The War Terror by Arthur B. Reeve
Chapter XXXVI. The Ends of Justice
A few minutes later we were in the sitting room of her suite. She received us rather ungraciously, I thought.
"Do you feel any better?" asked Kennedy.
"No," she replied curtly. "Excuse me for a moment. I wish to see that maid of mine. Clarisse!"
She had hardly left the room when Kennedy was on his feet. The bottle of white tablets, nearly empty, was still on the table. I saw him take some very fine white powder and dust it quickly over the bottle. It seemed to adhere, and from his pocket he quickly drew a piece of what seemed to be specially prepared paper, laid it over the bottle where the powder adhered, fitting it over the curves. He withdrew it quickly, for outside we heard her light step, returning. I am sure she either saw or suspected that Kennedy had been touching the bottle of tablets, for there was a look of startled fear on her face.
"Then you do not feel like continuing the tests we abandoned last night?" asked Kennedy, apparently not noticing her look.
"No, I do not," she almost snapped. "You--you are detectives. Mrs. Hazleton has sent you."
"Indeed, Mrs. Hazleton has not sent us," insisted Kennedy, never for an instant showing his surprise at her mention of the name.
"You are. You can tell her, you can tell everybody. I'll tell-- I'll tell myself. I won't wait. That child is mine--mine--not hers. Now--go!"
Veronica Haversham on the stage never towered in a fit of passion as she did now in real life, as her ungovernable feelings broke forth tempestuously on us.
I was astounded, bewildered at the revelation, the possibilities in those simple words, "The child is mine." For a moment I was stunned. Then as the full meaning dawned on me I wondered in a flood of consciousness whether it was true. Was it the product of her drug-disordered brain? Had her desperate love for Hazleton produced a hallucination?
Kennedy, silent, saw that the case demanded quick action. I shall never forget the breathless ride down from the sanitarium to the Hazleton house on Riverside Drive.
"Mrs. Hazleton," he cried, as we hurried in, "you will pardon me for this unceremonious intrusion, but it is most important. May I trouble you to place your fingers on this paper--so?"
He held out to her a piece of the prepared paper. She looked at him once, then saw from his face that he was not to be questioned. Almost tremulously she did as he said, saying not a word. I wondered whether she knew the story of Veronica, or whether so far only hints of it had been brought to her.
"Thank you," he said quickly. "Now, if I may see Morton?"
It was the first time we had seen the baby about whom the rapidly thickening events were crowding. He was a perfect specimen of well-cared-for, scientific infant.
Kennedy took the little chubby fingers playfully in his own. He seemed at once to win the child's confidence, though he may have violated scientific rules. One by one he pressed the little fingers on the paper, until little Morton crowed with delight as one little piggy after another "went to market." He had deserted thousands of dollars' worth of toys just to play with the simple piece of paper Kennedy had brought with him. As I looked at him, I thought of what Kennedy had said at the start. Perhaps this innocent child was not to be envied after all. I could hardly restrain my excitement over the astounding situation which had suddenly developed.
"That will do," announced Kennedy finally, carelessly folding up the paper and slipping it into his pocket. "You must excuse me now."
"You see," he explained on the way to the laboratory, "that powder adheres to fresh finger prints, taking all the gradations. Then the paper with its paraffine and glycerine coating takes off the powder."
In the laboratory he buried himself in work, with microscope compasses, calipers, while I fumed impotently at the window.
"Walter," he called suddenly, "get Dr. Maudsley on the telephone. Tell him to come immediately to the laboratory."
Meanwhile Kennedy was busy arranging what he had discovered in logical order and putting on it the finishing touches.
As Dr. Maudsley entered Kennedy greeted him and began by plunging directly into the case in answer to his rather discourteous inquiry as to why he had been so hastily summoned.
"Dr. Maudsley," said Craig, "I have asked you to call alone because, while I am on the verge of discovering the truth in an important case affecting Morton Hazleton and his wife, I am frankly perplexed as to how to go ahead."
The doctor seemed to shake with excitement as Kennedy proceeded.
"Dr. Maudsley," Craig added, dropping his voice, "is Morton III the son of Millicent Hazleton or not? You were the physician in attendance on her at the birth. Is he?"
Maudsley had been watching Kennedy furtively at first, but as he rapped out the words I thought the doctor's eyes would pop out of his head. Perspiration in great beads collected on his face.
"P--professor K--Kennedy," he muttered, frantically rubbing his face and lower jaw as if to compose the agitation he could so ill conceal, "let me explain."
"Yes, yes--go on," urged Kennedy.
"Mrs. Hazleton's baby was born--dead. I knew how much she and the rest of the family had longed for an heir, how much it meant. And I--substituted for the dead child a newborn baby from the maternity hospital. It--it belonged to Veronica Haversham--then a poor chorus girl. I did not intend that she should ever know it. I intended that she should think her baby was dead. But in some way she found out. Since then she has become a famous beauty, has numbered among her friends even Hazleton himself. For nearly two years I have tried to keep her from divulging the secret. From time to time hints of it have leaked out. I knew that if Hazleton with his infatuation of her were to learn---" "And Mrs. Hazleton, has she been told?" interrupted Kennedy.
"I have been trying to keep it from her as long as I can, but it has been difficult to keep Veronica from telling it. Hazleton himself was so wild over her. And she wanted her son as she---"
"Maudsley," snapped out Kennedy, slapping down on the table the mass of prints and charts which he had hurriedly collected and was studying, "you lie! Morton is Millicent Hazleton's son. The whole story is blackmail. I knew it when she told me of her dreams and I suspected first some such devilish scheme as yours. Now I know it scientifically."
He turned over the prints.
"I suppose that study of these prints, Maudsley, will convey nothing to you. I know that it is usually stated that there are no two sets of finger prints in the world that are identical or that can be confused. Still, there are certain similarities of finger prints and other characteristics, and these similarities have recently been exhaustively studied by Bertilion, who has found that there are clear relationships sometimes between mother and child in these respects. If Solomon were alive, doctor, he would not now have to resort to the expedient to which he did when the two women disputed over the right to the living child. Modern science is now deciding by exact laboratory methods the same problem as he solved by his unique knowledge of feminine psychology.
"I saw how this case was tending. Not a moment too soon, I said to myself, 'The hand of the child will tell.' By the very variations in unlike things, such as finger and palm prints, as tabulated and arranged by Bertillon after study in thousands of cases, by the very loops, whorls, arches and composites, I have proved my case.
"The dominancy, not the identity, of heredity through the infinite varieties of finger markings is sometimes very striking. Unique patterns in a parent have been repeated with marvelous accuracy in the child. I knew that negative results might prove nothing in regard to parentage, a caution which it is important to observe. But I was prepared to meet even that.
"I would have gone on into other studies, such as Tammasia's, of heredity in the veining of the back of the hands; I would have measured the hands, compared the relative proportion of the parts; I would have studied them under the X-ray as they are being studied to-day; I would have tried the Reichert blood crystal test which is being perfected now so that it will tell heredity itself. There is no scientific stone I would have left unturned until I had delved at the truth of this riddle. Fortunately it was not necessary. Simple finger prints have told me enough. And best of all, it has been in time to frustrate that devilish scheme you and Veronica Haversham have been slowly unfolding."
Maudsley crumpled up, as it were, at Kennedy's denunciation. He seemed to shrink toward the door.
"Yes," cried Kennedy, with extended forefinger, "you may go--for the present. Don't try to run away. You're watched from this moment on."
Maudsley had retreated precipitately.
I looked at Kennedy inquiringly. What to do? It was indeed a delicate situation, requiring the utmost care to handle. If the story had been told to Hazleton, what might he not have already done? He must be found first of all if we were to meet the conspiracy of these two.
Kennedy reached quickly for the telephone. "There is one stream of scandal that can be dammed at its source," he remarked, calling a number. "Hello. Klemm's Sanitarium? I'd like to speak with Miss Haversham. What--gone? Disappeared? Escaped?"
He hung up the receiver and looked at me blankly. I was speechless.
A thousand ideas flew through our minds at once. Had she perceived the import of our last visit and was she now on her way to complete her plotted slander of Millicent Hazleton, though it pulled down on herself in the end the whole structure?
Hastily Kennedy called Hazleton's home, Butler, and one after another of Hazleton's favorite clubs. It was not until noon that Butler himself found him and came with him, under protest, to the laboratory.
"What is it--what have you found?" cried Butler, his lean form a- quiver with suppressed excitement.
Briefly, one fact after another, sparing Hazleton nothing, Kennedy poured forth the story, how by hint and innuendo Maudsley had been working on Millicent, undermining her, little knowing that he had attacked in her a very tower of strength, how Veronica, infatuated by him, had infatuated him, had led him on step by step.
Pale and agitated, with nerves unstrung by the life he had been leading, Hazleton listened. And as Kennedy hammered one fact after another home, he clenched his fists until the nails dug into his very palms.
"The scoundrels," he ground out, as Kennedy finished by painting the picture of the brave little broken-hearted woman fighting off she knew not what, and the golden-haired, innocent baby stretching out his arms in glee at the very chance to prove that he was what he was. "The scoundrels--take me to Maudsley now. I must see Maudsley. Quick!"
As we pulled up before the door of the reconstructed stable- studio, Kennedy jumped out. The door was unlocked. Up the broad flight of stairs, Hazleton went two at a time. We followed him closely.
Lying on the divan in the room that had been the scene of so many orgies, locked in each other's arms, were two figures--Veronica Haversham and Dr. Maudsley.
She must have gone there directly after our visit to Dr. Klemm's, must have been waiting for him when he returned with his story of the exposure to answer her fears of us as Mrs. Hazleton's detectives. In a frenzy of intoxication she must have flung her arms blindly about him in a last wild embrace.
Hazleton looked, aghast.
He leaned over and took her arm. Before he could frame the name, "Veronica!" he had recoiled.
The two were cold and rigid.
"An overdose of heroin this time," muttered Kennedy.
My head was in a whirl.
Hazleton stared blankly at the two figures abjectly lying before him, as the truth burned itself indelibly into his soul. He covered his face with his hands. And still he saw it all.
Craig said nothing. He was content to let what he had shown work in the man's mind.
"For the sake of--that baby--would she--would she forgive?" asked Hazleton, turning desperately toward Kennedy.
Deliberately Kennedy faced him, not as scientist and millionaire, but as man and man.
"From my psychanalysis," he said slowly, "I should say that it is within your power, in time, to change those dreams."
Hazleton grasped Kennedy's hand before he knew it.
"Kennedy--home--quick. This is the first manful impulse I have had for two years. And, Jameson--you'll tone down that part of it in the newspapers that Junior--might read--when he grows up?"