriental savant, a member of
the intellectual nobility of the strange Eastern land only
recently made receptive to the civilization of the West. When he
and Kennedy chatted together in low tones for a few moments it
was hard for me to grasp that each belonged to a basic race
strain fundamentally different from the other. East and West had
met, upon the plane of modern science. The two were simply men of
specialized knowledge, the Japanese pre-eminent in one field,
Kennedy in another.

Carefully and thoroughly Kennedy and Nagoya went over the results
which Kennedy had already obtained. After a moment Doctor Nagoya
conducted us to his research room.

"Now let me show you," said the Oriental.

In a moment they were deep in the mysteries of an even more
minute analysis than Kennedy had made before. I took a turn about
the room, finding nothing more understandable than the study
holding Kennedy's interest. Though I could not grasp it,
curiosity kept me hovering close.

"You see"--Nagoya spoke as he finished the test he was making at
the moment--"without a doubt it is crotalin, the venom of the
rattlesnake, Crotalus horridus."

"There was no snake actually present," I hastened to explain,
breaking in. Then at a glance from Kennedy I stopped, abashed,
for all this had been made clear to the scientist.

"It is not necessary," Nagoya replied, turning to me with the
politeness characteristic of the East. "Crotalin can be obtained
now with fair ease. It is a drug used in a new treatment of
epilepsy which is being tried out at many hospitals."

I nodded my thanks, not wanting to interrupt again.

Kennedy pressed on to the next point he wished established. "That
was the spot on the portieres. Now the ampulla."

"Also crotalin." Doctor Nagoya spoke positively.

"How about this solution?" Kennedy took from my package the tube
with the liquid made from the faint spots on the towel which I
had found and which had been our first clue. "It is not
crotalin."

The Japanese turned to his laboratory table.

Kennedy muttered some vague suggestions which were too technical
for me but which seemed to enable Nagoya to eliminate a great
deal of work. The test progressed rapidly. Finally the savant
stepped back, regarding the solution with a very satisfied smile.

"It is," he explained, carefully, "some of the very anticrotalus
venin which we have perfected right here in the institute."

Kennedy nodded. "I suspected as much." There was great elation in
his manner. "You see, I had heard all about your wonderful work."

"Yes!" Nagoya waved his hand around at the wonderfully equipped
room, only one detail in the many arrangements for medical
research made possible by the generosity of Castleton. "Yes," he
repeated, proud of his laboratory, as he well might be, "we have
made a great deal of progress in the development of protective
sera--antivenins, we call them."

"Are they distributed widely?" Kennedy asked, thoughtfully.

"All over the world. We are practically the only source of
supply."

"How do you obtain the serum in quantity?"

"From horses treated with increasing doses of the snake venom."

A question struck me as I remembered the peculiar double action
of the poison. "Can you tell me just how the antivenin
counteracts the effects of the venom?" I inquired of the savant.

"Surely," he replied. "It neutralizes one of the two elements in
the venom, the nervous poison, thus enabling the individual to
devote all his vitality to overcoming the irritant poison. It is
the nervous poison that is the chief death-dealing agent,
producing paralysis of the heart and respiration. We advise all
travelers to carry the protective serum if they are likely to be
exposed to snake bites."

Kennedy picked up the tube containing the solution made from the
towel spots. "This antivenin was your product, doctor?"

"Probably so," was the precise answer.

"Then the purchasers can be identified," I suggested.

"We have no record of ordinary purchasers," Nagoya explained,
slowly.

Kennedy was keenly disappointed at that, and showed it. However,
he thanked the scientist cordially, and we departed. Outside, he
turned to me.

"Do you understand now why the night intruder at Tarrytown did
not die--if he is one of our suspects--from the scratch of the
needle?"

"You mean he had taken an injection of antivenin before--"

"Exactly! We are dealing with a criminal of diabolical
cleverness. Not only did he make all his plans to kill Miss Lamar
with the greatest possible care, but he prepared against accident
to himself. He was taking no chances. He inoculated himself with
a protective serum. The needle of the syringe he used for that
purpose he wiped upon the towel you discovered in the washroom."




XIX

AROUND THE CIRCLE


"I'd like to have another talk with Millard about that Fortune
Features affair," remarked Kennedy.

It was the third morning after the death of Stella Lamar, and I
found him half through breakfast when I rose. About him were
piled moving picture and theatrical publications, daily, weekly,
and monthly. At the moment I caught him he had spread wide open
the inner page of the Daily Metropolitan, a sheet devoted almost
exclusively to sports and the amusement fields.

I went around to glance over his shoulder. He pointed to a small
item under a heading of recent plans and changes.

     FORTUNE FEATURES

     It is hinted to the Metropolitan Man-about-Broadway, by those
     in a position to know but who cannot yet be quoted, that
     Fortune Features is about to absorb a number of the largest
     competing companies. Rumors of great changes in the picture
     world have been current for some weeks, and this is the first
     reliable information to be given out. It is premature to give
     details of the new combination, or to mention names, but
     Fortune's strong backing in Wall Street will, we are assured,
     have a stabilizing influence at a critical time in the
     industry.

"Seems to be a lot of hot air," I said. "There isn't a name
mentioned. Everything is 'by those in a position to know' and
'rumors of and 'it is premature to give details... or mention
names'--Bah!"

Kennedy turned to places he had marked in several of the other
periodicals and papers and I read them. Each was substantially to
the effect of the note in the Metropolitan, although worded
differently and generally printed as a news item.

"It's a feeler," Kennedy stated. "There's something back of it.
When I caught the reference to Fortune Features in the
Metropolitan, which I've been reading the past two days, I sent
the boy out for every movie publication he could find. Result:
half a dozen repetitions of the hint that Fortune is expanding.
That means that it is deliberate publicity."

"You think this has something to do with the case?"

"I don't see the name of Manton mentioned once. Manton is a man
who seeks the front page on every opportunity. You remember, of
course, what Millard told us. Somehow I smell a rat. If nothing
else develops for this morning, I want to find Millard and talk
to him again. I believe Manton is up to something."

The sharp sound of our buzzer interrupted us. Because I was on my
feet I went to the door. To my amazement I found it was Phelps
who was our very early visitor.

"I hope you'll excuse this intrusion," he apologized to Kennedy,
pushing by me with the rudeness which seemed inherent in the man.
Then he recognized the sheet still spread out on the table. "I
see you, too, have been reading the Metropolitan."

"Yes," Kennedy admitted, languidly. "There is nothing about
Manton Pictures, though."

"Manton Pictures, hell!" In an instant Phelps exploded and the
thin veneer of politeness was gone. With a shaking finger he
pointed to the item which we had just been reading and
discussing. "Did you read that! Did you see the reference to
stabilizing the industry? STABILIZING! It ought to be spelled
stable-izing, for they lead all the donkeys into stalls and tie
them up and let them kick." He stopped momentarily for sheer
inability to continue.

"I suppose you don't know Manton is behind this Fortune
Features?"

"We were aware of the fact," Kennedy told him, quietly.

Phelps looked from one to the other of us keenly, as if he had
thought to surprise us and had been disappointed. Nervously he
began to pace the floor.

"Perhaps you know also that things haven't been going just right
with Manton Pictures?"

Kennedy straightened. "When I asked you at Tarrytown, just two
mornings ago, whether there was any trouble between Manton and
yourself, you answered that there was not."

Phelps flushed. "I didn't want to air my financial difficulties
with Manton. My--my answer was truthful, the way you meant your
question. Manton and I have had no words, no quarrel, no
disagreement of a personal nature."

"What is the trouble with Manton Pictures?"

"They are wasting money--throwing it right and left. That pay
roll of theirs is preposterous. The waste itself is beyond
belief--sometimes four and five cameras on a scene, retakes upon
the slightest provocation, even sets rebuilt because some minor
detail fails to suit the artistic eye of the director. Werner,
supposed to watch all the companies, doesn't half know his
business. In the making of a five-reel film they will overtake
sometimes as much as eighty or a hundred thousand feet of
negative in each of two cameras, when twenty thousand is enough
overtake for anyone. That alone is five to ten thousand dollars
for negative stock, almost fifteen with the sample print and
developing. And the cost of stock, Mr. Kennedy, is the smallest
item. All the extra length is long additional weeks of pay roll
and overhead expense. I put an auditor and a film expert on the
accounts of Stella Lamar's last picture. By their figures just
sixty-three thousand dollars was absolutely thrown away."

Kennedy rose, folding the newspaper carefully while he collected
his thoughts. "My dear Mr. Phelps," he stated, finally, "that is
simply inefficiency. I doubt if it is anything criminal;
certainly there is no connection with the death of Stella Lamar,
my only interest in Manton Pictures."

Phelps was very grave. "There is every connection with the death
of Stella Lamar!"

"What do you mean?"

"Mr. Kennedy, what I'm going to say to you I cannot substantiate
in any court of law. Furthermore I'm laying myself open to action
for libel, so I must not be quoted. But I want you to understand
that Stella was inescapably wound up with all of Manton's
financial schemes. His money maneuvers determined her social
life, her friends--everything. She was then, as Enid Faye will be
now, his come-on, his decoy. Manton has no scruples of any sort
whatsoever. He is dishonest, tricky, a liar, and a cheat. If I
could prove it I would tell him so, but he's too clever for me. I
do know, however, that he pulled the strings which controlled
every move Stella Lamar ever made. When she went to dinner with
me it was because Manton wished her to do so. She was his right
hand, his ears, almost his mouth. I have no doubt but that her
death is the direct result of some business deal of his--
something directly to do with his financial necessities."

Kennedy did not glance up. "Those are very serious assertions."

"It is a very serious matter. To show how unscrupulous Manton is,
I can demonstrate that he is wrecking Manton Pictures
deliberately. I've told you of the waste. Only the other day I
came into the studio. Werner was putting up a great ballroom set.
You saw it? No, that isn't the one I mean. I mean the first one.
He had it all up; then some little thing didn't suit him. The
next day I came in again. All struck--sloughed--every bit of it--
and a new one started. 'Lloyd,' I said, 'just think a minute--
that's my money!' What good did it do? He even began to alter the
new set! He would only go on, encouraging Werner and the other
directors to change their sets, to lose time in trying for
foolish effects, anything at all to pad the expense.

"You think I am romancing, but you don't understand the film
world," Phelps hurried on angrily. "Do you know that Enid Faye's
contract is not with Manton Pictures but with Manton himself?
That means he can take her away from me after he has made her a
star with my money, at my expense. Why should he wreck Manton
Pictures, you ask? Do you know that, bit by bit, on the pretext
that he needed the funds for this that, or the other thing,
Manton has sold out his entire interest in the company to me? It
is all mine now. I tell you," complained Phelps, bitterly, "he
couldn't seem to wreck the company fast enough. Why? Do you
realize that there isn't room both for this older company and the
new Fortune Features? Can you see that if Manton Pictures fails
the Fortune company will be able to pick up the studio and all
the equipment for a song? I'm the fall guy!

"And yet, Kennedy, all the efforts to wreck Manton Pictures would
have failed, because 'The Black Terror' was too sure a success.
In spite of all the expense, in spite of every effort to wreck
it, that picture would have made half a million dollars. Stella's
acting and Millard's story and script would have put it over. But
now Millard's contract has expired and Manton has signed him for
Fortune Features. Enid Faye will be made a star by 'The Black
Terror,' but she is not now the drawing power to put it over big,
as Stella would have done. I tell you, Kennedy, the death of
Stella Lamar has completed the wreck of Manton Pictures!"

Kennedy jumped to his feet. There was a hard light in his eyes I
had never seen before.

"Do I understand you, Phelps?" he snapped. "Are you accusing
Manton of the cold-blooded murder of Stella Lamar to further
various financial schemes?"

"Hardly!" Phelps blanched a bit, and I thought that a shudder
swept over him. "I don't mean anything like that at all. What I
mean is that Manton, in encouraging various sorts of dissension
to wreck the company, inadvertently fanned the flames of passion
of those about her, and it resulted in her death."

"Who killed her?"

"I don't know!" Grudgingly I admitted that this seemed open and
frank.

"At Tarrytown," Kennedy went on, "I asked you if Stella Lamar was
making any trouble, had threatened to quit Manton Pictures, and
you said no. Is that still your answer?"

"For several months she had been up-stage. That was not because
she wanted to make trouble, but because she had fallen in love.
Manton found he couldn't handle her as he had previously."

"Do you suspect Manton of killing her himself?"

"I don't suspect anyone. That is an honest answer, Mr. Kennedy."

"What do you know about Fortune Features?"

The banker's eye fell on the newspaper again. "I know who this
new Wall Street fellow is. I've got my scouts out working for me.
It's Leigh--that's who it is. And I'm sore; I have a right to
be."

Phelps was getting more and more heated, by the moment. "I tell
you," he almost shouted, "this fake movie business is the modern
gold-brick game, all right. Never again!"

I was amazed at the Machiavellian cleverness of Manton. Here he
was, on one hand openly working with, yet secretly ruining, the
Manton Pictures, while on the other hand he was covertly building
up the competing Fortune Features.

Kennedy paced out into the little hall of our suite and back. He
faced our visitor once more.

"Why did you come to see me this morning? At our last encounter,
you may recall you said you wished you could throw me down the
steps."

Phelps smiled ruefully. "That was a mistake. It was the way I
felt, but--I'm sorry."

"Now--?"

Again the black clouds overshadowed the features of the
financier. "Now I want you to bring out and prove the things I've
told you." The malice showed in his voice plainly, for the first
time. "I want it proved in court that Manton is a cheap crook.
When you uncover the murderer of Stella Lamar you will find that
the moral responsibility for her death traces right back to Lloyd
Manton. I want him driven out of the business."

Kennedy's attitude changed. As he escorted Phelps to the door his
tones were self-controlled. "Anything of the sort is beyond my
province. My task is simply to find the person who killed the
girl."

When the financier was gone I turned to Kennedy eagerly. "What do
you think?" I asked.

"I think, more than ever, that we should investigate Fortune
Features. Let's have a look at the telephone book."

There was no studio of the new corporation in New York, but we
did find one listed in New Jersey, just across the river, at Fort
Lee. We walked from the university down the hill and over to the
ferry. On the other side a ten minutes' street-car ride took us
to our destination.

Facing us was a huge barn-like structure set down in the midst of
a little park. Inquiry for Manton brought no response whatever;
rather, surprise that we should be asking for him here. However,
I reflected that that was exactly what we ought to expect if
Manton was working under cover. The girl at the telephone
switchboard, smiling at Kennedy, had a suggestion.

"They're taking a storm exterior down in the meadow," she
explained. "Perhaps he's down there, among the visitors--or
perhaps there's someone who will be able to give you some
information."

I glanced outdoors at the brightly shining sun. "A storm?" I
repeated, incredulously.

"Yes," she smiled. "It might interest you to see it."

Following her directions, we started across country, leaving the
studio building some distance behind and entering a broad expanse
of meadow beyond a thin clump of trees. At the farther end we
could see a large group of people and paraphernalia which, at the
distance, we could not make out.

However, it was not long after we emerged from the trees that we
perceived they were photographing squarely in our direction.
Several began waving their arms wildly at us and shouting.
Kennedy and I, understanding, turned and advanced, keeping well
out of the camera lines, along the edge of the field.

"Hello!" a voice greeted us as we approached the group standing
back and watching the action.

To my surprise it was Millard, with the spectators. I looked
about for Manton but did not see him, nor anyone else we knew.

"It's a storm and cyclone," said Millard, his attention rather on
what was going on than on us.

For the moment we said nothing.

The scene before us was indeed interesting. Half a dozen
aeroplane engines and propellers had been set up outside the
picture, and anchored securely in place. The wind from them was
actually enough to knock a man down. Rain was furnished by hose
playing water into the whirling blades, sending it driving into
the scene with the fury of a tropical storm. Back of the
propellers half a dozen men were frantically at work shoveling
into them sand and dirt, creating an amazingly realistic cyclone.

We arrived in the midst of the cyclone scene, as the dust storm
was ending and the torrential rain succeeded. For the storm, a
miniature village had been constructed in break-away fashion,
partially sawed through and tricked for the proper moment. Many
objects were controlled by invisible wires, including an actual
horse and buggy which seemed to be lifted bodily and carried
away. Roofs flew off, walls crashed in, actors and actresses were
knocked flat as some few of them failed to gain their cyclone
cellars. Altogether, it was a storm of such efficiency as Nature
herself could scarcely have furnished, and all staged with the
streaming sunlight which made photography possible.

Pandemonium reigned. Cameras were grinding, directors were
bawling through megaphones, all was calculated chaos. Yet it took
only a glance to see that some marvelous effects were being
caught here.

At the conclusion I recognized suddenly the little leading lady,
It was the girl we had seen with Manton at Jacques' cabaret.

"That's the way to take a picture," exclaimed Millard.
"Everything right--no expense spared. I came over to see it done.
It's wonderful."

"Yes," was Kennedy's answer, "but it must be very costly."

"It is all of that," said Millard. "But what of it if the film
makes a big clean-up? I wouldn't have missed this for anything.
Werner never staged a spectacle like this in his life. Fortune
Features are going to set a new mark in pictures."

"But can they keep it up? Have they the money?"

Millard shrugged his shoulders. "Manton Pictures can't--that's a
cinch. Phelps has reached the end of his rope, I guess. I'm
afraid the trouble with him was that he was thinking of too many
things besides pictures."

There was no mistaking the meaning of the remark. Millard was
still cut by Stella's desertion of him for the broker. I caught
Kennedy's glance, but neither of us cared to refer to her.

"Where can I find Manton now?" Kennedy asked.

"Did you try his office at seven hundred and twenty-nine?" was
Millard's suggestion.

"No; I wanted to see this place first."

"Well, you'll most likely find him there. I've got to go back to
the city myself-some scenes of 'The Black Terror' to rewrite to
fit Enid better. I'll motor you across the ferry and to the
Subway."

At the Subway station, Millard left us and we proceeded to
Manton's executive offices in a Seventh Avenue skyscraper, built
for and devoted exclusively to the film business.

Manton's business suite was lavishly furnished, but not quite as
ornate and garish as his apartment. The promoter himself welcomed
us, for no matter how busy he was at any hour, he always seemed
to have time to stop and chat.

"Well, how goes it?" He pushed over a box of expensive cigars.
"Have you found out anything yet?"

"Had a visit from Phelps this morning." Kennedy plunged directly
into the subject, watching the effect.

Manton did not betray anything except a quiet smile. "Poor old
Phelps," he said. "I guess he's pretty uneasy. You know he has
been speculating rather heavily in the market lately. There was a
time when I thought Phelps had a bank roll in reserve. But it
seems he has been playing the game on a shoestring, after all."

Manton casually flicked the ashes from his cigar into a highly
polished cuspidor as he leaned over. "I happen to have learned
that, to make his bluff good, he has been taking money from his
brokerage business"--here he nodded sagely--"his customers'
accounts you know. Leigh knows the inside of everybody's affairs
in Wall Street. They say a quarter of a million is short, at
least. To tell you the truth, poor Stella took a good deal of
Phelps's money. Certainly his Manton Pictures holdings wouldn't
leave him in the hole as deep as all that."

I reflected that this was quite the way of the world--first
framing up something on a boob, then deprecating the ease with
which he was trimmed.

Was it blackmail Stella had levied on Phelps, I wondered? Was she
taking from him to give to Gordon? Had Stella broken him? Was she
the real cause of the tangle in his affairs? And had Phelps in
insane passion revenged himself on her?

In the conversation with Manton there was certainly no hint of
answer to my queries. With all his ease, Manton was the true
picture promoter. Seldom was he betrayed into a positive
statement of his own. Always, when necessary, he gave as
authority the name of some one else. But the effect was the same.

A hurried call of some sort took Manton away from us. Kennedy
turned to me with a whimsical expression.

"Let's go!" he remarked.

"What do you make of it, offhand?" I asked, outside.

"We're going about in a circle," he remarked. "Strange group of
people. Each apparently suspects the other."

"And, to cover himself, talks of the other fellow," I added.

Kennedy nodded, and we made our way toward the laboratory.

"I'll bet something happens before the day is over," I hazarded,
for no reason in particular.

Kennedy shrugged.

As we went, I cast up in my mind the facts we had learned. The
information from Manton was disconcerting, coming on top of what
had already been revealed about the inner workings of his game.
If Phelps had secretly "borrowed" from the trust accounts in his
charge a quarter of a million or so, I saw that his situation
must indeed be desperate. To what lengths he might go it was
difficult to determine.




XX

THE BANQUET SCENE


For once I qualified as a prophet. We were hardly in our rooms
when the telephone rang for Kennedy. It was District-Attorney
Mackay, calling in from Tarrytown.

"My men have positive identification of one of the visitors to
the Phelps home the night after the murder," he reported.

"Fine!" exclaimed Kennedy. "Who was it? How did you uncover his
trail?"

"You remember that my deputy heard the sound of a departing
automobile? Well, we have been questioning everyone. A citizen
here, who returned home late at just about that hour, remembers
seeing a taxicab tearing through the street at a reckless rate.
He came in to see me this morning. He made a mental note of the
license number at the time, and while nothing stuck with him but
the last three figures, three sixes, he was sure that it was a
Maroon taxi. We got busy and have located the driver who made the
trip, from a stand at Thirty-third all the way out and back. On
the return he dropped his fare at the man's apartment. The
identification is positive."

"Who is it?" Kennedy became quite excited.

"Werner, the director."

"Werner!" in surprise. "What are you going to do?"

"Arrest him first--examine him afterward. I've sworn out the
warrant already, and I'm going to start in by car just as soon as
we hang up. I thought I'd phone you first in case you wanted to
accompany me to the studio."

"We'll hurry there," Kennedy replied, "and meet you."

"Outside?"

"No, up on the floor."

"You'll be there fifteen minutes to half an hour ahead of me. I
hope there is no way for anyone to tip him off so he can escape."

"We'll stop him if he attempts it."

"Good!"

The courtyard of the studio of Manton Pictures, Incorporated, was
about the same as upon the occasions of our previous visits
except that I detected a larger number of cars parked in the
inclosure, including a number of very fine ones. Also, it seemed
to me that there was a greater absence of life than usual, as
though something of particular interest had taken everyone inside
the buildings.

The gateman informed us that Werner was working the large studio.
We made our way up through the structure containing the dressing
rooms and found the proper door without difficulty. When we
passed through under the big glass roof we grasped the reason for
the lack of interest in the other departments about the
quadrangle. Here everyone was gathered to watch the taking of the
banquet scene for "The Black Terror." The huge set was
illuminated brightly, and packed, thronged with people.

It was a marvelous set in many ways. To carry out the illusion of
size and to aid in the deceptive additional length given by the
mirrors at the farther end, Werner had decided against the usual
one large table arranged horseshoe-like, but had substituted
instead a great number of individual smaller tables, about which
he had grouped the various guests. The placing of those nearest
the mirrors had been so arranged as to give no double images,
thus betraying the trick. The waiters, all the characters who
walked about, were kept near the front toward the cameras for the
same reason. It seemed as if the banquet hall was at least twice
its actual size.

I saw that Millard had arrived ahead of us. Either the changing
of the scenes in his script to fit Enid had not taken him very
long or else the photographing of this particular bit of action
had proved sufficiently fascinating to draw him away from his
work. I wondered at first if he had come to the studio to use his
office here, an infrequent happening, from Manton's account. Then
I realized that he was in evening dress. Without doubt he planned
to play a minor part in the banquet. His presence was no
accident.

Then I picked out Manton himself from our point of observation in
a quiet corner selected by Kennedy for that purpose. It was
evident that the promoter had cleared up his business at the
office rapidly since we had left him there to go to our quarters
on the Heights and had departed immediately from the latter place
so as to precede the District Attorney here.

Manton as well as Millard was in evening dress. A moment later I
recognized Phelps, and he, too, wore his formal clothes. In an
instant I grasped that Werner actually was saving money. Not only
were these officials of the company present to help fill up the
tables, but I was able now to pick out a number of the guests who
were uneasy in their make-up and more or less out of place in
full-dress attire. They certainly were not actors. One girl I
definitely placed as the stenographer from Manton's waiting room
at the studio; then other things caught my attention. I could not
help but doubt the stories of waste told us by Phelps as I looked
over the scene before me. The use of the mirrors to avoid
building the full length of the floor did not seem to fit in with
the theory that Manton and Werner were making every effort to
wreck the company deliberately.

I watched the financier for several moments, but did not detect
anything from his manner except that he seemed to feel ill at
ease and awkward in make-up. I picked out Millard again and this
time found him talking with Enid Faye and Gordon. Immediately I
sensed a dramatic conflict, carefully suppressed, but having too
many of the outward indications to fool anyone. In fact, a child
would have observed that Lawrence Millard and the leading man
needed little urging to engage in a scuffle then and there.
Though Stella Lamar was dead, this was the heritage she had left.
Her touch had embittered two men beyond the point of
reconciliation--the husband who had been, and the husband who was
to be. Of the two, Millard had far the better control of himself,
however.

After a brief word or so Gordon left them. At once I could see
the relief in the expressions of both the others. Again I
wondered just what might be between these two. It was an easy
familiarity which might have been as casual as it seemed to be,
no more, or which might have been a mask for something far deeper
and more enduring, the schooled outer cloak of an inner perfect
understanding.

Werner was by far the busiest of those waiting in the stifling
heat beneath the glass roof. He was in evening dress, prepared to
take his own place before the camera, and in straight make-up, so
that he looked nothing like the slain millionaire, the part he
had played in the opening scenes. I saw that he was a master in
the art of make-up. I was sure that he was more nervous than
usual. It struck me that he needed the stimulus of the drug he
used, although later I knew that he must have felt, intuitively,
the coming of events which followed close upon the attempt to
photograph the action.

As more of the people hurried up from the offices and around from
the manuscript and other departments, very conscious of their
formal attire, and as the regular players changed and adjusted
the make-ups of these amateurs, the banquet took on the
proportions of a real affair.

The members of the cast were placed at the table in the
foreground. Enid, Gordon, Marilyn, and a fourth man were assigned
locations; after which Werner proceeded to fill the seats in the
rear. With the exception of Millard and Phelps, none of the
inexperienced people were allowed to face the camera. Manton,
whose features were familiar through published interviews in many
publicity campaigns, was placed to one side opposite Phelps.
Millard was given charge of a group containing a number of giddy
extra girls in somewhat diaphanous costume, and seemed to be in
his element.

The tables themselves were prepared with perfect taste. I could
see that real food was being used, in order to achieve a greater
degree of realism, for a caterer had set up a buffet some
distance out of the scene from which to serve the courses called
for in the script. Many of the dishes were being kept hot, the
steam curling from beneath the covers in appetizing wisps. The
wine, supposed to be champagne, was sparkling apple juice of the
best quality, and I don't doubt but that before the days of
prohibition Werner would have insisted upon the real fizz water.
In details such as these the director was showing no economy.

"All ready now?" Werner called, stepping back to a place at a
table which he had reserved for himself. "All set? Remember the
action of the script?"

Instantly the buzz of conversation died and everyone turned to
him.

"No, no, no!" he exclaimed in vexation. "Don't go dead on your
feet. This is a banquet. You are having a good time. It's not a
funeral! You were all in just the right state of mind before, and
you don't have to stop and gape to listen to me. Keep right on
talking and laughing. My voice will carry and you can hear
without getting out of your parts."

I turned to Kennedy, to see how the picture-making struck him. I
saw that he was watching the two girls at the forward table
closely and so I faced about to follow his glance. Marilyn's face
was red with anger, while Enid, calm and rather malicious, was
ignoring her to devote all attention to Gordon. The leading man,
bored and irritated, made no effort to conceal a heavy scowl. In
the momentary interval following Werner's instructions, Marilyn
lost all control of herself.

"If you will pardon me, MISS Faye," she cried out in a voice
which carried over to us and with cutting accent upon the "Miss,"
"I think that in this scene at least we should BOTH be facing the
camera. If I understand the scene in the script at all it is
intended to show the conflict between the two women over the one
man seated between them. Jack Daring is to be swayed first by
Stella Remsen, then by Zelda. At least this once I think the
daughter of old Remsen and his ward are playing roles of equal
importance."

For a moment I smiled, realizing that Marilyn was not going to
let Enid "take the picture away" from her as we had seen the new
star do in one of her first scenes with the leading man. Then I
sobered, realizing that it was the outer reflection of the deep-
running passion of these people. The cloud of Stella's death was
over them still.

Enid responded, but in tones too low for us to hear. A new flush
of red in Marilyn's face, however, demonstrated the power in the
lash of the other girl's tongue. Werner hurried over to them, not
masking his own irritation any too well. Without a word he began
rearranging the table, moving it slightly so that while there was
no great difference in its position he had yet made a show of
satisfying Marilyn. In effect he pleased neither. The two pretty
faces closest to the camera were a study in discontent.

"I don't wonder that moving-picture directors are nervous,"
Kennedy remarked. "Film manufacture must keep everyone under
constant tension."

"What do you make of the feeling between the different people?" I
asked. "Did you notice Millard and Gordon, and now Enid and
Marilyn?"

"There's something under cover," he rejoined; "something behind
all this. I get the impression that our suspects are watching one
another, like as many hawks. At various times most of them have
glanced over at us. They know we are here and are conscious they
may be under suspicion. Therefore I particularly want to see how
those two girls act when Mackay arrives to arrest Werner."

The director, stepping back to his place, took a megaphone from
his assistant for use in the rehearsal.

"Now you must act just as though this were a real banquet," he
shouted. "Try to forget that the Black Terror is lurking outside
the window, that an attack is coming from him. Remember, when the
shot is fired you must all leap up as though you meant it. Here!
You--you--you--" designating certain extra girls, "faint when it
happens. That's not until after the toast is proposed. I'll
propose the toast from my table and it will be the cue for
Shirley, outside. Now don't get ahead of the action. You
amateurs, don't turn around to see if the camera is working.
We'll go through the action up to the moment I propose the
toast." The buzz of conversation rose slightly as though an
effort was being put into the gayety. I glanced about at some of
the people who were cast for only this one scene, wishing I could
read lips, because I was sure many of them talked of matters
wholly out of place in this setting. At the same time I kept an
eye on the principals and upon Werner.

Finally the director was satisfied, after a second rehearsal.

"All right," he bellowed, throwing the megaphone from the scene.
"Shoot!"

At the same instant he dropped to his place and apparently was a
guest with no interest but in the food and wine before him.

At the cameras-there were three of them-the assistant director
kept a careful watch of the general action. In actual time by the
watch the whole was very short, a second measuring to sixteen
pictures or a foot of film as I explained afterward to Kennedy.
The entire scene perhaps ran one hundred or one hundred and fifty
feet.

But on the screen, even to the spectators in the studio, the
illusion in a scene of the kind would be the duration of half an
hour or even more. This would be helped by close-ups of the
individual action, especially by the byplay between the
principals, taken later and inserted into the long shot by the
film cutter.

I know I was carried away by a sense of reality. It seemed to me
that waiters made endless trips to and fro, that here and there
pretty girls broke into laughter constantly or that men leaned
forward every other moment to make witty remarks; in fact I felt
genuinely sorry I could not take part in the festivities. I knew
that danger, in the person of the Black Terror as played by
Shirley, lurked just out the window. I felt delicious
anticipatory thrills of fear, so thoroughly was I in the spirit
of the thing. Then I saw that Werner was about to propose the
toast, about to give the cue for the big action.

"Watch him" whispered Kennedy. "He's an actor. He's taking that
drink just as though he meant every drop of it."

Werner had raised his delicately stemmed glass as though to join
his neighbor in some pledge when a new idea seemed to strike him.
He leaped to his feet.

"Let's drink together! Let's drink to our hero and heroine of the
evening!"

Other voices rose in acclamation. The wine had been poured
lavishly. Glasses clinked and we could hear laughter.

Suddenly at the window, back of everyone, appeared the evil,
black-masked figure of Shirley, eyes glittering menacingly from
their slits, two weapons glistening blue in his hands.

At the same moment there was a terrible groan, followed by a
scream of agony. Werner staggered back, his left hand clutched at
his breast. From his right hand the glass which he had drained
fell to the canvas covered floor with an ominous dull crash.

This was not in the script! Practically everybody realized the
fact, for the scene instantly was in an uproar. In the general
consternation no one seemed to know just what to do.

Shirley was the first to act, the first to realize what had
happened. Dropping his weapons, reaching the side of the stricken
director in one leap, he supported him as he reeled drunkenly,
then eased him to the floor. Behind us, before I could look to
Kennedy to see what he would do, there was the gasp of a man out
of breath from hurrying upstairs. I turned, startled. It was
Mackay.

"Shall I make the collar?" he wheezed. At the same instant he saw
the gathering crowd in the set. "What--what's happened?" he
asked.

Kennedy had bounded forward only a few seconds after Shirley. As
I pushed through after him, Mackay following, I discovered him
kneeling at the side of Werner.

"Some one send for a doctor, quick," he commanded, taking charge
of things as a matter of course. "Hurry!" he repeated. "He's
gasping for air and it'll be too late in a minute."

Then he saw us. "Walter--Mackay"--he raised Werner's head--"push
everyone back, please! Give him a chance to breathe!"

A thousand thoughts flashed through my head as politely but
firmly I widened the space about Kennedy and the director. Was
this a case of suicide? Had Werner known we were coming for him?
Had he thought to bring about his own end in the most spectacular
fashion possible? Was this the fancy of a drug-weakened brain?

Suddenly I realized that Werner was trying to speak. One of the
camera men had helped Kennedy lift him to the top of a table,
swept of its dishes and linen, so as to make it easier for him to
breathe.

"Out in Tarrytown," he muttered, weakly, "that night--I
suspected--and--saw--" His voice trailed off into nothingness.
Even the motion of his lips was too feeble to follow.

In an instant I grasped the cruel injustice I had done this man
in my mind. It was now that I remembered, in a flash, Kennedy's
attitude and was glad that Kennedy had not suspected him.

"See!" I faced Mackay, speaking in quick, low tones so the others
could not hear. "I--we--have been totally and absolutely wrong in
suspecting Werner. Instead, it was he who has been playing our
game--trying to confirm his own suspicions. I've been entirely
wrong in my deductions from the discovery of his dope and
needles."

"What do you mean, Jameson?" The district attorney had been taken
completely off his feet by the unexpected developments. His eyes
were rather dazed, his expression baffled. "What do you mean?"

"Why he was out at Tarrytown that night, all right, don't you
see--but--but he was the second man, the man who watched!"

Mackay still seemed unable to comprehend.

"There were two men," I went on, excitedly; covering my own
chagrin in my impatience at the little district attorney. "The
one your deputy struggled with was short, rather than tall, and
very strong. That's Werner! Can't you see it? Haven't you noticed
how stockily and powerfully the director is built?"

"Werner must really have had some clue," murmured Mackay, dazed.

It left me wondering whether the stimulation of the dope might
not have heightened Werner's imagination and urged him on in
following something that our more sluggish minds had never even
dreamed.

Meanwhile I saw that the doctor had arrived and that Kennedy had
helped carry Werner to a dressing room where first aid could be
given more conveniently. Now Kennedy hurried back into the
studio, glancing quickly this way and that, as though to catch
signs of confusion or guilt upon the faces of those about us.

I colored. Instead of making explanations to Mackay, explanations
which could have waited, I might have used what faculties of
observation I possessed to aid Kennedy while he was giving first
consideration to the life of a man. As it was, I didn't know what
had become of any of the various people upon our list of possible
suspects. As far as I was concerned, any or every sign and clue
to the attack upon Werner might have been removed or destroyed.

A sudden hush caused all of us to turn toward the door leading to
the dressing rooms. It was the physician. He raised a hand for
attention. His voice was low, but it carried to every corner of
the studio:

"Mr. Werner is dead," he announced.




XXI

MERLE SHIRLEY OVERACTS


Appalled, I wondered who it was who had, to cover up one crime,
committed another? Who had struck down an innocent man to save a
guilty neck?

Kennedy hurried to the side of the physician and I followed.

"What symptoms did you observe?" asked Kennedy, quickly, seeking
confirmation of his own first impressions.

"His mouth seemed dry and I should say he suffered from a quick
prostration. There seemed to be a complete loss of power to
swallow or speak. The pupils were dilated as though from
paralysis of the eyes. Both pharynx and larynx were affected.
There was respiration paralysis. It seemed also as though the
cranial nerves were partially paralyzed. It was typically a
condition due to some toxic substance which paralyzed and
depressed certain areas of the body."

Kennedy nodded. "That fits in with a theory I have."

I thought quickly, then inquired; "Could it be the snake venom
again?"

"No," Kennedy replied, shaking his head; "there's a difference in
the symptoms and there is no mark on any exposed part of the
body, as near as I could see in a superficial examination."

He turned to the physician. "Could you give me blood smears and
some of the stomach contents, at once? Twice, now, some one has
been stricken down before the very eyes of the actors. This thing
has gone too far to trifle with or delay a moment."

The doctor hurried off toward the dressing room, anxious to help
Kennedy, and as excited, I thought, as any of us. Next Kennedy
faced me.

"Did you watch the people at all, Walter?"

"I--I was too upset by the suddenness of it," I stammered.

All seemed to have suspicion of some one else, and there was a
general constraint, as though even the innocent feared to do or
say something that might look or sound incriminating.

I turned. All were now watching every move we made, though just
yet none ventured to follow us. It was as though they felt that
to do so was like crossing a dead line. I wondered which one of
them might be looking at us with inward trepidation--or perhaps
satisfaction, if there had been any chance to remove anything
incriminating.

Kennedy strode over toward the ill-fated set, Mackay and I at his
heels. As we moved across the floor I noticed that everyone
clustered as close as he dared, afraid, seemingly, of any action
which might hinder the investigation, yet unwilling to miss any
detail of Kennedy's method. In contrast with the clamor and
racket of less than a half hour previously there was now a
deathlike stillness beneath the arched ground-glass roof. The
heat was more oppressive than ever before. In the faces and
expressions of the awed witnesses of death's swift hand there was
horror, and a growing fear. No one spoke, except in whispers.
When anybody moved it was on tiptoe, cautiously. Millard's
creation, "The Black Terror," could have inspired no dread
greater than this.

Of the people we wished to study, Phelps caught our eyes the
first. Dejected, crushed, utterly discouraged, he was slouched
down in a chair just at the edge of the supposed banquet hall. I
had no doubt of the nature of his thoughts. There was probably
only the most perfunctory sympathy for the stricken director.
Without question his mind ran to dollars. The dollar-angle to
this tragedy was that the death of Werner was simply another step
in the wrecking of Manton Pictures. Kennedy, I saw, hardly gave
him a passing glance.

Manton we observed near the door. With the possible exception of
Millard he seemed about the least concerned. The two, scenario
writer and producer, had counterfeited the melodrama of life so
often in their productions that even the second sinister chapter
in this film mystery failed to penetrate their sang-froid.
Inwardly they may have felt as deeply as any of the rest, but
both maintained their outward composure.

On Manton's shoulders was the responsibility for the picture. I
could see that he was nervous, irritable; yet, as various
employees approached for their instructions in this emergency he
never lost his grasp of affairs. In the vibrant quiet of this
studio chamber, still under the shadow of tragedy, we witnessed
as cold-blooded a bit of business generalship as has ever come to
my knowledge. We overheard, because Manton's voice carried across
to us in the stillness.

"Kauf!" The name I remembered as that of the technical, or art,
director under Werner, responsible for the sets of "The Black
Terror."

"Yes, Mr. Manton!" Kauf was a slim, stoop-shouldered man, gray,
and a dynamo of energy in a quiet, subservient way. He ran to
Manton's side.

"Remember once telling me you wanted to become a director, that
you wanted to make pictures for me?"

"Yes, sir!"

"You are familiar with the script of 'The Black Terror,' aren't
you? You know the people and how they work and you have sets
lined up. How would you like to finish the direction?"

"But--but--" To the credit of the little man he dabbed at his
eyes. I guess he had been fond of his immediate superior. "Mr.--
Mr. Werner is d-dead--" he stammered.

"Of course!" Manton's voice rose slightly. "If Werner wasn't dead
I wouldn't need another director at a moment's notice. Some one
has to complete 'The Black Terror.' We have all these people on
salary, and all the studio expense, and the release date's
settled, so that we can't stop. It's your chance, Kauf! Do you
want it?"

"Y-yes, sir!"

"Good! I'll double your salary, including all this week. Now can
you finish this banquet set to-night, while you have the people--s"

"To-night!" Kauf's eyes went wide, then he started to flush.

"Well, to-morrow, then! We simply can't lay off a day, Kauf!"

"All--all right, sir!"

It seemed to me that everyone in the place sensed the horror of
this. Literally, actually, Werner's body could not be cold. Even
the police, the medical examiner, had not had sufficient time to
make the trip out for their investigation. Yet the director's
successor had been appointed and told to hurry the production.

I glanced at Phelps. He raised his head slowly, his expression
lifting at the thought that production was to continue without
interruption. In another moment, however, there was a change in
his face. His eyes sought Manton and hardened. His mouth
tightened. Hate, a deep, unreasoning hate, settled into his
features.

Kennedy, pausing just long enough to observe the promoter's
appointment of Kauf to Werner's position, continued on toward the
set. Now as I looked about I saw that Jack Gordon was missing, as
well as Marilyn Loring. Presumably they had gone to their
dressing rooms. All the other actors and actresses were waiting,
ill at ease, wondering at the outcome of the tragedy.

Suddenly Kennedy stopped and I grasped that it was the peculiar
actions of Merle Shirley which had halted him.

The heavy man was the only one of the company actually in the
fabricated banquet hall itself. Clinging to him still were the
grim flowing robes of the Black Terror. As though he were some
old-fashioned tragedian, he was pacing up and down, hands behind
his back, head bowed, eyes on the floor. More, he was mumbling to
himself. It was evident, however, that it was neither a pose nor
mental aberration. Shirley was searching for something, out in
the open, without attempt at concealment, swearing softly at his
lack of success.

Kennedy pushed forward. "Did you lose something, Mr. Shirley?"

"No!" The heavy man straightened. As he drew himself up in his
sinister garb I thought again of the cheap actors of a day when
moving pictures had yet to pre-empt the field of the lurid
melodrama. It seemed to me that Merle Shirley was overacting,
that it was impossible for him to be so wrought up over the
slaying of a man who, after all, was only his director, certainly
not a close nor an intimate relationship.

"Mr. Kennedy," he stated, ponderously, "there has been a second
death, and at the hand which struck down Stella Lamar in
Tarrytown. Somewhere in this banquet hall interior there is a
clue to the murderer. I have kept a careful watch so that nothing
might be disturbed."

"Do you suspect anyone?" Kennedy asked. Shirley glanced away and
we knew he was lying. "No, not definitely."

"Who has been in the set since I left with the doctor?"

"No one except myself, that is"--Shirley wanted to make it clear--
"no one has had any opportunity to hide or move or take or
change a thing, because I have been right here all the time."

"I see! Thanks, and"--Kennedy seemed genuinely apologetic--"if
you don't mind--I would prefer to make my investigation alone."

Shirley turned on his heel and made for his dressing room.

Meanwhile I had noticed a bit of by-play between Enid Faye and
Lawrence Millard, the only others of our possible suspects about.
Enid first had caught my eye because she seemed to be pleading
with the writer, trying to hold him. I gathered from the look of
disgust on Millard's face that he wanted to get Shirley out of
the set before Kennedy should observe the heavy man's odd
reaction to the tragedy. While I had never seen Millard and
Shirley together, so as to establish in mind the state of their
feelings toward each other, this would seem to indicate that they
were friendly. Certainly Shirley was making a fool of himself.
Enid acted, I guessed, so as to prevent Millard's interference,
probably with the idea that Millard in some fashion might bring
suspicion upon himself. It struck me that Enid had a wholesome
respect for Kennedy.

At any rate, Millard watched the little scene between Kennedy and
Shirley with a quizzical expression. As Shirley left he shrugged
his shoulders, then he gave Enid's cheeks a playful pinch each
and started out after the heavy man in leisurely fashion.

Just about the same moment Kennedy called me to his side.

"Walter," he pleaded, in a low voice, "will you hurry out to the
dressing room where the doctor and I took Werner and get the
blood smears and sample of the stomach contents? I don't want to
leave this, because we must work fast and get all the data we
need before the police arrive. With perhaps a hundred people to
question they'll be apt to make a fine mess of everything. This
is an outlying precinct where we'll draw the amateurs, you know."

I saw that Mackay was helping him and so I left cheerfully,
making my way as fast as I could toward the door through which
both Shirley and Millard had passed.

In the hallway of the building devoted to dressing rooms I found
that I did not know which one contained Werner's body. This
corridor was familiar. Here Kennedy and I had waited for Marilyn
Loring and had witnessed the scene between Shirley and herself.
Now I did not even remember the location of her room.

At last, on a chance, I tried a door softly. From within came
whispered voices of deep intensity. About to close it quickly, I
realized suddenly that I recognized the speakers in spite of the
whispers. It was Marilyn and Shirley. They were together. Now I
recollected the figured chintz which covered the wall and was to
be seen through the crack made by the open door. It was her room.
They had not heard my hand on the knob, nor the catch, did not
know that anyone could eavesdrop.

"You see!" Her tones were the more vibrant "You waited!"

"I had to!"

"No! I advised you to act at once."

"I couldn't! I can't even now!"

"All right!" Her tone became bitter. "Go ahead, your own way. But
you must count the cost. You may lose me again, Merle Shirley."

"How do you mean?"

Her answer, in the faintest of whispers, staggered me.

"If you have the blood of another man on your hands I'm through."




XXII

THE STEM


Though my hands trembled so that I could hardly control them, I
managed to close the door softly and to back away down the hall
without being discovered. My head was spinning and I was dizzy.
With my own ears I had heard Marilyn Loring virtually betray the
guilt of the man she loved and whom therefore she had tried to
shield. "If you have the blood of another man on your hands--"
What more could Kennedy want?

I started to run toward the studio. Then recollection of my
errand stopped me. Kennedy wished the blood smears and stomach
contents and was anxious to get them before the arrival of the
police. At first I thought that all such evidence would be
unnecessary now, after the dialogue I had overheard, but it
struck me as an afterthought that it might be necessary still to
prove Shirley's guilt to the satisfaction of a court and jury,
and so I rushed to the next dressing room and to another, until I
located the doctor and the body of the dead man.

With the little package for Kennedy safely in my pocket I hurried
out again into the sweltering heat beneath the glass of the big
studio, and to the side of Kennedy and Mackay in the banquet-hall
set.

"You have a sample of each article of food now?" he was asking
the district attorney. "You are sure you have missed nothing?"

"As far as possible I took my samples from the table where Werner
sat," Mackay explained. "When the prop. boy gets here with an
empty bottle and cork I'll have a sample of the wine. I think
it's the wine," he added.

Kennedy turned to me. "You've got--"

"In my pocket!" I interrupted. Then, rather breathlessly, I
repeated the conversation I had overheard.

"Good Lord!" Mackay flushed. "There it is! Shirley's the man, and
I'll take him now, quick, without waiting for a warrant."

"See!" I ejaculated, to Kennedy. "He killed Stella because she
made a fool of him and then, when Werner discovered that and
followed him to Tarrytown the other night, it probably put him in
a panic of fear, and so, to keep Werner from talking--"

"Easy, Walter! Not so fast! What you overheard is insufficient
ground for Shirley's conviction, unless you could make him
confess, and I doubt you could make him do that."

"Why?" This was Mackay.

"Because I don't think he's guilty. At least"--Kennedy, as
always, was cautious in his statements, "not so far as anything
we now know would indicate."

"But his anger at Stella," I protested, "and Marilyn's remark--"'

"Miss Lamar's death was the result of a cool, unfeeling plan, not
pique or anger. The same cruel, careful brain executed this
second crime."

Mackay, I saw, was three-quarters convinced by Kennedy. "How do
you account for the dialogue Jameson overheard?" he asked.

"Miss Loring told us that Shirley suspected some one and was
watching, and would not tell her or anyone else who it was. It
seems most likely to me that it is the truth, Mackay. In that
case her remark means that she believes his silence in a way is
responsible for Werner's death."

"Oh! If Shirley had taken you into his confidence, for instance--?"

"I might possibly have succeeded in gaining sufficient evidence
for an arrest, thus averting this tragedy. But it is only a
theory of mine."

I scowled. It seemed to me that Kennedy was minimizing things in
a way unusual for him. I wondered if he really thought the heavy
man innocent.

"It's still my belief that Shirley is guilty," I asserted.

A sound of confusion from the courtyard beneath the heavy studio
windows caught Kennedy's ear and ended the colloquy. From some of
those near enough to look out we received the explanation. The
police had arrived, fully three-quarters of an hour after
Werner's death.

"I'll get the little bottle of wine, sure," Mackay murmured,
picking up the food samples he had wrapped and crowding the bulky
package into a pocket.

"I don't see why that would have been any easier to poison than
the food," was my objection. "Everyone was looking."

"Very simple. The food was brought in quite late. Besides, it was
dished out by the caterer before the eyes of forty or fifty
people or more and there was no telling which plate would go to
Werner's place. The drinks were poured last of all. I remember
seeing the bubbles rise and wondering whether they would register
at the distance."

Kennedy did not look at me. "Did it ever occur to you," he went
on, casually, "that the glasses were all set out empty at the
various places long before, and that there might easily have been
a few drops of something, if it were colorless, placed in the
bottom of Werner's glass, with scarcely a chance of its being
discovered, especially by a man who had so much on his mind at
the time as Werner had? He must have indicated where he would sit
when he arranged the camera stands and the location of the
tables."

I had not thought of that.

Kennedy frowned. "If only I could have located more of that
broken glass!" As he faced me I could read his disappointment.
"Walter, I've made a most careful search of his chair and the
table and everything about the space where he dropped. The poison
must have been in the wine, but there's not a tiny sliver of that
glass left, nothing but a thousand bits ground into the canvas,
too small to hold even a drop of the liquid. Just think, a dried
stain of the wine, no matter how tiny, might have served me in a
chemical analysis."

Very suddenly there was a low exclamation from Mackay. "Look!
Quick! Some one must have kicked it way over here!"

Fully twenty feet from Werner's place in the glare of the lights
was the hollow stem of a champagne glass, its base intact save
for a narrow segment. In the stem still were a couple of drops of
the wine, as if in a bulb or tube.

"Can it be the director's glass?" Mackay asked, handing it to
Kennedy.

Kennedy slipped it into his pocket, fussing with his handkerchief
so that the precious contents would not drip out. "I think so. I
doubt whether any other glass was broken. Verify it quickly."

The police were entering now with Manton. Following them was the
physician. Mackay and I ascertained readily that no other glass
had been shattered, while Kennedy searched the floor for possible
signs that the stem was part of a glass broken where we had found
it. Unquestionably we had a sample of the actual wine quaffed by
the unfortunate Werner. Elated we strolled to a corner so as to
give the police full charge.

"They'll waste time questioning everyone," Kennedy remarked. "I
have the real evidence." He tapped his pocket.

The few moments that he had had to himself had been ample for him
to obtain such evidence as was destroyed in so many cases by the
time he was called upon the scene.

A point occurred to me. "You don't think the poison was planted
later during the excitement?"

"Hardly! Our criminal is too clever to take a long chance. In
such a case we would know it was some one near Werner and also
there would be too many people watching. Foolhardiness is not
boldness."

I took to observing the methods of the police, which were highly
efficient, but only in the minuteness of the examination of
witnesses and in the care with which they recorded names and
facts and made sure that no one had slipped away to avoid the
notoriety.

The actors and actresses who had stood rather in awe of Kennedy,
both here and in Kennedy's investigation at Tarrytown, developed
nimble tongues in their answers to the city detectives. The
result was a perfect maze of conflicting versions of Werner's cry
and fall. In fact, one scene shifter insisted that Shirley, as
the Black Terror, had reached Werner's side and had struck him
before the cry, while an extra girl with a faint lisp described
with sobering accuracy the flight of a mysterious missile through
the air. I realized then why Kennedy had made no effort to
question them. Under the excitement of the scene, the glamour of
the lights, the sense of illusion, and the stifling heat, it
would have been strange for any of the people to have retained
correct impressions of the event.

The police sergeant knew Kennedy by reputation and approached him
after a visit to the dead man's body with the doctor. His glance,
including Mackay and myself, was frankly triumphant.

"Well," he exclaimed, "I don't suppose it occurred to any of you
SCIENTIFIC guys to search the fellow, now did it?"

Kennedy smiled, in good humor. "Searching a man isn't always the
scientific method. You won't find the word 'frisk' in any
scientific dictionary."

"No?" The police officer's eyes twinkled. There was enough of the
Irish in him to enjoy an encounter of this kind. "Maybe not, but
you might find things in a chap's pocket which is better." With a
flourish he produced a hypodermic syringe, the duplicate of the
one I had appropriated, and a tiny bottle. "The man's a dope," he
added.

"I knew that," replied Kennedy. "I examined his arm, where he
usually took his shots, and found no fresh mark of the needle."

"That doesn't prove anything. Wait until the medical examiner
gets here. He'll find the fellow's heart all shot full of hop, or
something. I guess it isn't so complicated, after all. He was a
hop fiend, all right."

"Still, there's nothing to indicate that he was a suicide."

"Not suicide; accident-overdose," was the sergeant's reply.

"How could he have died from an overdose of the drug, when he
hasn't taken any recently?"

"Well"--unabashed--"then he croaked because he hadn't had a shot--
the same thing. Heart failure, either way. Excited, and all, you
know, making the scene. Maybe he forgot to use the needle at
that."

"Perhaps you're right." Kennedy shrugged calmly. What was the use
of disputing the matter?

I started to protest against the detective's hypothesis. The idea
of any drug addict ever forgetting to take his stimulant was too
preposterous. But Kennedy checked me. All were now keenly
listening to the argument. Better, perhaps, to let some one think
that nothing was suspected than to disclose the cards in Craig's
hand. I saw that he wished to get away and had not spoken
seriously. He turned to Mackay.

"Walter and I will have to hurry to the laboratory. Would you
like to come along?"

"You bet I would!" The district attorney showed his delight. "I
was just going to ask if I might do so. There's nothing for me in
Tarrytown to-day and this is out of my jurisdiction."

As we turned away the police sergeant saw us and called across
the floor, not quite concealing a touch of professional jealousy.

"The three of you were here at the time, weren't you?"

"No," Kennedy answered. "Mr. Jameson and myself."

"Well, you two, then! You're witnesses and I'll ask you to hold
yourself in readiness to appear at the hearing."

I thought that the policeman was particularly delighted at his
position to issue orders to Kennedy, and I was angered. Again
Craig held me in check!

"We'll be glad to tell anything we know," he replied, then added
a little fling, a bit of sarcasm which almost went over the
other's head. "That is," he amended, "as eye-witnesses!"




XXIII

BOTULIN TOXIN


Mackay drove us to the laboratory in his little car and it was
dark and we were dinnerless when we arrived. Knowing Kennedy's
habits, I sent out for sandwiches and started in to make strong
coffee upon an electric percolator. The aroma tingled in my
nostrils, reminding me that I was genuinely hungry. The district
attorney, too, seemed more or less similarly disposed.

As for Kennedy, he was interested in nothing but the problem
before him. He had been strangely quiet on the way, growing more
and more impatient and nervous, as though the element of time had
entered into the case, as though haste were suddenly imperative.
Once the lights were on in the laboratory he hurried about his
various preparations. The food samples he laid out, but he gave
them no attention. The blood smears and stomach contents he put
aside for future reference. His attack was upon the drop or two
of liquid adhering to the stem of the broken champagne glass.

The entire chemical procedure seemed to be incomprehensible to
Mackay and he was fascinated, so that he had considerable trouble
at times keeping out of the way of Kennedy's elbow. Kennedy first
washed the stem out carefully with a few drops of distilled
water, then he studied the resulting solution. One after another
he tried the things that occurred to him, making tests wholly
unproductive of results. Slowly the laboratory table became
littered completely with chemicals and apparatus of all sorts, a
veritable arsenal of glass.

The sandwiches arrived, but Kennedy refused to drop his
investigation for a moment. I did succeed in making him take a
cup of strong coffee, and that was all. Over in a corner Mackay
and I did full justice to the food, finishing the hot and welcome
coffee and then refilling the percolator and starting it on the
making of a second brew. The hours lengthened, and when Mackay
grew tired of watching with intense admiration he joined me in
the patient consumption of innumerable cigarettes.

Kennedy was filled with the joy of discovery. I noticed that he
did not stop even for the solace of tobacco. It seemed to me that
at times his nostrils dilated exactly like those of a hound on
the scent. Finally he held up a test tube and turned to us.

"What is it?" I asked. "Some other poison as rare and little
known as the snake venom?"

"No--something much more curious. In the stem of the glass I find
the toxin of the Bacillus botulinus."

"Germs?" Mackay inquired.

Kennedy shook his head. "Not germs, but the pure toxin, the
poison secreted by this bacillus."

"What does it do?" was my question.

"Well," thoughtfully, "botulism may be ranked easily among the
most serious diseases known to medical science. It is hard to
understand why it is not a great deal more common. It is one of
the most dangerous kinds of food poisoning."

"Then the apple juice they used for the wine was bad, spoiled?"

"No, not that. Werner was the only one stricken. Somebody put the
pure toxin in his glass. It was, as I suspected, deliberate
murder, as in the case of Miss Lamar. Bacillus botulinus produces
a toxin that is extremely virulent. Hardly more than a ten-
thousandth of a cubic centimeter would kill a guinea pig. This
was botulin itself, the pure toxin, an alkaloid just like that
which is formed in meat and other food products in cases of
botulism. The idea might also have been to make the death seem
natural--due solely to bad food."

"Do you suppose it was used because it was quick and was
colorless, so as not to be noticed in the glass?" I hazarded.

Kennedy paced up and down the laboratory several times in
thought. "To me, Walter, this is another indication of the
satanic cleverness of the unknown criminal in the case. First
Miss Lamar is to be killed. For that purpose something was
sought, probably, which could not be traced easily to the
perpetrator. In snake venom an agent was employed which may be
said to be almost ideal for the grim business of murder. It is
extremely difficult to identify in its results, it is
comparatively unknown, yet it is swift in action and to be
obtained with fair ease.

"Differing from most poisons, it may be inflicted through a prick
so slight as to be almost unnoticed by the victim. The scheme of
fixing the needle in the curtain was so simple and yet so
effective that the guilty person need never have feared its
discovery under ordinary circumstances, or its association with
the girl's death, if some one stumbled upon it accidentally. The
idea of returning for the death-dealing point was only one of the
many details of a precautionary measure upon which we have
stumbled. Had I found it the next morning I would have been
unable, in all probability, to identify it as belonging to or as
obtained by any of our suspects.

"You must realize, Walter, that with all the scientific aids I
have been able to bring to bear we possess almost no direct
evidence. There are no fingerprints, no cigarette stubs, no array
of personal, intimate clues of any sort to this criminal. These
are the threads which lead the detective to his quarry in fiction
and on the stage. Here we lack even the faintest description of
the man, or woman if that is her sex. It is murder from a
distance, planned with almost meticulous care, executed coolly
and without feeling or scruple.

"After the death of Miss Lamar I was not so sure but that the
selection of the snake venom was simply the inspiration of a
perverted brain, the evolution of the detailed method of killing
her--an outgrowth of someone's familiarity with studio life in
general, with the script of 'The Black Terror' in particular. Now
I realize that we are face to face with the studied handiwork of
a skilled criminal. These two deaths may be his--or her--first
departure into the realm of crime. But potentially we have a
super-villain.

"I make that statement because of the manner of Werner's demise.
It is evident that the director stumbled on a clue to the
murderer. If my first hypothesis had been correct, if the use of
snake venom and the unlucky thirteenth scene had been largely a
matter of blind chance in the selection of poison and method,
then we might have expected Werner to be struck down in some dark
street, or perhaps decoyed to his death--at the best, inoculated
with the same crotalin which had killed Miss Lamar.

"But let us analyze the method used in slaying the director. If
he had been blackjacked there would be the clue of the weapon,
always likely to turn up, the chance of witnesses, and also the
likelihood in an extreme case that Werner might not die at once,
but might talk and give a description of his assailant, or even
survive. Much the same objections--from the criminal's
standpoint--obtain in nearly all the accepted modes of killing a
man. Even the use of venom a second time possesses the
disadvantage of a certain alertness against the very thing on the
part of the victim. Werner was a dope fiend, fully aware of the
potency of a tiny skin puncture. I'll wager he was on constant
guard against any sort of scratch.

"On the other hand, the few drops of toxin in the glass possessed
every advantage from the unknown's standpoint. It was invisible,
and as sure in its action as the venom. Also it was as rare and
as difficult to trace. For, remember this. Botulism is food
poisoning. If I had not found the stem of that glass it would be
absolutely impossible to show that Werner died from anything on
earth but bad food. That is why I do not even take time to
analyze the stomach contents. That is why I say we are confronted
by an archscoundrel of highest intelligence and downright
cleverness. More"--Kennedy paused for emphasis--"I realize now
the presence of a grim, invisible menace. It has just now been
driven home to me. The botulin, with its deadly paralyzing power,
sealed Werner's tongue even while he tried to tell me what he
knew."

Mackay was tremendously impressed by Kennedy's explanation. "Does
this mean," he asked, "that the guilty man or woman is some
outsider? Those we have figured as possible suspects would hardly
have this detailed knowledge of poisons."

"There are two possibilities," Kennedy answered. "The real person
behind the two murders may have employed some one else to carry
out the actual killing, a hypothesis I do not take seriously,
or"--again he paused--"this may be a case of some one with
intelligence starting out upon his career of crime intelligently
by reading up on his subject. It is as simple to learn how to use
crotalin or botulin toxin or any number of hundreds of deadly
substances as it is to obtain the majority of them. In fact, if
people generally understood the ease with which whole communities
could be wiped out, and grasped that it could be done so as to
leave virtually no clue to the author of the horror, they might
not sleep as soundly at night as they do. The saving grace is
that the average criminal is often clever, but almost never truly
scientific. Unfortunately, we have to combat one who possesses
the latter quality to a high degree."

"What is the invisible menace of which you spoke, Craig?" I
inquired.

"The possibility of another murder before we can apprehend the
guilty person or gain the evidence we need."

"Good heavens!" I imagine I blanched. "You mean--"

"Werner was struck down, apparently, for no reason but that he
had guessed the identity of the villain. There is a second man in
the company who has certain suspicions and is acting upon them.
If he is on the right trail, by any chance--" Kennedy shrugged
his shoulders soberly.

"Shirley?"

"Exactly! And there is still another possibility."

"What is that?"

"Here in this laboratory I have blood spots made on the portieres
at the house of Phelps by the man who removed the needle,
probably the unknown himself, possibly his--or her--agent. In any
case it is a clue and--THE ONLY DIRECT AND INFALLIBLE CLUE IN
EXISTENCE TO THE CRIMINAL! Also I have the evidence of the snake
venom and of the botulin toxin here. Sooner or later the person
who killed Werner because he suspected things will wake up to the
fact that we possess tangible proof against him."

I grew pale. "You mean, then, that you may be attacked yourself?
That even I--"

Kennedy smiled, unafraid. But from the expression in his eyes I
knew that he took the thought of our possible danger very
seriously.




XXIV

THE INVISIBLE MENACE


Mackay and I exchanged glances. Kennedy busied himself putting
away some of the more important bits of evidence in the case,
placing the tiny tubes of solution, the blood smears, and other
items together in a cabinet at the farther corner of the
laboratory. The vast bulk of his paraphernalia, the array of
glass and chemicals and instruments, he left on the table for the
morning. Then he faced us again, with a smile.

"Suppose you start up the percolator once more, Walter!" He took
a cigar and lighted it from the match I struck. "I believe I've
earned another cup of coffee," he added.

Mackay had been fidgeting considerably since Kennedy's
explanation of the possible danger to Shirley, as well as to
ourselves or even to others.

"Isn't there something we can do, Kennedy?" he exclaimed,
suddenly. "Is it necessary to sit back and wait for this unknown
to strike again?"

"Ordinarily," Kennedy replied, "on a case like this it has been
my custom to permit the guilty parties to betray themselves, as
they will do inevitably--especially when I call to my aid the
recent discoveries of science for the detection and measurement
of fine and almost imperceptible shades of emotion. But now that
I realize the presence of this menace I shall become a detective
of action; in fact, I shall not stop at any course to hurry
matters. The very first thing in the morning I shall go to the
studio and I want you and Jameson along. I"--his eyes twinkled;
it was the excitement at the prospect--"I may need considerable
help in getting the evidence I wish."

"Which is--?" It was I who interposed the question.

Kennedy blew a cloud of smoke. "There are three ways of tracing
down a crime, aside from the police method of stool pigeons to
betray the criminals and the detective bureau method of cross-
examination under pressure, popularly known as the third degree."

"What are they?" Mackay asked, unaware that Kennedy needed little
prompting once he felt inclined to talk out some matter puzzling
him.

"One is the process of reasoning from the possible suspects to
the act itself--in other words, putting the emphasis on the
motive. A second is the reverse of the first, involving a study
of the crime for clues and making deductions from the inevitable
earmarks of the person for the purpose of discovering his
identity. The third method, except for some investigations across
the water, is distinctly my own, the scientific.

"In all sciences," Kennedy went on, warming to his subject,
"progress is made by a careful tabulation of proved facts. The
scientific method is the method of exact knowledge. Thus, in
crime, those things are of value to us which by an infinite
series of empiric observations have been established and have
become incontrovertible. The familiar example, of course, is
fingerprints. Nearly everyone knows that no two men have the same
markings; that the same man displays a pattern which is
unchanging from birth to the grave.

"No less certain is the fact that human blood differs from the
blood of animals, that in faint variations the blood of no two
people is alike, that the blood of any living thing, man or
beast, is affected by various things--an infinite number almost--
most of which are positively known to modern medical
investigators.

"In this case my principal scientific clue is the blood left upon
the portiere by the man who took the needle the night following
the murder. Next in importance is the fact, demonstrated by me,
that some one at the studio wiped a hypodermic on a towel after
inoculating himself with antivenin. Of course I am presuming that
this latter man inoculated himself and not some one else, because
it is obvious. If necessary I can prove it later, however, by
analyzing the trace of blood. That is not the point. The point is
that whoever removed the needle pricked himself and yet did not
die of the venom--unless it was a person not under our
observation, an unlikely premise. Therefore, because of this last
fact, and because again it is obvious, I expect to find that the
same individual inoculated himself with antivenin and removed the
needle from the portiere; and I expect to prove it beyond
possibility of doubt by an analysis of his blood. A sample of the
blood from this person will be identical with the spot on the
portiere, and--much the easier test--will contain traces of the
antitoxin.

"With that much accomplished, a little of the, well--third
degree, will bring about a confession. It is circumstantial
evidence of the strongest sort. Not only does a man take
precautions against a given poison, but he is proved to be the
one who removed the needle actually responsible for Miss Lamar's
death.

"My handicap, however, is that I have no justifiable excuse for
taking a sample of blood from each of the people we suspect, or
feel we might suspect. For that reason I was waiting until one of
the other detective methods should narrow the field of suspicion.
Now that there is the menace of another attempt to take a life I
am forced to act. To-morrow we will get samples of blood from
everyone by artifice--or force!

"Meanwhile--" He hastened to continue, as though afraid we might
interrupt to break his train of thought. "Meanwhile, to-night,
let us see if it is possible to accomplish something by the
deductive method.

"Already I have gone into an analysis starting from the nature of
the crime and reasoning to the type of criminal responsible. The
guilty man--or woman--is a person of high intelligence, added to
genuine cleverness. But for the results accomplished in this
laboratory we would be without a clue; our hands would be tied
completely. Both Miss Lamar and Werner were killed by unusual
poisons; deadly, and almost impossible to trace. There was a
crowd of people about in each case; yet we have no witnesses. Now
who, out of all our people with possible motives, are intelligent
enough and clever enough to be guilty?"

Kennedy glanced first at me, then at Mackay.

"Manton? Phelps?" suggested the district attorney.

"The promoter," Kennedy rejoined, "is the typical man of the
business world beneath the eccentricity of manner which seems to
cling to everyone in the picture field. Ordinarily his type,
thinking in millions of dollars and juggling nickel and dime
admissions or other routine of commercial detail is apart from
the finer subtle passions of life. When a business man commits
murder he generally uses a pistol because he is sure it is
efficient--he can see it work. The same applies to Phelps."

"Millard?" Mackay hesitated now to face the logic of Kennedy's
keen mind. "He was Stella Lamar's husband!"

"Millard is a scenario writer and so apt to have a brain
cluttered with all sorts of detail of crime and murder. At the
same time an author is so used to counterfeiting emotion in his
writings that he seldom takes things seriously. Life becomes a
joke and Millard in particular is a butterfly, concerned more
with the smiles of extra girls and the favor of Miss Faye than
the fate of the woman whose divorce from him was not yet
complete. A writer is the other extreme from the business man.
The creator of stories is essentially inefficient because he
tries to feel rather than reason. When an author commits murder
he sets a stage for his own benefit. He is careful to avoid
witnesses because they are inconvenient to dispose of. At the
same time he wants the victim to understand thoroughly what is
going to happen and so he is apt to accompany his crime with a
speech worded very carefully indeed. Then he may start with an
attempt to throttle a person and end up with a hatchet, or he may
plan to use a razor and at the end brain his quarry with a chair.
He lives too many lives to follow one through clearly--his own."

"How about Shirley?" I put in.

"At first glance Shirley and Gordon suggest themselves because
both murders were highly spectacular, and the actor, above
everything else, enjoys a big scene. After Werner's death, for
instance, Shirley literally strutted up and down in that set. He
was so full of the situation, so carried away by the drama of the
occasion, that he failed utterly to realize how suspicious his
conduct would seem to an observer. Unfortunately for our
hypotheses, the use of venom and toxin is too cold-bloodedly
efficient. The theatrical temperament must have emotion. An actor
cruel and vicious enough to strike down two people as Miss Lamar
and Werner were stricken, of sufficient dramatic make-up to
conceive of the manner of their deaths, would want to see them
writhe and suffer. He would select poisons equally rare and
effective, but those more slow and painful in their operation.
No, Walter, Shirley is not indicated by this method of reasoning.
The arrangement of the scenes for the murders was simply another
detail of efficiency, not due to a wish to be spectacular. The
crowd about in each case has added greatly to the difficulty of
investigation."

"Do you include Gordon in that?" Mackay asked.

"Yes, and in addition"--Kennedy smiled slightly--"I believe that
Gordon is rather stupid. For one thing, he has had several fights
in public, at the Goats Club and at the Midnight Fads and I
suppose elsewhere. That is not the clever rogue. Furthermore, he
had been speculating, not just now and then, but desperately,
doggedly. Clever men speculate, but scientific men never. Our
unknown criminal is both clever and intelligent."

"That brings you to the girls, then," Mackay remarked.

Kennedy's face clouded and I could see that he was troubled. "To
be honest in this one particular method of deduction," he stated,
"I must admit that both Miss Faye and Miss Loring are worthy of
suspicion. The fact of their rise in the film world, the
evidences of their popularity, is proof that they are clever.
Miss Loring, in my few brief moments of contact with her on two
occasions, showed a grasp of things and a quickness which
indicate to me that she possesses a rare order of intelligence
for a woman. As for Miss Faye"--again he hesitated--"one little
act of hers demonstrated intelligence. When Shirley was standing
guard in the set after Werner's death, and making a fool of
himself, Millard evidently wanted to get over and speak to him,
perhaps to tell him not to let me find him searching the scene as
though his life depended upon it, perhaps something else. But
Miss Faye stopped him. Unquestionably she saw that anyone taking
an interest in the remains of the banquet just then would become
an object of suspicion."

"Do you really suspect Marilyn or Enid?" I inquired.

"If this were half a generation ago I would say without
hesitation that the crime was the handiwork of a man. But now the
women are in everything. Young girls particularly--" He shrugged
his shoulders.

Mackay had one more suggestion. "The camera men, the extras, the
technical and studio staffs--they are not worthy of
consideration, are they?"

Kennedy shook his head.

The odor of coffee struck my nostrils and I turned to find the
percolator steaming. Kennedy leaned over, to take a whiff. Mackay
rose. At that moment there was a sudden crash and the window-pane
was shattered. Simultaneously a flash of light and a deafening
explosion took place in the room, scattering broadcast tiny bits
of glass from the laboratory table, splashing chemicals, many of
them dangerous, over everything.

Kennedy hurried to the wreck of his paraphernalia. In an instant
he held up a tiny bit of jagged metal.

"An explosive bullet!" he exclaimed. "An attempt to destroy my
evidence!"




XXV

ITCHING SALVE


For once I rose with Kennedy. He preceded me to the laboratory
after breakfast, however, leaving me to wait for Mackay. When the
little district attorney arrived I noticed that he carried a
package which looked as though it might contain a one-reel film
can.

"The negative we took from the cameras at Tarrytown," he
explained. "Also a print from each roll, ready to run. I've been
holding this as evidence. Mr. Kennedy wanted me to bring it with
me to-day."

"He's waiting for us at the laboratory," I remarked.

"He'll straighten everything up in a hurry, won't he?"

"Kennedy's the most high-handed individual I ever knew," I
laughed, "if he sees a chance of getting his man." Then I became
enthusiastic. "Often I've seen him gather a group of people in a
room, perhaps without the faintest shred of legal right to do so,
and there make the guilty person confess simply by marshaling the
evidence, or maybe betray himself by some scientific device. It's
wonderful, Mackay."

"Do you think he plans something of that kind this morning?"

I led the way to the door. "After what happened last night I know
that Kennedy will resort to almost anything."

The district attorney fingered the package under his arm. "He
might get everyone in the projection room then, and make them
watch the actual photographic record of Stella's death--the scene
where she scratched herself--"

"Let's hurry!" I interrupted.

When we entered the laboratory we found Kennedy vigorously
fanning a towel which he had hung up to dry. I recognized it as
the one I had discovered in the studio washroom immediately
following the first murder.

"This will serve me better as bait than as evidence," he laughed.
"I have impregnated it with a colorless chemical which will cling
to the fibers and enable me to identify the most infinitesimal
trace of it. We shall get up to the studio and start, well--I
guess you could call it fishing for the guilty man." He fingered
the folds, then jerked the towel down and flung it to me. "Here,
Walter! It's dry enough. Now I want you to rub the contents of
that tiny can of grease, open before you there, into the cloth."

He hurried over to wash his hands. I spread the towel out on the
table and began to work in the stuff indicated by Kennedy. There
was no odor and it seemed like some patent ointment in color. At
first I was puzzled. Then, absently, I touched the back of one
hand with the greasy fingers of the other and immediately an
itching set up so annoying that I had to abandon my task.

Kennedy chuckled. "That's itching salve, Walter. The cuticle pads
at your finger tips are too thick, but touch yourself anywhere
else!--" He shrugged his shoulders. "You'd better use soap and
water if you want any relief. Then you can start over again."

At the basin I thought I grasped his little plot.

"You're going to plant the towel," I asked, "so that the
interested party will try to get hold of it?"

Evidently he thought it unnecessary to reply to me.

"Why couldn't you just put it somewhere without all the
preparation," Mackay suggested, "and watch to see who came after
it?"

"Because our criminal's too clever," Kennedy rejoined. "Our only
chance to get it stolen is to make it very plain that it is not
being watched. Whoever steals it, however, possibly will reveal
himself on account of the itching salve. In any case I expect to
be able to trace the towel to the thief, no matter what efforts
are made to destroy it."

The towel was wrapped in a heavy bit of paper; then placed with a
microscope and some other paraphernalia in a small battered
traveling bag. Climbing into Mackay's little roadster, we soon
were speeding toward the studio.

"Will you be able to help me, to stay with Jameson and myself all
day?" Kennedy asked the district attorney, after perhaps a mile
of silence.

"Surely! It's what I was hoping you'd allow me to do. I have no
authority down here, though."

"I understand. But the police, or an outsider, might allow some
of my plans to become known." He paused a moment in thought. "The
film you brought in with you consists of the scenes on the rolls
of negative in use at the time of Miss Lamar's collapse. It may
or may not include the action where she scratched herself. Now I
want the scenes up to thirteen put together in proper order,
first as photographed by one camera, then as caught by the other.
I'll arrange for the services of a cutter, and for the delivery
to me of any other negative or positive overlooked by us when we
had the two boxes sealed and given into your custody at
Tarrytown. Will you superintend the assembly of the scenes, so
that you can be sure nothing is taken out or omitted?"

"Of course! I want to do anything I can."

Upon arrival at the studio we detected this time all the signs of
a complete demoralization. The death of Werner, the fact that he
had been stricken down during the taking of a scene and on the
very stage, had served to bring the tragedy home to the people.
More, it was a second murder in four days, apparently by the same
hand as the first. A sense of dread, a nameless, intangible fear,
had taken form and found its way under the big blackened glass
roofs and around and through the corridors, into the dressing
rooms, and back even to the manufacturing and purely technical
departments. The gateman eyed us with undisguised uneasiness as
we drove through the archway into the yard. In that inclosure
there were only two cars--Manton's, and one we later learned
belonged to Phelps. The sole human being to enter our range of
vision was an office boy. He skirted the side of the building as
though the menace of death were in the air, or likely to strike
out of the very heavens without warning.

We found Kauf in the large studio, obviously unhappy in the shoes
of the unfortunate Werner. Probably from half-reasoned-out
motives of efficiency in psychology the new director had made no
attempt to resume work at once in the ill-fated banquet set, but
had turned to the companion ballroom setting, since both had been
prepared and made ready at the same time.

Kennedy explained our presence so early in the morning very
neatly, I thought.

"I would appreciate it," he began, "if you could place a cutter
at the disposal of Mr. Mackay. He has the scenes taken from the
camera and sealed at the time of Miss Lamar's death. I would like
to have any other film taken out there delivered to him and the
whole joined in proper sequence. Then, Mr. Kauf, if you could
arrange to have the same cutter take the film exposed yesterday
when Mr. Werner--"

"You think you might be able to see something, to discover
something on the screen?"

"Exactly!"

Kauf beamed. "Mr. Manton gave me orders to assist you in every
way I could, or to put any of my people at your disposal. More
than that, Mr. Kennedy, he anticipated you. He thought you might
want to look at the scenes taken yesterday and he rushed the
laboratory and the printing room. We'll be able to fix you up
very quickly."

"Good!" Kennedy nodded to Mackay and the district attorney
hurried off with Kauf. "Now, Walter!" he exclaimed, sobering.

I picked up the traveling bag and together we strolled toward the
ballroom set. There most of the players were gathered already--in
make-up and evening clothes of a fancier sort even than those
demanded for the banquet. I saw that Kennedy singled out Marilyn.

"Good morning," she said, cheerfully, but with effort. It was
obvious she had spent a nervous night. There were circles under
her eyes ill concealed by the small quantity of cosmetic she
used. Her hands, shifting constantly, displayed the loss of her
usual poise. "You are out bright and early," she added.

"We've stumbled into a very important clue," Kennedy told her,
with a show of giving her his confidence. "In that bag in
Walter's hand is one of the studio towels. It contains a hint of
the poison used to kill Miss Lamar and--of utmost consequence--it
has provided me with an infallible clue to the identity of the
murderer himself--or herself."

It seemed to me that Marilyn blanched. "Where--where did you find
it?" she demanded, in a very awed voice.

"In one of the studio washrooms."

"It has been--it has been in the washroom ever since poor
Stella's death?"

"No, not that! Jameson discovered it the same day but"--the very
slight pause was perceptible to me; Kennedy hated to lie--"I
haven't realized its importance until just this morning."

Enid Faye, seeing us from a distance, conquered her dislike of
Marilyn sufficiently to join us. She was very erect and tense.
Her eyes, wide and sober and searching, traveled from my face to
Kennedy's and back. Then she dissembled, softening as she came
close to me, laying a hand on my shoulder and allowing her skirt
to brush my trousers.

"Tell me, Jamie," she whispered, her warm breath thrilling me
through and through. "Has the wonderful Craig Kennedy discovered
something?" It was not sarcasm, but assumed playfulness, masking
a throbbing curiosity.

"I found a towel in one of the studio washrooms," I answered,
"and Craig has demonstrated that it is a clue to the poison which
killed Stella Lamar as well as to the person who did it."

Enid gasped. Then she drew herself up and her eyes narrowed. Now
she faced Kennedy.

"How can the towel be a clue to the crime?" she protested.
"Stella was--was murdered way out in Tarrytown! Mr. Jameson found
the towel here!"

Kennedy shrugged his shoulders. "I cannot tell you that--just
yet." He paused deliberately. "You see," he lied. "I have yet to
make my analysis."

"But you know it's a clue to the--"

"That towel"--he raised his voice, as though in elation--"that
towel will lead me to the murderer--infallibly!"

Merle Shirley had come up in time to hear most of the colloquy
between Enid and Kennedy. At the last he flushed, clenching his
fists.

"If you can prove who the murderer is, Mr. Kennedy," he exploded,
"why don't you apprehend him before some one else meets the fate
of Werner?"

"I can do nothing until I return to my laboratory this afternoon.
I will not know the identity of the guilty person until I
complete a chemical analysis."

One by one the various people possibly concerned in the two
crimes joined the group. This morning all the faces were serious;
most of them showed the marks of sleeplessness following the
second murder. Kennedy walked away, but I saw that Jack Gordon
hastened to question both the girls, ignoring their evident
dislike for him. Among the others I recognized Watkins, the
camera man, and his associate. Lawrence Millard came in and
hastened to the side of Enid. As he drew her away to ask the
cause of the gathering I wondered at his early presence. The
scenario writer was typical of them all. The strange and unusual
nature of the crimes, the evident relationship between them, had
drawn the employees of Manton Pictures to the studio as a crowd
of baseball fans collects before a public bulletin board. Not one
of them but was afraid of missing some development in the case.
In no instance could the interest of a particular individual be
taken as an indication of guilt.

Phelps entered the studio from the door to the dressing rooms.
Disdaining to join the other group, he approached us to ask the
cause for the excitement. Kennedy explained, patiently, and I saw
that Phelps looked at the black bag uneasily.

"I hope the guilty party is not a member of the company," he
muttered.

"Why?" Kennedy's mouth tightened.

The financier grew red. "Because this picture has been crippled
enough. First a new star; now a new director--if it wasn't so
preposterous I'd believe that it was all part of a deliberate--"
He stopped as if realizing suddenly the inadvisability of vague
accusations.

"Don't you want justice done?" Kennedy inquired.

"Of course!" Phelps tugged at his collar uncomfortably. "Of
course, Mr. Kennedy." Then he turned and hurried away, out of the
studio.

Gordon and Millard detached themselves from the others, coming
over.

"In which washroom was the towel found, Mr. Kennedy?" Gordon put
the question as though he felt himself specially delegated to
obtain this information.

I wondered how Kennedy would evade a direct answer. To my
surprise he made no attempt at concealment.

"The one on the second floor of the office building."

Millard laughed, facing Gordon. "That puts it on myself--or the
big boss!"

It struck me that the leading man was uneasy as he hurried back
to the others. Millard, still smiling, turned to say something to
us, but we were joined by Manton, entering from the other end of
the big inclosure.

"Good morning," the promoter exclaimed, somewhat breathless. "I
just learned you were here. Is--is there some new development. Is
there something I can do?"

"I see you are not allowing anything to interfere with the making
of the picture," Kennedy remarked. "All the people seem to be
here bright and early."

A shadow crept into Manton's face. "It seems almost as cold-
blooded as--as war," he admitted. "But I can't help myself, Mr.
Kennedy. The company has no money and if we don't meet this
release we're busted." All at once he lowered his voice eagerly.
"Tell me, have you discovered something? Is there some clue to
the guilty man?"

"He's found a towel," Millard put in, an expression of half
amusement on his face as he faced the promoter. "In some way it's
a clue to the identity of the murderer, an infallible clue, he
says. He found it in the washroom by our offices. Since Werner is
dead, that points the finger of suspicion at you or me."

Manton's jaw dropped. His expression became almost ludicrous, as
if the thought that he could possibly be suspected himself was
new to him. Millard's eyes sobered a bit at his superior's
confusion.

"There's a door from the dressing rooms," Kennedy suggested. "Any
of the actors or actresses could have used the place."

"Of course!" Manton grasped at the straw. "I had forgotten. There
have been complaints to me about the players using that room."

"I have the towel with me, wrapped up in a paper in this grip,"
Kennedy went on. "It's so very valuable as a bit of evidence--I
wonder if I could borrow a locker so as to keep it under lock and
key until we're ready to return to the laboratory?"

"Sure! Of course!" Manton glanced about and saw the little knot
of people still gathered in the set. "Millard! Go over and tell
Kauf to get busy. He's losing time." Then he turned to us again.
"Come on, Mr. Kennedy, we have some steel lockers out by the
property room."

As we started across the floor I could see that Kennedy was
framing a question with great care.

"Do you ever use snakes in films, Mr. Manton?" he asked.

"Why, no!" The promoter stopped in his surprise. "That is, not if
we ever can help it. The censorship won't pass anything with
snakes."

"You have used them, though?"

"Yes. Once we made a short-length special subject, nothing but
snakes." Manton became enthusiastic. "It was a wonder, too; a pet
film of mine. We made it with the direct co-operation and
supervision of the greatest authority on poisonous snakes in the
country, Doctor Nagoya of Castleton Institute."




XXVI

A CIGARETTE CASE


Kennedy's face betrayed only a remote interest. "Have you any
copies of that particular film?"

"Just the negative, I believe."

"Could I have that for a few days?"

"Of course!" Manton seemed to wish to give us every possible
amount of co-operation; yet this request puzzled him. "Would you
care to go down to the negative vaults with me?"

Kennedy nodded.

First we stopped in a lengthy corridor in the rear building,
where there were no great signs of life. Through a door I could
see a long room filled with ornaments, pictures, furniture, rugs,
and all the vast freak collections of a property room. Along the
side of the hallway itself was a line of steel lockers of recent
design.

Manton called out to an employee and he appeared after a long
wait and unlocked one of them. At Kennedy's direction I put the
traveling bag in the lower compartment, pocketing the key. Then
we retraced our steps to broad steel stairs leading up and down.
We descended to the basement and found ourselves in a high-
ceilinged space immaculately clean and used generally for storage
purposes.

"The film vaults," Manton explained, "are at the corner of the
west wing. They have to be ventilated specially, on account of
the high inflammability of the celluloid composition. Since the
greatest fire risk, otherwise, is the laboratory and printing
departments, and next to that the studios themselves with the
scenery, the heat of the lights, the wires, etc., we have located
them in the most distant corner of the quadrangle. The negative,
you see, represents our actual invested capital to a considerable
extent. The prints wear out and frequently large sections are
destroyed and have to be reprinted. Then sometimes we can reissue
old subjects. All in all we guard the negative with the care a
bank would give actual funds in its vaults."

In our many visits to the Manton studios I had been struck by the
scrupulous cleanliness of every part of the place. The impression
of orderliness came back to me with redoubled force as we made
our way around in the basement. Nothing seemed out of its proper
position, although a vast amount of various material for picture
making was stored here. We passed two projection rooms, one a
miniature theater with quite a bit of comfort, the other small
and bare for the use of directors and cutters.

Finally we saw the vaults ahead of us. The walls were concrete,
matching the actual walls of the basement. There were two
entrances and the doors were double, of heavy steel, arranged so
that an air space would give protection in case of fire. At a
roll-top desk, arranged for the use of the clerk in charge of the
negatives and prints, was a young boy.

"Where's Wagnalls?" demanded Manton.

"He went out, sir," the boy replied, respectfully enough. "Said
he would be right back and for me to watch and not to let
anything get out."

The promoter led the way into the first room. Here on all four
sides and in several rows down the center, like the racks in a
public library, were shelves supporting stacks of square thin
metal boxes or trays with handles and tightly fitting covers.
Cards were secured to the front of each, by clamps, giving the
name of the picture and the number under which the film was
filed. I was surprised because I expected to find everything kept
in ordinary round film cans.

"These are the negatives," Manton explained. He pulled out a box
at random, opening it. "The negative is not all spliced together,
the same length as the reels of positive, because the printing
machines are equipped to take two-hundred-foot pieces at a time,
or approximate fifths of a reel, the size of a roll of raw
positive film stock. Then whenever there is a change in color, as
from amber day that to blue tint for night, the negative is
broken because pieces of different coloring have to go through
different baths, and that also determines the size of the rolls.
The prints, or positives, in the other vaults, are in reel
lengths and so are kept in the round boxes in which they are
shipped."

Kennedy glanced about curiously. "The negative of that snake
picture is here, you said?"

Manton went to a little desk where there was a card index.
Thumbing through the records, he found the number and led us to
the proper place in the rack. In the box were only two rolls of
negative, both were large.

"This was a split reel," the promoter began. "It was
approximately four hundred feet and we used it to fill out a
short comedy, a release we had years ago, a reel the first part
of which was educational and the last two-thirds or so a roaring
slap-stick. We never made money on it.

"But this stuff was mighty good, Mr. Kennedy. We practically
wrote a scenario for those reptiles. Doctor Nagoya was down
himself and for the better part of a day it wasn't possible to
get a woman in the studio, for fear a rattler or something might
get loose."

"Were there rattlers in the film?"

"Altogether, I think. The little Jap was interesting, too.
Between scenes he told us all about the reptiles, and how their
poison--" Manton checked himself, confused. Was it because the
thought of poison reminded him of the two deaths so close to him,
or was it from some more potent twinge of conscience? "You'll see
it all in the film," he finished, lamely.

"I may keep these for a little bit?" Kennedy asked.

"Of course! I can have the two rolls printed and developed and
dry sometime this afternoon, if you wish."

"No, this will do very well."

Kennedy slipped a roll in each pocket, straining the cloth to get
them in. Manton opened a book on the little table, making an
entry of the delivery of the rolls and adding his own initials.

"I have to be very careful to avoid the loss of negative," he
told us. "Nothing can be taken out of here except on my own
personal order."

I thought that Manton was very frank and accommodating. Surely he
had made no effort to conceal his knowledge of this film made
with Doctor Nagoya, and he had even mentioned the poison of the
rattlesnakes. Though it had confused him for a brief moment, that
had not struck me as a very decisive indication of guilty
knowledge. After all, no one knew of the use of crotalin to kill
Stella Lamar except the murderer himself, and Kennedy and those
of us in his confidence. The murderer might not guess that
Kennedy had identified the venom. Yet if Manton were that man he
had covered his feelings wonderfully in telling us about the
film.

My thoughts strayed to the towel upstairs. Had an attempt been
made yet to steal it from the locker? It seemed to me that we
were losing too much time down here if we hoped to notice anyone
with itching hands.

I realized that Kennedy had been very clever in including all our
suspects in hearing at the time he revealed the importance of the
clue. Of the original nine listed by Mackay, Werner was dead and
Mrs. Manton had never entered the case. Enid we had assumed to be
the mysterious woman in Millard's divorce, however, and the other
six had all been upon the floor in contact with Kennedy. First
there was Marilyn, the woman. Then the five men in order had
displayed a lively interest in the towel--Shirley, Gordon,
Millard, Phelps, and Manton.

Kennedy's voice roused me from my reverie.

"Does this door lead through to the other vaults, Mr. Manton?"

"Yes." The promoter straightened, after replacing the records of
the negative. "I designed this system of storage myself and
superintended every detail of construction. It is--" He checked
himself with an exclamation, noticing that the door was open.
With a flush of anger he slammed it shut.

"I should think the connecting doors would be kept shut all the
time," Kennedy remarked. "In case of fire only one compartment
would be a loss."

"That's the idea exactly! That's why I was on the point of
swearing. The boys down here are getting lax and I'm going to
make trouble." Manton turned back and called to the boy outside.
"Where did you say Wagnalls went?"

"I don't know, sir! Sometimes he goes across to McCann's for a
cup of coffee, or maybe he went up to the printing department."

Manton faced us once more. "If you'll excuse me just a moment I'm
going to see who's responsible for this. Why," he sputtered, "if
you hadn't called me around the rack I wouldn't have noticed that
the door was open and then, if there had been a fire--I--I'll be
right back!"

As Manton stormed off Kennedy smiled slightly, then nodded for me
to follow. We passed through into the rooms for positive storage.
These in turn had fireproof connecting doors, all of which were
open. In each case Kennedy closed them. Eventually we emerged
into the main part of the basement through the farther vault
door. Nothing of a suspicious nature had caught our attention. I
guessed that Kennedy simply had wished to cover the carelessness
of the vault man in leaving the inner doors wide open.

At the entrance which had first admitted us to the negative room,
however, Kennedy stooped suddenly. At the very moment he bent
forward I caught the glint of something bright behind the heavy
steel door, and in the shadow so that it had escaped us before.
As he rose I leaned over. It was a cigarette case, a very
handsome one with large initials engraved with deep skillful
flourish.

"Who is 'J. G.'?" Kennedy asked.

I felt a quiver of excitement. "Jack Gordon, the leading man."

"What's an actor doing down in the film vaults?" he muttered.

Slipping the case into his pocket, he glanced about on the floor
and something just within the negative room caught his eye. Once
more he bent down. With a speculative expression he picked up the
cork-tipped stub of a cigarette.

At this instant Manton returned, breathing hard as though his
pursuit of the missing Wagnalls had been very determined. The
butt in Kennedy's fingers attracted his attention at once.

"Did--did you find that here?" he demanded.

Kennedy pointed. "Right there on the floor."

"The devil!" Manton flushed red. "This is no place to smoke. By--
by all the wives of Goodwin and all the stars of Griffith I'm
going to start firing a few people!" he sputtered. "Here, sonny!"
He jumped at the boy, frightening him. "Close all these doors and
turn the combinations. Tell Wagnalls if he opens them before he
sees me I'll commit battery on his nose."

Kennedy continued to hold the stub, and as Manton preceded us up
the stairs he hung back, comparing it with the few cigarettes
left in the case. Unquestionably they were of the same brand.

On the studio floor Mackay was waiting for us. Under his arm was
a reel of film in a can. He clutched it almost fondly.

"All ready!" he remarked, to Kennedy.

Kennedy's face was unrevealing as he faced Manton. "This bit of
film is valuable evidence also. I think perhaps it would be safer
in that locker."

"Anything at all we can do to help," stated Manton, promptly.
"Shall I show you the way again?"

I produced the key, handing it to Kennedy as the four of us
arrived in the corridor by the property room. Kennedy slipped the
bit of metal into the lock; then simulated surprise very well
indeed.

"The lock is broken!" he exclaimed. "Some one has been here."

Apparently the traveling bag had been undisturbed as we took it
out. Nevertheless, the paper containing the towel was gone.

"This is no joke, Mr. Kennedy," protested Manton, in indignation.
"Where can I hire about a dozen good men to hang around and
watch--and--and help you get to the bottom of this?"

Mackay, without releasing his grasp of the film, had been
inspecting the broken lock.

"Look at the way this was done!" he murmured, almost in
admiration. "This wasn't the work of any roughneck. It--it was a
dainty job!"




XXVII

THE FILM FIRE


The bag lay open at my feet. The microscope and other
paraphernalia brought by Kennedy were untouched. Taking the film
from Mackay and placing the can in with the other things, Kennedy
snapped the catch and turned to me as he straightened.

"I think our evidence is safest in plain sight, Walter. We'll
carry it about with us."

Lloyd Manton seemed to be a genuinely unhappy individual. After
some moments he excused himself, nervously anxious about the turn
of affairs at the studio. Immediately I faced Kennedy and Mackay.

"Manton's the only one who knew just where we put the bag," I
remarked. "When he left us in the basement he had plenty of time
to run up and steal the towel and return."

"How about the itching salve?"

"In his hurry he might have left the towel in the paper,
intending to destroy it later."

Kennedy frowned. "That's possible, Walter. I had not thought of
that. Still"--he brightened--"I'm counting on human nature. I
don't believe anyone guilty of the crime could have that towel in
his possession, after the hints I have thrown out, without
examining it so as to see what telltale mark or stain would be
apt to betray his identity."

"You can see that Manton's the logical man?"

"It would be easy for anyone else to follow and observe us."

"Then--?"

"First of all we must keep an eye out for any person showing
signs of the itching concoction. We must observe anyone with
noticeably clean hands. Principally, however, another thing
worries me."

"What's that, Mr. Kennedy?" asked Mackay.

"Walter and I found a cigarette case belonging to Jack Gordon in
the basement; also a butt smoked three-quarters of the way down
and left directly in the negative room. The fire doors between
the different film vaults, which are arranged like the safety
compartments in a ship, were all open. I want to know why Gordon
was down there and--well, I seem to sense something wrong."

"Good heavens! Craig," I interposed. "You don't attach any
importance to the fact that those doors were open!"

"Walter, in a case of real mystery the slightest derangement of
matters of ordinary routine is a cause for suspicion."

I had no answer, and as we re-entered the studio I devoted my
attention to the various people we had tabulated as possible
suspects, noticing that Kennedy and Mackay did likewise.

Jack Gordon was in the ballroom scene in make-up. Kauf still was
concerned with technical details of the set and lighting, and,
although the cameras were set up, they were not in proper place,
nor was either camera man in evidence. With Gordon was Enid. From
a distance they seemed to be engaged in an argument of real
magnitude. There was no mistaking the dislike on the part of each
for the other.

Marilyn was the most uneasy of all of the principals. She was
pacing up and down, glancing about in frank distress of mind. I
looked at her hands and saw that she had crushed a tube of grease
paint in her nervousness. Not only her fingers were soiled, but
there were streaks on her arms where she had smeared herself
unconsciously. As we watched she left the studio, hurrying out
the door without a backward glance. Marilyn, at least, showed no
indications of the salve, nor of painfully recent acquaintance
with water.

Both Manton and Phelps were in evidence, decidedly so, I
imagined, from, the viewpoint of poor Kauf. Manton, at the heels
of his new director, was doing all he could to help. Phelps,
following Manton about, seemed to be urging haste upon the
promoter. The result was far from advantageous to picture making;
it was concentrated distraction.

Millard was poring over the manuscript, perched upon a chair the
wrong way so that its back would serve as a desk, engaged busily
in making changes here and there in the pages with a pencil. Like
any author, it was never too late for minor improvements and
suggestions. I don't doubt but that if Manton had permitted it,
Millard would have been quite apt to interrupt a scene in the
taking in order to add some little touch occurring to him as his
action sprang to life in the interpretation of players and
director. At any rate, his hands seemed more clean than those of
either Manton or Phelps, proving nothing because he was at a
task not so apt to bring him into contact with dirt.

"Shirley is missing," observed the district attorney, in an
undertone.

Kennedy faced me. "Give the bag to Mackay, Walter. While he keeps
an eye on the people up here we'll pay a visit to Shirley's
dressing room, and after that go down to the basement again. I
can't account for it--intuition, perhaps--but I'm sure
something's wrong."

The heavy man's dressing room, pointed out to us by some employee
passing through the hall, was empty. I led the way into Marilyn's
quarters, but again no one was about. In each case Kennedy made a
quick visual search for the towel, without result. We did not
dare linger and run the risk of giving away our trick; then, too,
Kennedy was nervously anxious to look through the basement once
more.

"I don't understand your suspicion of the state of affairs in the
film vaults," I confessed.

"Why should Jack Gordon, the leading man, be down there?" he
countered.

"That--that really is a cause for suspicion, isn't it."

"Now, Walter, think a bit!" We were crossing the yard, and so not
apt to be overheard. "Granting that Gordon actually had been down
there, why should the fact concern us? Manton explained that no
negative or positive can be given out except upon order. There is
nothing down there but film and so no other errand to bring the
leading man to the vault except to get some scenes or pieces
showing his own work, and that isn't likely."

"Unless," I interrupted, "Gordon is the guilty man and wanted to
get the snake film before we did."

"How could that be? When we asked Manton about the Doctor Nagoya
subject we went right down with him and procured it. I doubt
anyone could have overheard us as we talked about it, in any
case."

"Remember, Craig, we went to the locker first and it was some
little time before that fellow came out to unlock it and give us
the key. And when you questioned Manton we were passing right by
all of them. Any one could have heard the mention of the snake
film."

Kennedy frowned. "I believe you're right, Walter. Or it is
possible that the guilty person believed that the scenes taken
out at Tarrytown, or those taken when Werner died, revealed
something and so would have to be stolen or destroyed, and that
they were kept in the vault. It is even possible"--a gleam came
into Kennedy's eyes--"it is even possible that the mind smart
enough to reason out the damaging nature of the chemical analyses
I was making, and clever enough to utilize an explosive bullet in
an effort to destroy the fruits of my work, would also have the
foresight to anticipate me and to realize that I might guess the
existence of a film showing snakes and suggesting the use of
venom."

"It's damning to Gordon, all right," I said.

"On the contrary, Walter." Kennedy lowered his voice as we
entered the building across the quadrangle and descended stairs
leading directly into the basement. "We have mentioned over and
over again the cleverness of our unknown criminal. That man, or
woman, never would drop a cigarette case with his or her initials
and leave without it, nor smoke a cigarette in a place he, or
she, was not supposed to be."

"What then?"

"It's a plant; a deliberate plant to throw suspicion upon
Gordon."

"Why upon Gordon?"

"I don't know that, unless because Gordon is supposed to have the
best possible motive for killing Miss Lamar--his money troubles--
and so becomes the logical man to throw the guilt upon."

"As a matter of fact, Craig, why should the finding of that
cigarette case be a cause for suspicion at all? That's what I
didn't understand before."

"Ordinarily it wouldn't be. But those open inner doors, the
absence of the man in charge--isn't it possible that we
interrupted an attempt not only to search for the particular
damaging pieces of film, but perhaps to destroy the whole? If
some one acted between the time I asked Manton. about the snake
film and the moment we arrived in the basement to get it, that
some one had to move very fast."

"In which case it might have been Gordon, after all. The
cigarette stub may have been thrown in lighted to start a fire.
He may not have had time to pick up the case, not knowing just
where he dropped it."

Kennedy shrugged his shoulders. "It all shows the futility of
trying to arrive at a conclusion without definite facts. That is
where science is superior to deduction."

"It's all a maze to me just now," I agreed.

We made our way to the vaults in silence, and, to our surprise,
found that they were closed and that even the boy was gone now.
The cellar, as a whole, probably for the purpose of fire
protection on a larger scale, was divided into sections
corresponding to the units of the buildings above, and this time
I noticed that the door through which we had arrived before was
closed also. Had Manton taken fright in earnest at the
possibility of fire, or had he given his employees a genuine
scare?

We retraced our steps to the yard, and there the alert eye of
Kennedy detected a slinking figure just as a man darted into the
protection of a doorway. It was Shirley. Had he been watching us?
Was he connected in some way with the vague mystery Kennedy
seemed to sense in connection with the basement and the film
vaults?

Kennedy led the way to the entrance where Shirley had
disappeared. Here there was no sign of him; only steps leading up
and down and the open door to a huge developing room. Returning
to the yard, we caught a gesture from the chauffeur of a car
standing near by and recognized McGroarty, the driver who had
found the ampulla a few days previously.

"Excuse me, Mr. Kennedy," he apologized, as we approached. "I
should have come to you instead of making you two walk over to
me, but it's less suspicious this way."

"What do you mean?"

"You recognize me, McGroarty, the chauffeur as found the little
bottle?"

Kennedy nodded.

"Well, I says to myself I ought to tell you, but I don't like to
because it might be nothing, you know!"

"It might prove very valuable, McGroarty." Kennedy wanted to
encourage him.

"Well, I've been sitting here for an hour, I guess. One of the
other directors is going out to-day and his people are late and
so here I am. Well, I don't like the way the heavy man Mr. Werner
had--"

"Shirley? Merle Shirley?" I spoke up.

"That's him! Well, he's been, hanging and snooping around that
building over there, where you just saw him, for twenty minutes
or more. I guess he's gone in and out of that basement a dozen
times. I says to myself, maybe he's up to something. You know how
it is?"

Kennedy glanced at me significantly. Then he extended his hand to
the chauffeur. "Again I thank you, McGroarty. As I said before, I
won't forget you."

"Now what?" I asked, as we drew away.

"Shirley's dressing room, and the studio floor and Mackay."

As we rather expected, the heavy man's quarters were deserted. I
thought that Kennedy would stop now to make a careful search, but
he seemed anxious to compare notes with the district attorney.

"Nothing here," reported Mackay.

"Shirley?"

"Hasn't been a sign of him."

I looked about the moment we arrived under the big glass roof.
"Marilyn Loring?" I inquired.

"She's been missing, too!" All at once Mackay grinned broadly.
"You know, either there's no efficiency in making moving pictures
at all, or these people have all gone more or less out of their
heads as the result of the two tragedies. Look!" He pointed.
"When you left me Phelps and Manton were stepping on each other's
toes, trying to help that new director and about half driving him
crazy; and now Millard seems to have figured out some new way of
handling the action and he's over in the thick of it. It's worse
than Bedlam, and better than a Chaplin comedy."

I was compelled to smile, although I knew that this was not
uncommon in picture studios. Manton, Phelps, Millard, and Kauf
were in the center of the group, all talking at once. Clustered
about I saw Enid and Gordon, both camera men, and a miniature mob
of extra people. But as I looked little Kauf seemed to come to
the end of his patience. In an instant or two he demonstrated
real generalship. Shutting up Manton and the banker and Millard
with a grin, but with sharp words and a quick gesture which
showed that he meant it, he called to the others gathered about,
clearing the set of all but Enid and Gordon. He sent the camera
men to their places; then confronted Phelps and Manton and the
scenario writer once more. We could not hear his words, but could
see that he was asserting himself, was forcing a decision so that
he could proceed with his work.

This seemed uninteresting to me. I remembered my success in my
visit to Werner's apartment, when I had essayed the role of
detective.

"Listen, Kennedy!" I suggested. "Suppose I go out by myself and
see if I can locate Shirley or Marilyn. Everyone else is right
here where you can--"

At that instant a deafening explosion shook the studio and every
building about the quadrangle, the sound echoing and re-echoing
with the sharpness of a terrific thunderclap.

Mixed with the reverberations, which were intensified by the high
arch of the studio roof, were the screams of women and the
frightened calls of men. Following immediately upon the first
roar were the muffled sounds of additional explosions, persisting
for a matter of ten to fifteen seconds.

With every detonation the floor beneath our feet trembled and
rocked. Several flats of scenery stacked against a wall at our
rear toppled forward and struck the floor with a resounding
whack, not unlike some gigantic slap-stick. One entire side of
the banquet set, luckily unoccupied, fell inward and I caught the
sound as the dainty gold chairs and fragile tables snapped and
were crushed as so much kindling wood.

Then--a fitting climax of destruction, withheld until this
moment--there followed the terrifying snap of steel from above.
An entire section of roof literally was popped from place, the
result of false stresses in the beams created by the explosion.
Upon the heads of the unlucky group in the center of the ballroom
set came a perfect hailstorm of broken and shattered bits of
heavy ground glass.

For an instant, an exceedingly brief instant, there was the
illusion of silence. The next moment the factory siren rose to a
shrill shriek, with a full head of steam behind it--the fire
call!

Kennedy dashed over to the scene where those beneath the shower
of glass lay, dazed and uncertain of the extent of their own
injuries.

"Where are the first-aid kits?" he shouted. "Bring cotton and
bandages, and--and telephone for a doctor, an ambulance!"

It seemed to me that Kennedy had never been so excited. Mackay
and I, at his heels, and some of the others, unhurt, hurriedly
helped the various victims to their feet.

Then we realized that by some miracle, some freak of fate, no one
had been hurt seriously. Already a property boy was at Kennedy's
side with a huge box marked prominently with the red cross.
Inside was everything necessary and Kennedy started to bind up
the wounds with all the skill of a professional physician.

"Mackay," he whispered, "hurry and get me some envelopes, or some
sheets of paper, anything--quick!" And to me, before I could
grasp the reason for that puzzling request: "Don't let anyone
slip away, Walter. No matter what happens, I must bind up these
wounds myself."

A few moments later I understood what Kennedy was up to. As he
finished with each victim he took some bit of cotton or gauze
with which he had wiped their cuts, enough blood to serve him in
chemical analysis, and handed it to Mackay. The district
attorney, very unobtrusively, slipped each sample into a separate
envelope, sealing it, and marking it with a hieroglyph which he
would be able to identify later. In this fashion Kennedy secured
blood smears of Manton and Phelps, Millard and Kauf and Enid,
Gordon, the two camera men, and a scene shifter. I smiled to
myself.

Meanwhile a bitter, acrid odor penetrated through the windows and
to every part of the structure, the odor of burning film, an odor
one never forgets to fear. All those uninjured in the explosions
had rushed out to see the fire, or else to escape from any
further danger, the moment they recovered their wits. Manton,
only cut at the wrist, and impatient as Kennedy cleaned, dusted,
and bound the wound, was the first to receive attention.

"The vaults!" he called, to the men who seemed disposed to linger
about. "For God's sake get busy!" The next instant he was gone
himself.

Enid was cut on the head. Tears streamed from her eyes as she
clung to Kennedy's coat, trembling. "Will it make a scar?" she
sobbed. "Will I be unable to act before the camera any more?"

He reassured her. In the case of Millard, who had several bad
scalp wounds, he advised a trip to a doctor, but the scenario
writer laughed. Phelps was yellow. It seemed to me that he
whimpered a bit. Gordon was disposed to swear cheerfully,
although a point of glass had penetrated deep in his shoulder and
another piece had gashed him across the forehead.

Finally Kennedy was through. He packed the little envelopes in
the bag, still in the possession of Mackay, and added the two
rolls of film from his pocket. Then, for the first time, he
locked it.

As he straightened, his eyes narrowed.

"Now for Shirley," he muttered.

"And Marilyn," I added.




XXVIII

THE PHOSPHORUS BOMB


We rushed out into the courtyard, Kennedy in the lead, Mackay
trailing with the bag. Here there were dense clouds of fine white
suffocating smoke mixed with steam, and signs of the utmost
confusion on every hand. Because Manton, fortunately, had trained
the studio staff through frequent fire drills, there was a
semblance of order among the men actually engaged in fighting the
spread of the blaze. Any attempt to extinguish the conflagration
in the vault itself was hopeless, however, and so the workers
contented themselves with pouring water into the basement on
either side, to keep the building and perhaps the other vaults
cool, and with maintaining a constant stream of chemical mixture
from a special apparatus down the ventilating system into and
upon the smoldering film.

The studio fire equipment seemed to be very complete. There was
water at high pressure from a tank elevated some twenty to thirty
feet above the uppermost roof of the quadrangle. In addition
Manton had invested in the chemical engine and also in sand
carts, because water aids rather than retards the combustion of
film itself. I noticed that the promoter was in direct charge of
the fire-fighters, and that he moved about with a zeal and a
recklessness which ended for once and all in my mind the
suspicion that Phelps might be correct and that Manton sought to
wreck this company for the sake of Fortune Features.

In an amazingly quick space of time the thing was over. When the
city apparatus arrived, after a run of nearly three miles, there
was nothing for them to do. The chief sought out Manton, to
accompany him upon an inspection of the damage and to make sure
that the fire was out. The promoter first beckoned to Kennedy.

"This is unquestionably of incendiary origin," he explained to
the chief. "I want Mr. Kennedy to see everything before it is
disturbed, so that no clue may be lost or destroyed."

The fire officer brightened. "Craig Kennedy?" he inquired. "Gee!
there must be some connection between the blaze and the murder of
Stella Lamar and her director. I've been reading about it every
day in the papers."

"Mr. Jameson of the Star," Kennedy said, presenting me.

We found we could not enter the basement immediately adjoining
the vaults--that is, directly from the courtyard--because it
seemed advisable to keep a stream of water playing down the
steps, and a resulting cloud of steam blocked us. Manton
explained that we could get through from the next cellar if it
was not too hot, and so we hurried toward another entrance.

Mackay, who had remained behind to protect the bag from the heat,
joined us there.

"I've put the bag in charge of that chauffeur, McGroarty, and
armed him with my automatic," he explained. He paused to wipe his
eyes. The fumes from the film had distressed all of us. "Shirley
and Marilyn Loring are both missing still," he added. "I've been
asking everyone about them. No one has seen them."

The fire chief looked up. "Everyone is out? You are sure
everybody is safe?"

"I had Wagnalls at my elbow with a hose," Manton replied. "I saw
the boy around, also. No one else had any business down there and
the vaults were closed and the cellar shut off."

The door leading from the adjoining basement was hot yet, but not
so that we were unable to handle it. However, the catch had stuck
and it took considerable effort to force it in. As we did so a
cloud of acrid vapor and steam drove us back.

Then Kennedy seemed to detect something in the slowly clearing
atmosphere. He rushed ahead without hesitation. The fire chief
followed. In another instant I was able to see also.

The form of a woman, dimly outlined in the vapor, struggled to
lift the prone figure of a man. After one effort she collapsed
upon him. I dashed forward, as did Mackay and Manton. Two of them
carried the girl out to the air; the other three of us brought
her unconscious companion. It was Marilyn and Shirley.

The little actress was revived easily, but Shirley required the
combined efforts of Kennedy and the chief, and it was evident
that he had escaped death from suffocation only by the narrowest
of margins. How either had survived seemed a mystery. Their
clothes were wet, their faces and hands blackened, eyebrows and
lashes scorched by the heat. But for the water poured into the
basement neither would have been alive. They had been prisoners
during the entire conflagration, the burning vault holding them
at one end of the basement, the door in the partition resisting
their efforts to open it.

"Thank heaven he's alive!" were Marilyn's first words.

"How did you get in the cellar?" Kennedy spoke sternly.

"I thought he might be there." Now that the reaction was setting
in, the girl was faint and she controlled herself with
difficulty. "I was looking for him and as soon as I heard the
first explosion I ran down the steps into the film-vault
entrance--I was right near there--and I found him, stunned. I
started to lift him, but there were other explosions almost
before I got to his side. The flames shot out through the cracks
in the vault door and I--I couldn't drag him to the steps; I had
to pull him back where you found us." She began to tremble. "It--
it was terrible!"

"Was there anyone else about, anyone but Mr. Shirley?"

"No. I--I remember I wondered about the vault man."

"What was Mr. Shirley down there for, Miss Loring?"

"He"--she hesitated--"he said he had seen some one hanging around
and--and he didn't want to report anything until he was sure. He--
he thought he could accomplish more by himself, although I told
him he was--was wrong."

"Whom did he see hanging around?"

"He wouldn't tell me."

Shirley was too weak to question and the girl too unstrung to
stand further interrogation. In response to Manton's call several
people came up and willingly helped the two toward the comfort of
their dressing rooms.

At the fire chief's suggestion the stream of water into the
basement was cut off. Manton led the way, choking, eyes watering,
to the front of the vaults. Feverishly he felt the steel doors
and the walls. There was no mistaking the conclusion. The
negative vault was hot, the others cold.

"The devil!" Manton exclaimed. A deep poignancy in his voice made
the expression childishly inadequate. "Why couldn't it have been
the prints!" Suddenly he began to sob. "That's the finish. Not
one of our subjects can ever be worked again. It's a loss of half
a million dollars."

"If you have positives," Kennedy asked, "can't you make new
negatives?"

"Dupes?" Manton looked up in scorn. "Did you ever see a print
from a dupe negative? It's terrible. Looks like some one left it
out in the wet overnight."

"How about the 'Black Terror'?" I inquired.

"All of that's in the safe in the printing room; that and the two
current five reelers of the other companies. We won't lose our
releases, but"--again there was a catch in his voice--"we could
have cleared thousands and thousands of dollars on reissues. All--
all of Stella's negative is gone, too!" To my amazement he began
to cry, without attempt at concealment. It was something new to
me in the way of moving-picture temperament. "First they kill her
and now--now they destroy the photographic record which would
have let her live for those who loved her. The"--his voice
trailed away to the merest whisper as he seemed to collapse
against the hot smoked wall--"the devil!"

The fire chief took charge of the job of breaking into the vault.
First Wagnalls attempted to open the combination of the farther
door, but the heat had put the tumblers out of commission.
Returning to the entrance of the negative vault itself, the thin
steel, manufactured for fire rather than burglar protection, was
punctured and the bolts driven back. A cloud of noxious fumes
greeted the workers and delayed them, but they persisted. Finally
the door fell out with a crash and men were set to fanning fresh
air into the interior while a piece of chemical apparatus was
held in readiness for any further outbreak of the conflagration.

Manton regained control of himself in time to be one of the first
to enter. Mackay held back, but the fire chief, the promoter,
Kennedy, and myself fashioned impromptu gasmasks of wet
handkerchiefs and braved the hot atmosphere inside the room.

The damage was irremediable. The steel frames of the racks, the
cheaper metal of the boxes, the residue of the burning film, all
constituted a hideous, shapeless mass clinging against the sides
and in the corners and about the floor. Only one section of the
room retained the slightest suggestion of its original condition.
The little table and the boxes of negative records, the edges of
the racks which had stood at either side, showed something of
their former shape and purpose. This was directly beneath the
ventilating opening. Here the chemical mixture pumped in to
extinguish the fire had preserved them to that extent.

All at once Kennedy nudged the fire chief. "Put out your torch!"
he directed, sharply.

In the darkness there slowly appeared here and there on the walls
a ghostly bluish glow persisting in spite of the coating of soot
on everything.

Kennedy's keen eye had caught the hint of it while the electric
torch had been flashed into some corner and away for a moment.

"Radium!" I exclaimed, entirely without thought.

Kennedy laughed. "Hardly! But it is phosphorus, without
question."

"What do you make of that?" The fire chief was curious.

"Let's get out!" was Kennedy's reply.

Indeed, it was almost impossible for us to keep our eyes open,
because of the smarting, and, more, the odor was nauseating. A
guard was posted and in the courtyard, disregarding the curious
crowd about, Kennedy asked for Wagnalls and began to question
him.

"When did you close the vaults?"

"About two hours before the fire. Mr. Manton sent for me."

"Was there anything suspicious at that time?"

"No, sir! I went through each room myself and fixed the doors.
That's why the fire was confined to the negatives."

"Have you any idea why the doors were open when we went through?"

"No, sir! I left them shut and the boy I put there while I went
over to McCann's said no one was near. He"--Wagnalls hesitated.
"Once he went to sleep when I left him there. Perhaps he dozed
off again."

"Why did you leave? Why go over to McCann's in business hours?"

"We'd worked until after midnight the night before. I had to open
up early and so I figured I'd have my breakfast in the usual
morning slack time--when nothing's doing."

"I see!" Kennedy studied the ground for several moments. "Do you
suppose anyone could have left a package in there--a bomb, in
other words?"

Wagnalls's eyes widened, but he shook his head. "I'd notice it,
sir! If I do say it, I'm neat. I generally notice if a can has
been touched. They don't often fool me."

"Well, has any regular stuff been brought to you to put away;
anything which might have hidden an explosive?"

Again Wagnalls shook his head. "I put nothing away or give
nothing out except on written order from Mr. Manton. Anything
coming in is negative and it's in rolls, and I rehandle them
because they're put away in the flat boxes. I'd know in a minute
if a roll was phony."

"You're sure nothing special--"

"Holy Jehoshaphat!" interrupted Wagnalls. "I'd forgotten!" He
faced Manton. "Remember that can of undeveloped stuff, a two-
hundred roll?" He turned to Kennedy, explaining. "When negative's
undeveloped we keep it in taped cans. Take off the tape and you
spoil it--the light, you know. Mr. Manton sent down this can with
a regular order, marking on it that some one had to come to watch
it being developed--in about a week. Of course I didn't open the
can or look in it. I put it up on top of a rack."

"When was this?"

"About four days ago--the day Miss Lamar was killed."

The expression on Manton's face was ghastly. "I didn't send down
any can to you, Wagnalls," he insisted.

"It was your writing, sir!"

Kennedy rose. "What did you do with orders like that, such as the
one you claim came with the can of undeveloped negative?"

"Put them on the spindle on that table in the vault."

"Wet your handkerchief and come show me."

When they returned Kennedy had the spindle in his hand, the
charred papers still in place. This was one of the items
preserved in part by the chemical spray through the ventilating
opening above.

"Can you point out which one it is?" Kennedy asked.

"Let's see!" Wagnalls scratched his head. "Next to the top," he
replied, in a moment. "Miss Lamar's death upset everything. Only
one order came down after that."

With extreme care Kennedy took his knife and lifted the ashy
flakes of the top order. "Get me some collodion, somebody!" he
exclaimed.

Wagnalls jumped up and hurried off.

The fire chief leaned forward. "Do you think, Mr. Kennedy, that
the little can he told you about started the fire?"

"I'm sure of it, although I'll never be able to prove it."

"How did it work?"

"Well, I imagine a small roll of very dry film was put in to
occupy a part of the space. Film is exceedingly inflammable,
especially when old and brittle. In composition it is practically
guncotton and so a high explosive. In this recent war, I
remember, the Germans drained the neutral countries of film
subjects until we woke up to what they were doing, while in this
country scrap film commanded an amazing price and went directly
into the manufacture of explosives. Then I figure that a quantity
of wet phosphorus was added, to fill the can, and that then the
can was taped. The tape, of course, is not moisture proof
entirely. With the dampness from within it would soften, might
possibly fall off. In a relatively short time the phosphorus
would dry and burn. Immediately the film in the can would ignite.
As happened, it blew up, a minor explosion, but enough to scatter
phosphorus everywhere. That, in the fume-laden air of the vault--
there are always fumes in spite of the best ventilation system
made--caused the first big blast and started all the damage."

Mackay had rejoined us in time to hear the explanation.
"Ingenious," he murmured. "As ingenious as the methods used to
murder the girl and her director."

Breathless, Wagnalls returned with the collodion. We watched
curiously as Kennedy poured it over the charred remains of the
second order on the spindle. It seemed almost inconceivable that
the remnants of the charred paper would even support the weight
of the liquid, yet Kennedy used it with care, and slowly the
collodion hardened before us, creating a tough transparent
coating which held the tiny fibers of the slip together. At the
same time the action of the collodion made the letters on the
order faintly visible and readable.

"A little-known bank trick!" Kennedy told us.

Then he held the slip up to the light and the words were plain.
Wagnalls had been correct. The order from Manton was
unmistakable. The can was to be kept in the negative vault for a
week without being opened, until a certain party unnamed was to
come to watch the development of the film.

The promoter wet his lips, uneasily. "I--I never wrote that! It--
it's my writing, all right, and my signature, but it's a
forgery!"




XXIX

MICROSCOPIC EVIDENCE


Kennedy made some efforts to preserve the forged order which he
had restored with the collodion, but I could see that he placed
no great importance upon its possession. Gradually the yard of
the studio had cleared of the employees, who had returned to
their various tasks. Under the direction of one stout individual
who seemed to possess authority the fire apparatus had been
replaced in a portable steel garage arranged for the purpose in a
farther corner, and now several men were engaged in cleaning up
the dirt and litter caused in the excitement.

Except in the basement there were few signs of the blaze. Manton
accompanied the fire chief to his car, then hurried up into the
building without further notice of us. Mackay went to McGroarty's
machine to claim the traveling bag containing our evidence.
Kennedy and I started for the dressing rooms.

"I want to get blood smears of Shirley and Marilyn," he confided
in a low voice. "I shall have to think of some pretext."

Neither of the two we sought were in their quarters and so we
continued on into the studio. Here we found Kauf at work; at
least he was engaged in a desperate attempt to get something out
of his people.

"Ye gods, Gordon!" we heard him exclaim, as we made our way
through the debris of the banquet set to the ballroom now
dazzlingly bright under the lights. "What if you do have to wear
a bandage around your head? It's a masked ball, isn't it? You've
got a monk's cowl over everything but your features, haven't
you?"

It struck me that the faces had never been more ghastly, although
my reason convinced me it was simply the usual effect of the
Cooper-Hewitt tubes. But there was no question but that the
explosion had given everyone a bad fright, that not an actress or
actor but would have preferred to have been nearly anywhere else
but under the heat of the glass roof, now a constant reminder of
the accident because of the gaping hole directly above them.

Marilyn was in the center of the revelers in the set, already in
costume. Shirley I saw close to the camera men, standing uneasily
on shaky legs, shielding his eyes with one hand while he clung to
a massive sideboard for support with the other. He had not yet
donned his carnival clothes, nor essayed to put on a make-up.

Enid Faye, the only one in sight whose spirits seemed to have
rallied at all, was offering him comfort of a sort.

"You'll get by, all right, Merle, if you can keep on your pins,
and I'll say you deserve credit for trying it. There's"--she
stepped back a bit to study him--"there's just one thing. Your
eyes show the result of all that smoke and vapor--no color or
luster at all. I--I wonder if belladonna wouldn't brighten them
up a bit and--well, get you by, for to-day?"

"I'll go out and get some at lunch." He smiled weakly. "I'll try
anything once."

"That's the spirit!" She patted him on the shoulder, then danced
on into the center of the set, stopping to direct some barbed
remark at Marilyn.

Kauf took his megaphone to call his people around him. There
seemed to be a certain essential competence about the little man,
now that Manton and Phelps and Millard were not about to bother
him. While we watched he succeeded in photographing one of the
full shots of the general action or atmosphere of the dance. Then
he hurried to the side of Shirley, to see if the heavy man felt
equal to the task of resuming his make-up once more.

I found the time dragging heavy on my hands and I wished that
Kennedy would return to the laboratory or decide upon some
definite action. Though I racked my brain, I failed to think of a
device whereby Kennedy could get blood smears of Shirley or
Marilyn without their knowledge. Once more my reflections veered
around to the matter of the stolen towel and I wondered if that
had been wasted effort on Kennedy's part; if the fire had thrown
out his carefully arranged plans to trap whoever took it.

Suddenly I realized that Kennedy was following a very definite
procedure, that his seeming indifference, his apparent idle
curiosity concerning the scene taking, masked a settled purpose.
When Phelps entered he approached him casually and turned to him
with skilled nonchalance, holding up a finger.

"Will you lend me a pocket knife for a moment?" he asked, "to get
a hang-nail?"

Phelps produced one, rather grudgingly. Kennedy promptly went
over to the window, as though seeking better light. Thereafter he
avoided Phelps. Soon the banker had forgotten the incident.

Some time later Manton rushed in from the office. Kennedy
maneuvered his way to the promoter's side and waited his chance
to borrow that man's pocket knife under conditions when Manton
would be the least apt to remember it. Then he made his way
around to Mackay and I saw that both the acquisitions went into
little envelopes of the sort used to take the blood smears after
the explosion and falling glass.

Kennedy now seemed rather elated. Millard entered and he borrowed
the scenario writer's knife in exactly the same fashion as the
others. No one of the three men noticed his loss. I thought it
lucky that all three carried the article, and tried to guess how
far Kennedy intended to carry this little scheme.

Kauf's announcement of lunch gave me my answer. It seemed that
there would be just half an hour and that the entire cast was
expected to make shift at McCann's rather than attempt to go to
any better place at a greater distance. Immediately Kennedy
turned to me.

"Hurry, Walter! Twenty minutes' quick work and then it's the
laboratory and the solution of this mystery."

With Mackay and the bag we stole to the dressing rooms, waiting
until sure that everyone was downstairs. In Enid's chamber
Kennedy glanced about carefully but swiftly. When nothing caught
his attention he picked up her finger-nail file, gingerly, from
the blunt end, slipping it into one of the little envelopes which
Mackay held open. Thereupon the district attorney put his
identifying mark upon the outside and we went to the next room.

It proved to be Gordon's. The general search was barren of
result, but the dressing table yielded another finger-nail file,
handled in the same manner as before. Then we entered Marilyn's
room and left with the file from her dressing stand. In Shirley's
quarters, the last we visited, we were in greater luck, however.
While Kennedy and Mackay abstracted the usual file, I discovered
some bits of tissue paper used in shaving. There was caked soap
left to dry just as it had been wiped from the razor. More, there
was a blood stain of fair [Transcriber's note: word(s) missing.]

"Here's your smear, Kennedy," I exclaimed.

"Good! Fine!" He faced Mackay. "Now I lack just one thing, a
sample of the blood of Miss Loring."

"Is that all?" The district attorney brightened. "Let me try to
get it! I--I'll manage it in some way!"

"All right!" Kennedy took the bag. "Explain your marks so I'll
know--" He stopped suddenly. "No, don't tell me anything. I'll
make my chemical analyses and microscopic examinations without
knowing the identity in the case either of the blood samples or
the finger-nail files. If I obtain results by both methods, and
they agree, I'll return armed with double-barreled evidence.
Meanwhile, Mackay, you get a smear from Miss Loring and follow us
to the laboratory. I'll coax McGroarty to drive us down, so
you'll have your car and you can bring us back."

The district attorney nodded. "Me for McCann's," he muttered.
"That's where she went to eat." He rushed off eagerly.

Kennedy had no difficulty persuading McGroarty to put his
particular studio car at our disposal without an order from
Manton or from the director who had called him. In a very brief
space of time we were at the laboratory.

"You expect to find the blood of one of those people showing
traces of the antivenin?" I grasped Kennedy's method of
procedure, but wanted to make sure I understood it correctly.
Already I was blocking out the detailed article for the Star, the
big scoop which that paper should have as a result of my close
association with Kennedy on the case. "One of those samples
should correspond, I suppose, to the trace of blood on the
portieres?"

"Exactly!" He answered me rather absently, being concerned in
setting out the apparatus he would need for a hasty series of
tests.

"Will the antivenin show in the blood after four, perhaps five
days?"

"I should say so, Walter. If it does not, by any chance, I will
be able to identify the blood, but that is much more involved and
tedious--a great deal more actual work."

"I've got it straight, then. Now--" I paced up and down several
times. "The finger-nail files should show a trace of the itching
salve? Is that correct, Craig?"

For a moment he didn't answer, as his mind was upon his
paraphernalia. Then he straightened. "Hardly, Walter! The salve
is soluble in water. What I shall find, if anything, is some of
the fibers of the towel. You see, a person's finger nails are
great little collectors of bits of foreign matter, and anyone
handling that rag is sure to show some infinitesimal trace for a
long while afterward. If the person stealing the towel filed or
cleaned his nails there will be evidence of the fibers on his
pocket knife or finger-nail file. I impregnated the towel with
that chemical so that I would be able to identify the fibers
positively."

"The use of the itching salve was unnecessary?"

A quizzical smile crept across Kennedy's face. "Did you think I
expected some one to go walking around the studio scratching his
hands? Did you imagine I thought the guilty party would betray
his or her identity in such childish fashion, after all the
cleverness displayed in the crimes themselves?"

"But you were insistent that I rub in the--"

"To force them to wash their hands after touching the towel,
Walter."

"Oh!" I felt rather chagrined. "Wouldn't some pigment, some
color, have served the purpose better?"

"No, because anyone would have understood that and would have
taken the proper measures to remove all traces. But the itching
salve served two purposes. It was misleading, because obviously a
trap upon reflection, and so it would distract attention from the
impregnated fibers, my real scheme. Then it was the best device
of all I could think of, for it set up a local irritation of the
sort most calculated to make a person clean his finger nails. The
average man and woman is not very neat, Walter. I was not sure
but a scientific prodding was necessary to transfer my evidence
to some object I could borrow and examine under a microscope."

Meanwhile Kennedy's long fingers were busy at the preliminary
operations in his tests. He turned away and I asked no more
questions, not wishing to delay him.

I noticed that first he examined the blood samples under the
microscope. Afterward he employed a spectroscope. But none of the
operations took any great amount of time, since he seemed to
anticipate his results.

Mackay burst in upon us, very elated, and produced a handkerchief
with a bit of blood upon it.

"I scratched her deliberately with the sharp point of my ring,"
he chuckled. "I found her in the restaurant and the seat beside
her was empty. I--I talked about everything under the sun and I
guess she thinks I'm a clumsy boob! Anyhow she cried out when I
did it, and got red in the face for a moment; but she suspects
nothing."

Kennedy cut the spot from the handkerchief, put it in an
envelope, and turned back to his table. I drew Mackay into the
corner.

As the minutes sped by and Craig worked in absorbed
concentration, Mackay grew more and more impatient to get back to
the studio.

"Did you find anything?" repeated Mackay, for the tenth time.

With a gesture of annoyance, Kennedy reached out for the nail
files.

"This is a grave matter," he frowned. "I must check it up--and
double check it--then I'm going back to the studio to triple
check it. Let me see what the nail files reveal. It will be a
bare ten minutes more."

Insisting that we remain back in the corner, he spread out the
four nail files and the open blades of the three pocket knives,
setting each upon the envelope which identified it.

The next quarter of an hour seemed interminable. Finally Kennedy
started replacing the files and the pocket knives in their
envelopes, his face still wearing the inscrutable frown. Next he
packed the blood samples and other evidence in the traveling bag
once more.

Mackay was bursting with impatience, but Craig still refused to
betray his suspicions.

"I must get back there--quick," he hastened. "I want everybody in
the projection room. In court, a jury might not grasp the
infallibility of the methods I've used. There would be a great
deal of medical and expert testimony required--and you know,
Mackay, what that means."

"Is it a man--or a woman you suspect?" persisted the district
attorney. "Three of the men had pocket knives and--"

Kennedy led the way to the door without answering, and Mackay cut
short his hopeless quizzing as Craig nodded to me to carry the
bag.




XXX

THE BALLROOM SCENE


Sounds of music caught our ears as we entered the studio
courtyard of Manton Pictures. Carrying the bag with its
indisputable proof of some person's guilt, we made our way
through the familiar corridor by the dressing rooms, out under
the roof of the so-called large studio. There a scene of gayety
confronted us, in sharp contrast with the gloomy atmosphere of
the rest of the establishment.

Kauf, however, had thoroughly demonstrated his genius as a
director. To counteract the depression caused by all the recent
melodramatic and tragic happenings, he had brought in an eight-
piece orchestra, establishing the men in the set itself so as to
get full photographic value from their jazz antics. Where Werner
and Manton had dispensed with music, in a desperate effort at
economy, Kauf had realized that money saved in that way was lost
through time wasted with dispirited people. It was a lesson
learned long before by other companies. In other studios I had
seen music employed in the making of soberly dramatic scenes,
solely as an aid to the actors, enabling them to get into the
atmosphere of their work more quickly and naturally.

Under the lights the entire set sparkled with a tawdry garishness
apt to fool those uninitiated into the secrets of photography. On
the screen, colors which now seemed dull and flat would take on a
soft richness and a delicacy characteristic of the society in
which Kauf's characters were supposed to move. Obviously fragile
scenery would seem as heavy and substantial as the walls and
beams of the finest old mansion. Even the inferior materials in
the gowns of most of the girls would photograph as well as the
most expensive silk; in fact, by long experience, many of the
extra girls had learned to counterfeit the latest fashions at a
cost ridiculous by comparison.

Kennedy approached Kauf, then returned to us.

"He asks us to wait until he gets this one big scene. It's the
climax of the picture, really, the unmasking of the 'Black
Terror.' If we interrupt now he loses the result of half a day of
preparation."

"He may lose more than that!" muttered Mackay; and I wondered
just whom the district attorney suspected.

"Is everyone here?" I asked. "All seven?"

Gordon and Shirley, of the men, and Marilyn and Enid, of course,
were out on the floor of the supposed ballroom. Gordon I
recognized because I remembered that he was to wear the garb of a
monk. Marilyn was easily picked out, although the vivacity she
assumed seemed unnatural now that we knew her as well as we did.
Her costume was a glorious Yama Yama creation, of a faint yellow
which would photograph dazzling white, revealing trim stockinged
ankles and slender bare arms, framing face and eyes dancing with
merriment and maliciousness. Unquestionably she was the prettiest
girl beneath the arcs, never to be suspected as the woman who had
braved the terrors of a film fire to rescue the man she loved.
Enid was stately and serene in the gown of Marie Antoinette. In
the bright glare her features took on a round innocence and she
was as successful in portraying sweetness as Marilyn was in the
simulation of the mocking evil of the vampire.

Shirley interested me the most, however. I wondered if Kennedy
still eliminated him in guessing at the identity of the criminal.
I called to mind the heavy man's presence in the basement at the
time of the explosion and McGroarty's information that he had
been hanging about that part of the studio for some time
previously. Some one had planted a cigarette case and stub to
implicate Gordon, according to Kennedy's theory. Shirley
certainly had had opportunity to steal the towel from the locker
as well as to point suspicion toward the leading man.

In the midst of my reverie Shirley approached and passed us. He
was in the garb of Mephisto. Like the others, he had not yet
masked his face. A peculiar brightness in his eyes struck me and
I nudged Kennedy.

"Belladonna," Kennedy explained when he was beyond earshot.

"Oh!" I remembered. "Enid told him to use it."

"What?"

I repeated the conversation as near as I could reconstruct it.

"H-m! That's a new cure for smoke-burned eyes; no cure at all."

I was unable to get any more out of Kennedy, however.

Manton I detected in the background with Phelps. The two men were
arguing, as always, and it was evident that the banker was
accomplishing nothing by this constant hanging about the studio.
Where previously my sympathy had been with Phelps entirely, now I
realized that the promoter had won me. Indeed, Manton's interest
in all the affairs of picture making at this plant had been far
too sincere and earnest to permit the belief that he was seeking
to wreck the company or to double-cross his backer.

Millard entered the studio as I glanced about for him. He handed
some sheets to Kauf, then turned to leave. I attracted Kennedy's
attention.

"You don't want Millard to get away," I whispered.

Kennedy sent Mackay to stop him. The author accompanied the
district attorney willingly.

"Yes, Mr. Kennedy?"

"As soon as this scene is over we're going down to the projection
room; everyone concerned in the death of Miss Lamar and of Mr.
Werner."

The scenario writer looked up quickly. "Do you--do you know who
it is?" he asked, soberly.

"Not exactly, but I will identify the guilty person just as soon
as we are assembled down in front of the screen."

Shirley had left the studio floor, apparently to go to his
dressing room. Now I noticed that he returned and passed close
just in time to hear Millard's question and Kennedy's answer. His
eyes dilated. As he turned away his face fell. He went on into
the set, but his legs seemed to wabble beneath him. I was sure it
was more than the weakness resulting from his experience in the
fire.

Kauf's voice, through the megaphone, echoed suddenly from wall to
wall, reverberating beneath the roof.

"All ready! Everyone in the set! Masks on! Take your places!"

At a signal the orchestra struck up and the couples started to
dance. It was a wonderfully colorful scene and I saw that Kauf
proposed to rehearse it thoroughly, doing it over and over
without the cameras until every detail reached a practiced
perfection. In this I was certain he achieved results superior to
Werner's slap, dash, and bang.

Then came the call for action.

"Camera!" Kauf began to bob up and down. "Into it, everybody!"

For fascination and charm this far exceeded the banquet scene
which we had witnessed in the taking previously. The music was
surprisingly good, so that it was impossible for the people not
to get into the swing, and the result was a riotous swirling of
gracefully dancing pairs; the girls, selected for their beauty,
flashing half-revealed faces toward the camera, displaying eyes
which twinkled through their masks in mockery at a wholly
ineffectual attempt at concealment.

Enid maintained her stately carriage, but made full use of the
dazzling whiteness of her teeth. Early she permitted the
attentions of the cowled monk whom she knew to be her lover.
Marilyn was everywhere, making mischief the best she could.
Shirley stalked about in his satanic red, which would photograph
black and appear even more somber on the screen.

Of course the whole was not photographed in a continuous strip
from one camera position. I saw that Kauf made several long shots
to catch the general atmosphere. Then he made close-up scenes of
all the principals and of some of the best appearing extras. At
one time he ordered a panorama effect, in which the cameras
"pammed," swept from one side to the other, giving a succession
of faces at close range.

Finally everything was ready for the climax. Shirley had been
playing a sort of Jekyll and Hyde role in which he was at once
the young lawyer friend of Enid and the Black Terror. Unmasked
and cornered at this function of a society terrified by the dread
unknown menace, he was to make the transformation directly before
the eyes of everyone, using the mythical drug which changed him
from a young man of good appearance and family to the being who
was a very incarnation of evil.

For once Kauf did not rehearse the scene. Shirley was obviously
weakened from his experience and the director wished to spare
him. All the details were shouted out through the megaphone,
however, and I grasped that the action of this part of the dance
was familiar to everyone; it was the big scene of the story
toward which all other events had built.

Then came the familiar order. "Camera!"

At the start of this episode the orchestra was playing and the
dancers were in motion. Suddenly Gordon, as the hero, strode up
to Shirley and unmasked him with a few bitter words which later
would be flashed upon the screen in a spoken title. Instantly a
crowd gathered about, but in such a way as not to obstruct the
camera view.

Cornered, seeing that flight was impossible unless he became the
Black Terror and possessed the strength and fearlessness of that
strange other self, Shirley drew a little vial from his breast
pocket and drank the contents. Evidently he knew his Mansfield
well. Slowly he began to act out the change in his appearance
which corresponded with the assumption of control by the evil
within. His body writhed, went through contortions which were
horrible yet fascinating. It was almost as though a new fearful
being was created within sight of the onlookers. Not only was the
face altered, but the man's stature seemed to shrink, to lose
actual inches. I thought it a wonderful exhibition.

The very next instant there came a groan from Shirley, something
which at once indicated pain and realization and fear. He lost
all control of himself and in a moment pitched forward upon the
floor, sputtering and clutching at the empty air. Another cry
broke from between his lips, a ghastly contracted shriek as
treble as though from the throat of a woman.

This was no part of the story, no skillful bit of acting! It was
real! Even before I had grasped the full significance of the
happening Kennedy had dashed forward. The cameras still were
grinding and they caught him as he kneeled at the side of the
stricken man. Hardly a second afterward Mackay and I followed and
were at Kennedy's side. Kauf and the others, their faces weirdly
ashen, clustered about in fright.

A third time the invisible hand had struck at a member of the
company. "The Black Terror," with all the horror written into
that story, contained nothing as fearful as the menace to the
people engaged in its production.

Shirley's skin was cold and clammy, his face almost rigid. While
conscious, he was helpless. Kennedy found the little vial and
examined it.

"Atropin!" he ejaculated. "Walter!" He turned to me. "Get some
physostigmin, quick! Have Mackay drive you! It's--it's life or
death! Here--I'll write it down! Physostigmin!"

As I raced madly out and down the stairs, Mackay at my heels, I
heard a woman's scream. Marilyn! Did she think him dead?

Once in the car, headed for the nearest drug store, grasping
wildly at the side or at the back of the seat every few moments
as the district attorney skidded around curves and literally
hurdled obstacles, I remembered a forgotten fact.

Atropin! That was belladonna, simply another name for the drug.
Shirley had procured the stuff for use in his eyes. Nevertheless,
he had been aware, undoubtedly, of its deadly nature. Passing by
Kennedy and the rest of us, he had overheard Kennedy state that
the murderer would be identified as soon as all could be
assembled in the projection room. The heavy man had not cared to
face justice in so prosaic a manner. With the same sense of the
melodramatic which had led him to slay Stella Lamar in the taking
of a scene, Werner in the photographing of another, he had
preferred suicide and had selected the most spectacular moment
possible for his last upon earth.

Yes, Shirley was guilty. Rather than wait the slow processes of
legal justice he had attempted suicide. Now we raced to save his
life, to preserve it for a more fitting end in the electric
chair.




XXXI

PHYSOSTIGMIN


The first drug store we found was unable to supply us. At a
second we had better luck. All in all, we were back at the Manton
Pictures plant in a relatively few minutes, a remarkable bit of
driving on the part of the district attorney.

Shirley was still in the set. Kennedy at once administered the
physostigmin, I thought with an air of great relief.

"This is one of the rare cases in which two drugs, both highly
poisonous, are definitely antagonistic," he explained. "Each,
therefore, is an antidote for the other when properly
administered."

Marilyn was chafing Shirley's cold hands, tears resting
shamelessly upon her lids, a look of deep inexpressible fear in
her expression.

"Will--will you be able to save him, Professor?" she asked, not
once, but a dozen different times.

None of the rest of us spoke. We waited anxiously for the first
signs of hope, the first indication that the heavy man's life
might be preserved. It was wholly a question whether the
physostigmin had been given to him quickly enough.

Kennedy straightened finally, and we knew that the crisis was
over. Marilyn broke down completely and had to be supported to a
chair. Strong, willing arms lifted Shirley to take him to his
dressing room.

At that moment Kennedy stood up, raising his voice so as to
demand the attention of everyone, taking charge of matters
through sheer force of personality.

"I have come here this afternoon," he began, "to apprehend the
man or woman responsible for the death of Miss Lamar and Mr.
Werner, for the fire in the negative vault, and now for this
attempt upon the life of Mr. Shirley."

Not a sound was evident as he paused, no movement save a vague,
uneasy shifting of position on the part of some of those who had
been on the point of leaving.

"I have indisputable evidence of the guilty person's identity,
but, nevertheless, for reasons which I will explain to you I have
not yet completed my identification. To do so it is necessary
that certain photographed scenes be projected on the screen and
that certain other matters be made perfectly clear. I am very
anxious, you see, to eliminate the slightest possibility of
error.

"Mr. Mackay here"--Kennedy smiled, very slightly--"is the
district attorney with jurisdiction at Tarrytown. At my request,
since yesterday--or, to be exact, since the death of Mr. Werner
warned us that no time could be lost--he has carried a 'John Doe'
warrant. Immediately following my identification of the guilty
person he--or she--will be placed under arrest. The charge will
be the murder of Stella Lamar by the use of poison in a manner
which I will explain to you. The trial will take place at White
Plains, the county seat of Westchester County, where the murder
occurred. Mr. Mackay informs me that the courts there are not
crowded; in fact, he personally has been able to devote most of
his time to this case. Therefore the trial will be speedy and I
am sure that the cold-blooded methods used by this criminal will
guarantee a quick sentence and an early trip to the electric
chair at Ossining. Now"--suddenly grim--"if everyone will go down
to the projection room, the larger one, we will bring matters to
their proper conclusion."

I imagined that Kennedy's speech was calculated to spread a
little wholesome fear among the people we had considered
suspects. In any case that was the result, for an outsider, from
the expressions upon the various faces, might have concluded that
several of them were guilty. Each seemed to start off across the
studio floor reluctantly, as though afraid to obey Kennedy, yet
unable to resist the fascination of witnessing the identification
of the criminal, as though feeling that he or she individually
might be accused, and yet unwilling to seek safety at the expense
of missing Kennedy's revelation of his methods and explanation of
their result.

I drew him aside as quickly as I could.

"Craig," I started, eagerly, "isn't this all unnecessary? Can't
you see that Shirley is the guilty man? If you will hurry into
his room with paper and pencil and get his confession before he
recovers from his fright and regains his assurance--"

"What on earth, Walter!" Kennedy interrupted me with a look of
surprise which I did not miss even in my excitement. "What are
you driving at, anyway?"

"Why, Shirley is the criminal. He--"

"Nonsense! Wasn't an attempt made to kill him just now? Wasn't it
evident that he was considered as dangerous to the unknown as
Werner, the director? Hasn't he been eliminated from our
calculations as surely as the man slain yesterday?" "No!" I
flushed. "Not at all, Craig! This was not an attempt at murder.
There were none of the criminal's earmarks noticeable at
Tarrytown or in the banquet scene."

"How do you mean, Walter?" For once Kennedy regarded me
seriously.

"Why, you pointed out yourself that this unknown was
exceptionally clever. The attempt on Shirley, if it were an
attempt, was not clever at all."

"Why?"

"Why?" I was a little sarcastic, because I was sure of myself.
"Because the poison was atropin--belladonna. That is common. I've
read of any number of crimes where that was used. Do you think
for a moment that the mind which figured out how to use snake
venom, and botulin toxin, would descend to anything as ordinary
as all this?"

"Well, if it was not an attempt at murder, what was it?"

"Suicide! It's as plain as the nose on your face. Shirley was
passing us as we were standing with Millard and as you told
Millard we all were to go to the projection room to identify the
criminal. Therefore Shirley knew he was at the end of his rope.
With the theatrical temperament, he took the poison just as he
finished playing his last great scene. It--it was a sort of swan
song."

"Quite a theory, Walter!" Now I knew Kennedy was unimpressed.
"But, where did he get the belladonna?"

"For his eyes. After the smoke smart."

"The drug is of no use against such inflammation."

"No, but it served to brighten his eyes. Enid suggested it to him
and he went out and got it. It helped him play his scenes. It
gave him the glittering expression he needed in his
characterization."

Again Kennedy seemed to grasp my view. He hesitated for several
moments. Finally he looked up.

"If Shirley is the criminal, and if he is above using as common a
drug as atropin for killing another man, then--then why isn't he
above using it upon himself?"

That struck me as easy to answer. "Because if he is killing
himself it is not necessary for him to cover his tracks, or to do
it cleverly, and besides"--it was my big point--"he probably
didn't decide to try to do it until he overheard us and realized
the menace. At that time he had the belladonna in his pocket. He
did not have an opportunity to procure anything else."

Kennedy grinned. "You're all wrong, Walter, and I'll show you
where your reasoning is faulty. In the first place if this
criminal was the type to commit suicide at the moment he thought
he was about to be caught he would be the type who would reflect
upon that idea beforehand. As his crimes show a great deal of
previous preparation, so we may assume that he would prepare for
suicide, or rather for the possibility that he might wish to
attempt it. Therefore he would have something better for that
purpose than atropin."

I shook my head, but Kennedy continued.

"As a matter of fact, the use of that drug is not less clever
than the use of the venom or the toxin; it is more so. Stop and
think a minute! The snake venom was employed in the case of Miss
Lamar's death because it offered about the least possible chance
of leaving telltale clues behind. The snake poison could be
inflicted with a tiny scratch, and in such a way that an outcry
from the girl would never be noticed. Nothing but my pocket lens
caught the scratch; only the great care I used in my examination
put us on the trail at all.

"Now remember how Werner met his death. The toxin gave every
symptom of food poisoning. Except that we discovered the broken
stem of the wineglass we would never have been able to prove the
tragedy anything but accident. Very possibly we have Shirley to
thank for the fact that our one clue there was not removed or
destroyed.

"In both cases the selection of the poison was suited to the
conditions. Therefore, if an attempt was made to kill Shirley--
and of the fact I am sure--we might expect that the agent
likewise would be one least apt to create suspicion. There are no
portieres, no opportunity for the use of another venom; and
besides, that has lost its novelty, and so its value. Similarly
there is no use of food or wine in the scene, precluding
something else along the toxin order.

"Our unknown realizes that the safest place to commit murder is
where there is a crowd. He has followed that principle
consistently. In the case of the heavy man, who has a bit of
business before the camera where he drinks the contents of a
little bottle, the very cleverest thing is to use belladonna,
because Shirley has employed it for his eyes, and because"--
maliciously, almost--"it leads immediately to the hypothesis of
suicide."

"Ye gods, Craig!" A sudden thought struck me and rather terrified
me. "Do you suppose Enid Faye suggested the use of the drug to
Shirley as part of the scheme to kill him? Is she--"

"I prefer," Kennedy interrupted--"I prefer to suppose that the
guilty person overheard her, or perhaps saw him buy it or learned
in some other way that he was going to use it."

Completely taken up with this new line of thought, I failed to
question Kennedy further, and it was just as well because most of
the people were on their way down to the projection room, not
only those we wished present, but practically everyone of
sufficient importance about the studio to feel that he could
intrude.

Kennedy turned to Mackay, who had taken no part in our
discussion, although an interested listener. "You have the bag
and all the evidence?"

"Yes!" Mackay picked it up. "Watkins, the camera man, watched it
for me while Jameson and I went after that drug."

Kennedy stooped down quickly, but it was locked and had not been
tampered with.

In the corridor by the dressing rooms we met Kauf, and Kennedy
stopped him.

"How long would it take to make a print from the scene where
Shirley took the poison?"

"We could have it ready in half an hour, in a case of grim
necessity."

"Half an hour?" I exclaimed at that, in disbelief. "You couldn't
begin to dry the negative in that time, Kauf."

He glanced at me tolerantly. "We make what is called a wet print;
that is, we print from the negative while it is still wet and so
we only have the positive to dry. Then we put it on drums in a
forced draught of hot air. The result is not very good, but it's
a fine thing sometimes to get a picture of a parade or some
accident in a theater right after it happens."

"Will you do it for me, Kauf?" Kennedy broke in, impatiently.
"This is a case of grim necessity," he added.

Kauf hurried off and we made our way across the yard to the
stairs leading down into the basement and to the projection room
specified by Kennedy. Here Manton was waiting, uneasy, flushed,
his face gathered in a frown and his hands clenching and
unclenching in his nervousness.

"Do you--do you know who it is?" he demanded.

"Not yet," Kennedy replied. "First I must marshal all my
evidence."

"Who--who do you want present in the projection room?"

"Mr. Phelps, Mr. Millard, and--yourself, Mr. Manton. Miss Loring
and Miss Faye. Mr. Gordon. Anyone else who wishes, if there is
room."

"Phelps, Millard, Gordon, and the two girls are inside already."

"Good! We will start at once."

Manton turned, to lead the way in. At that moment there was a
call from the yard. We stopped, looking up. It was Shirley.

"Wait just a minute," he cried. He was so weak that the two extra
men who were helping him virtually supported his weight. On his
face was a look of desperate determination. "I--I must see this
too!" he gasped.




XXXII

CAMERA EVIDENCE


Coming in from the bright light of open day, the projection room
seemed a gloomy, forbidding place, certainly well calculated to
break down the reserve of perhaps the cleverest criminal ever
pitting his skill against the science of Craig Kennedy.

It was a small room, long and not so wide, with a comparatively
low ceiling. In order to obviate eye strain the walls were
painted somberly and there were no light colors in evidence
except for a nearly square patch of white at the farther end, the
screen upon which the pictures were projected. The illumination
was very dim. This was so that there would be no great contrast
between the light reflected from the images cast upon the screen
during pictures and the illumination in the room itself between
reels; again designed to prevent strain upon the eyes of the
employees whose work was the constant examination of film in
various stages of its assembly.

The chairs were fastened to the floor, arranged in tiny crescents
and placed so as not to interfere with the throw of the pictures
from behind. The projection machines themselves, two in number in
order to provide continuous projection by alternating the reels
and so threading one machine while running the other, were in a
fireproof booth or separate room, connected with the tiny
auditorium only by slits in the wall and a sort of porthole
through which the operator could talk or take his instructions.

Directly beneath the openings to the booth were a table equipped
with a shaded lamp, a stand for manuscripts, and a signal button.
Here the film cutters and editors sat, watching the subject upon
which they worked and making notes for changes, for bits of
superfluous action to be cut out, or for titles or spoken inserts
to be moved. At a signal the operator could be instructed to stop
at any point, or to start, or to wind back and run some given
piece over again. The lights in the room were controlled from
within the booth and also by a switch just at the side of the
door. A telephone on the table offered a connection with any part
of the studio or with the city exchanges, so that an official of
the company could be reached while viewing a picture.

As we entered I tried to study the different faces, but found it
a hopeless task on account of the poor light. Kennedy took his
place at the little table, switching on the little shaded lamp
and motioning for Mackay to set the traveling bag so he could
open it and view the contents. Then Mackay took post at the door,
a hand in his pocket, and I realized that the district attorney
clasped a weapon beneath the cover of his clothing, and was
prepared for trouble. I moved over to be ready to help Kennedy if
necessary. As Kennedy took his key, unlocking the bag, it would
have been possible to have heard the slightest movement of a hand
or foot, the faintest gasp of breath, so tense was the silence.

First Kennedy took out the various rolls of film. Looking up, he
caught the face of the operator at the opening in the wall and
handed them to him one by one.

"Here are two sections of the opening of the story, scenes one to
thirteen of 'The Black Terror' put together in order, but without
subtitles. One is printed from the negative of the head camera
man, Watkins. The other is exactly the same action as taken by
the other photographer. We will run both, but wait for my signal
between each piece. Understand?"

"Yes, sir!"

"Now I am giving you two rolls which contain prints of the
negative from both cameras of the action at the moment of
Werner's death. Those are to be projected in the same way when I
give you the signal. Following that there will be two very short
pieces which show the attempt upon the life of Mr. Shirley. They
are being rushed through the laboratory at this moment and will
be brought to you by the time we are ready for them. Finally"--
Kennedy paused and as he took the rolls of negative of the snake
film I could see that he hesitated to allow them out of his hands
even for a few moments--"here is some negative which will be my
little climax. It--it is very valuable indeed, so please be
careful."

"You--you want to project the NEGATIVE?" queried the operator.

"Yes. They tell me it can be done, even with negative as old and
brittle as this, if you are careful."

"I'll be careful, sir! You punch the button there once to stop
and two to go. I'll be ready in a moment." As he spoke he
disappeared and soon we heard the unmistakable hiss of the arcs
in his machines.

Kennedy stooped and from the bag produced the little envelopes
with the pocket knives and nail files, the set of envelopes with
the samples of blood, the piece of silk he had cut from the
portiere at Tarrytown, the tiny bits he had cut from the towel
found by me in the washroom of this studio, and a microscope--the
last, I guessed, for effect.

Around in the semidarkness I could see the faces as necks were
craned to watch us. Kennedy's deliberateness, his air of
certainty, must have struck terror home to some one person in the
little audience. Often Kennedy depended upon hidden scientific
instruments to catch the faint outward signs of the emotions of
his people in a seance of this sort, to allow the comparison of
their reactions in the course of his review of the evidence, to
give him what amounted to a very sure proof of the one person's
guilt. The very absence of some such preparation indicated to me
the extent of his confidence.

At length he began his little lecture, for all the world as
though this were one of his classes at the University, as though
there were at stake some matter of chemical reaction.

"I need not tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that this is a highly
scientific age in which we live." His tones were leisurely,
businesslike, cool. "Your own profession, the moving picture,
with all its detail of photography and electricity, its blending
of art and drama and mechanics, is indicative of that, but"--a
pause for emphasis--"it is of my own profession I wish to talk
just now, the detection and prevention of crime.

"Criminals as a whole were probably the very first class of
society to realize the full benefit of modern science. Banks and
business institutions, the various detective and police forces,
all grades and walks of life have been put to it to keep abreast
of the development of scientific crime. So true has this been
that it is a matter of common belief with many people that the
hand of the law may be defied with impunity, that justice may be
cheated with absolute certainty, just so long as a guilty man or
woman is sufficiently clever and sufficiently careful.

"Fortunately, the real truth is quite the reverse. Science has
extended itself in many dimensions of space. With the use of a
microscope, for instance, a whole new world is opened up to the
trained detective.

"Everyone knows now that the examination of hands and fingers is
an infallible aid in the identification of criminals and in the
proof of the presence of a suspect at the scene of a crime--I
refer to fingerprints, of course. But fingerprints are only one
small detail in this department of investigation. Our criminals
know that gloves must be worn, or any smooth surface wiped so as
to remove the prints. In that way they believe they cheat the
microscope or the pocket lens.

"As a matter of fact few people have thought of another way of
gaining evidence from the finger tips, but it is a method
possible to the scientist, and is not only practicable but
exceedingly effective. In time it will be recognized by all
specialists in crime. Now I refer to the deposits under the
finger nail.

"Indeed, it is surprising how many things find their way under
the nail and into the corners of the cuticle." Kennedy indicated
the files and pocket knives visible in the shaded square of light
before him. "The value of examining finger-nail deposits becomes
evident when we realize that everyone carries away in that
fashion a sample of every bit of material he handles. To touch a
piece of cloth, even lightly, will result in the catching of a
few of its fibers. Similarly, the finger nails will deposit
either a small or large portion of their accumulation upon such
things as the knife blades or files used to clean them; and there
identification still is possible. Nothing in the world is too
infinitesimal for use as evidence beneath the microscope.

"In classifying these accumulations"--Kennedy paused and the
silence in the little room was death-like--"we may say that there
are some which are legitimate and some which are not. It is the
latter which concern us now. The first day we were here at the
studio, just four days ago now, and immediately following the
murder of Miss Lamar, Mr. Jameson discovered a towel in the
washroom on the second floor of the office building. On that
towel there were spots of Chinese yellow, make-up, as though it
had been used to wipe a face or hands by some actor or actress.
Those spots were unimportant. There were others, however, of an
entirely different nature, together with the mark of blood and a
stain which showed that a hypodermic needle had been cleaned upon
the towel before it was thrown in the basket."

Kennedy leaned forward. His eyes traveled from face to face.
"That towel was a dangerous clue." Now there was a new grim
element in his voice. "That towel alone has given me the evidence
on which I shall obtain a conviction in this case. To-day I let
it be known that it was in my possession and the guilty man or
woman understood at once the value it would be to me. In order to
gain additional clues I purposely gave the impression that I had
yet to analyze either the spots or the trace of blood. I wanted
the towel stolen, and for that purpose I placed the bag
containing it in a locker and left the locker unguarded. I coated
the towel with a substance which would cause discomfort and
alarm--itching salve--not with the idea that anyone would be
foolish enough to go about scratching before my eyes, but with
the idea of making that person believe that such was my purpose
and with the idea of driving him--or her--to washing his hands at
once and, more, with the idea of forcing him or scaring him into
cleaning his fingernails.

"I succeeded. On one of these files or knife blades I have found
and identified the fibers of that towel. I do not yet know the
person, but I know the mark placed by Mackay on the outside of
the little envelope, and when I tell Mackay the mark he will name
the guilty person."

"Mr. Kennedy!" Manton spoke up, impulsively, "every towel in the
studio is the same. I bought them all at the same time. The
fibers would all be alike. You have named seven people to me,
including myself, as possibly guilty of these--these murders.
Your conclusions may be very unjust--and may lead to a serious
miscarriage of justice."

Kennedy was unperturbed. "This particular towel, in addition to
the itching salve, was thoroughly impregnated with a colorless
chemical which changed the composition of the fibers in a way
easily distinguishing them from the others under the microscope.
Do you see, Mr. Manton?"

The promoter had no more to say.

"Now what connection has the towel with the case? Simply this!"
Kennedy picked up one of the tiny pieces he had cut out of it.
"The poison used to kill Miss Lamar was snake venom." He paused
while a little murmur went through his audience, the first sound
I had detected. "These spots on the towel are antivenin. The
venom itself is exceedingly dangerous to handle. The guilty man--
or woman--took no chances, but inoculated himself with antivenin,
protection against any chance action of the poison. The marks on
the towel are the marks made by the needle used by that person in
taking the inoculation.

"If you will follow me closely you will understand the
significance of this. Miss Lamar was killed by the scratch of a
needle secreted in the portieres through which she came, playing
the scene in Mr. Phelps's library. That I will prove to you when
I show you the film. The night following her death some one broke
into the room there at Tarrytown and removed the needle. In
removing the needle that person scratched himself, or herself. On
the portieres I found some tiny spots of blood." Kennedy paused
to hold up the bit of heavy silk. "I analyzed them and found that
the blood serum had changed in character very subtly. I
demonstrated that the blood of the person who took the needle
contained antivenin, and if necessary I can prove the blood to
come from the same individual who wiped the needle on the towel
in the studio."

Kennedy pressed the button before him, twice. "Now I want you to
see, actually see Miss Lamar meet her death."

The lights went out, then the picture flashed on the screen
before us, revealing the gloom and mystery of the opening scene
of "The Black Terror." We saw the play of the flashlight, finally
the fingers and next the arm of Stella as she parted the
curtains. In the close-up we witnessed the repetition of her
appearance, since the film was simply spliced together, not
"matched" or trimmed. Following came all the action down to the
point where she collapsed over the figure of Werner on the floor.
Before the camera man stopped, Manton rushed in and was
photographed bending over her.

Kennedy's voice was dramatically tense, for not one of us but had
been profoundly affected by the reproduction of the tragedy.

"Did you notice the terror in her face when she cried out? Was
that terror, really? If you were watching, you would have
detected a slight flinch as she brushed her arm up against the
silk. For just a moment she was not acting. It was pain, not
pretended terror, which made her scream. The devilish feature to
this whole plot was the care taken to cover just that thing-her
inevitable exclamation. Now watch closely as I signal the
operator to run the same action from the other camera. Notice the
gradual effect of the poison, how she forces herself to keep
going without realization of the fact that death is at hand, how
she collapses finally through sheer inability to maintain her
control of herself a moment longer."

During the running of the second piece the tense silence in the
room was ghastly. Who was the guilty person? Who possessed such
amazing callousness that an exhibition of this sort brought no
outcry?

"Now"--Kennedy glanced around in the dim light, switched on
between the running of the different strips--"I'm going to
project the banquet scenes and show you the manner of Werner's
death."

Scene after scene of the banquet flashed before us. Here the
cutter had not been sure just what Kennedy wanted and had spliced
up everything. We saw the marvelous direction of Werner, who
little realized that it was to be his last few moments on earth,
and we grasped the beauty and illusion of the set caused by the
mirrors and the man's skill in placing his people. Yet there was
not a sound, because we knew that this was a tragedy, a grim
episode in which there was no human justification whatever.

Werner rose at his place. He proposed his toast. He drank the
contents of his glass. Then, his expression changed to wonderment
and from that to fear and realization, and he dropped to the
floor.

Kennedy's voice, interrupting, seemed to me to come from a great
distance, so powerfully was I affected by the bit of film.

"The poison used to kill Mr. Werner was botulin toxin, selected
because its effects could not be diagnosed as anything other than
ordinary food poisoning. When we look at the print from the
second camera's negative you will notice how quickly it acted. It
was the pure toxin, placed in his glass before the wine was
poured."

Once more the unfortunate director's death was reproduced before
us.

"Struck down," exclaimed Craig, "as though by some invisible
lightning bolt, without mercy, without a chance, without the
slightest bit of compunction! Why? I'll tell you. Because he
suspected, in fact knew, who the guilty person was. Because he
followed that person out to Tarrytown the night the needle was
removed from the portieres. Because he was a menace to that
person's life!"

Kennedy turned to the operator. "Have those other scenes come
down?"

"Yes, sir!"

"All right!" Kennedy faced the rest of us again. "There was, or
rather is, another person who suspects the identity of the
criminal. To-day an attempt was made upon the life of Shirley.
Shirley will not tell whom he suspects because he has no definite
proof, yet for the mere fact that he suspects he narrowly escaped
the fate of Stella Lamar and Werner." Kennedy pressed the button.
"Witness the effort to kill the man playing the part of the Black
Terror."

The print was terribly bad, in appearance almost a "dupe," due to
the speed with which it had been made. Nevertheless the two very
brief scenes rushed through for this showing were more
absorbingly thrilling, more graphic than anything ever to be seen
even in a news reel at a movie theater.

"Notice!" Kennedy exclaimed. "He puts his hand in one pocket, he
fumbles, hesitates, then finds the bottle in the other. Whoever
put the poison in the vial replaced it in the wrong pocket. The
film shows that very clearly. The camera proves that it was not
an attempt at suicide. Yet the poison used was belladonna,
selected because this victim had purchased some and because it
would seem sure, therefore, that he had committed suicide."

We sat in silence, listening, horrified.

"There is still another matter," Kennedy went on, after a moment.
"The fire in the negative vault this morning was incendiary. I
have proved to the satisfaction of several of us that a bomb was
constructed of wet phosphorus and old film and placed in the
vault by trickery four days ago, the same day Stella Lamar was
killed. Through a miscalculation the phosphorus was slow in
drying and the fire did not occur until to-day. Thanks to that
fact I have in my possession a bit of negative which the murderer
very likely wished to have destroyed; in fact, I believe its
destruction to be the motive in planning the fire in the vault."
He faced the operator. "Ready to run the negative?"

"Yes, sir!"

Kennedy pressed the button and when the projection machine threw
its picture upon the screen I saw something such as I had never
imagined before. Everything was black which should have been
white and everything white which should have been black. The two
extremes shaded into each other in weird fashion. In fact it was
uncanny to watch a negative projected and I followed, fascinated.

"This is a film made with the co-operation of Doctor Nagoya of
the Castleton Institute and I am told by Mr. Manton that it is
one of the finest snake pictures ever made." Kennedy spoke fast,
so that we would get the full benefit of his explanation and so
that it would not be necessary to subject the negative to the
wear and tear of the sprocket wheels in the projection machine
again. "I am running this for you to show you the action of the
rattlesnake, whose venom was used to kill Miss Lamar, and to give
you an idea of the source of the murderer's knowledge of snake
poison."

At this moment Doctor Nagoya, whom I could barely recognize in
the inverted photography, seized one of the rattlers. It was a
close-up and we could see the reptile dart out its forked tongue,
seeking to get at the hands of the Japanese, locked firmly about
its neck. Then another man walked into the picture, holding a
jar. At once the snake struck at the glass. As it did so it was
possible to see drops of the venom projected into the jar.

Other details followed and there were views of other sorts and
breeds of snakes, from the poisonous to the most harmless. The
principal scene, however, had been the one showing the venom.

"Lights up!"

The operator threw the switch again, stopping the film and at the
same time lighting the projection room. Kennedy stepped forward
and turned to face us.

"There was this negative in the vaults." He spoke rapidly. "It
bore a certain name on the film, as editor. Some one knew that
proof of the possession of this knowledge of snakes might prove a
powerful link in the chain against him. If that had been a
positive instead of a negative, you would have recognized Doctor
Nagoya's 'assistant.' There was a double motive in blowing that
vault--to destroy the company and to protect himself. In fact,
all the rest of the negative was destroyed. Only by chance I
saved this piece--the very one that he wanted to destroy."

Everyone waited breathlessly for Kennedy's next move. Suddenly
Kennedy flushed. I could see that he became genuinely angry.

"In this room," he exclaimed, "there sits the most unscrupulous,
cold-blooded, inhuman being I have ever known. Yet he maintains
silence, believing still that he can defy the scientific evidence
of his crimes. I have not yet mentioned, however, the real proof
of his guilt."

Kennedy picked up one of the little envelopes, one which
contained a blood smear. "During the explosion this morning a
number of you were cut by falling glass. You will remember that I
bound up your cuts, carefully cleansing each one and wiping away
the blood. That gave me a sample of the blood of everyone but
Miss Loring and Mr. Shirley. Subsequently, without their
knowledge, I obtained a sample from each of them. Thus I have a
specimen from everyone concerned, or possibly concerned in the
murders."

He glanced about, but even now there was no telltale revelation.

"I have analyzed these and one shows that the person from whom I
obtained the sample has been inoculated with antivenin. The mark
on the envelope is the same as the mark on the envelope
containing the towel fibers, a double proof. Furthermore, I am
prepared to show that it is the same blood as the blood upon the
portiere." He faced me. All at once his voice carried the
sharpness of a whip. "Walter, relieve Mackay at the door and take
his weapon. Let no one out. Mackay, come here!"

An instant later the district attorney leaned over. He glanced at
the mark indicated by Kennedy, then whispered a name. The next
instant Kennedy rose. "I thought so," he muttered.

Raising his voice, he addressed all of us.

"Here is a man who thought crime so long that he believed he
could get away with--murder! Not only did he commit a second
murder and plan a third to cover the first, but he planted
evidence against nearly all of you. He dropped the ampulla in
McGroarty's car to implicate any one of four people. He coolly
stole a cigarette case to put it where it would be found after
the film fire and clinch suspicion.

"For all this, what justification has he had? Jealousy, jealousy
of the narrowest, most primitive, sort actuated him. Not only was
he willing to kill Stella Lamar, but he sought to destroy every
foot of negative in which she had appeared. He was jealous of her
success, greater than his, jealous of her interest in other men,
greater than her interest in him. Her divorce was maneuvered
directly by him simply because he thought it would hurt and
humiliate her, and for no other reason.

"When nothing seemed to stop her, on her upward climb, when he
realized that she was as ambitious as he was and that her
position in the picture world alone interested her, he sought by
devious means, by subtle schemes, by spreading dissatisfaction
and encouraging dissension, to wreck the company which had made
her. At the end--he killed her--waiting craftily until she was at
the very climax of her finest piece of work, the opening scenes
of 'The Black Terror.'"

There was bitterness in Kennedy's tones. "Before, I would not
believe that a man--"

Suddenly the projection room was plunged into darkness. Some one
had pushed the wall switch close by me. I backed into the
doorway, raising my weapon to resist any attempt to escape.

Almost at the same instant there were the sounds of a struggle.
Kennedy had dashed forward in the darkness, sure of the position
of his man, unafraid.

A scream I recognized from the throat of Enid. I groped for the
switch, but the operator in the booth anticipated me. In the
first burst of illumination I saw that Kennedy had forced his
antagonist back over the front row of chairs. Almost I heard the
crack of the man's spine.

I caught a glimpse of the man's face and gasped at the murderous
rage as he struggled and strove to break Kennedy's iron grip.

Enid was the first at Kennedy's side. With an expression I failed
to analyze until long afterward she sought to claw at the
murderer's unprotected features, twitching now in impotent fury.

"You wrote that note for her to meet you at the tearoom," Kennedy
muttered, eyes narrowing grimly, "knowing she would be dead
before that time. You protected yourself against the poisoned
needle in the portieres--but--your own blood convicts you--
Millard!"

THE END






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