The Treasure-Train by Arthur B. Reeve
IV. The Mystic Poisoner
"It's almost as though he had been struck down by a spirit hand, Kennedy."
Grady, the house detective of the Prince Edward Charles Hotel, had routed us out of bed in the middle of the night with a hurried call for help, and now met us in the lobby of the fashionable hostelry. All that he had said over the wire was that there had been a murder--"an Englishman, a Captain Shirley."
"Why," exclaimed Grady, lowering his voice as he led us through the lobby, "it's the most mysterious thing, I think, that I've ever seen!"
"In what way?" prompted Kennedy.
"Well," continued Grady, "it must have been just a bit after midnight that one of the elevator-boys heard what sounded like a muffled report in a room on the tenth floor. There were other employees and some guests about at the time, and it was only a matter of seconds before they were on the spot. Finally, the sound was located as having come probably from Captain Shirley's room. But the door was locked--on the inside. There was no response, although some one had seen him ride up in the elevator scarcely five minutes before. By that time they had sent for me. We broke in. There was Shirley, alone, fully dressed, lying on the floor before a writing-table. His face was horribly set, as though he had perhaps seen something that frightened and haunted him--though I suppose it might have been the pain that did it. I think he must have heard something, jumped from the chair, perhaps in fear, then have fallen down on the floor almost immediately.
"We hurried over to him. He was still alive, but could not speak. I turned him over, tried to rouse him and make him comfortable. It was only then that I saw that he was really conscious. But it seemed as if his tongue and most of his muscles were paralyzed. Somehow he managed to convey to us the idea that it was his heart that troubled him most.
"Really, at first I thought it was a case of suicide. But there was no sign of a weapon about and not a trace of poison--no glass, no packet. There was no wound on him, either--except a few slight cuts and scratches on his face and hands. But none of them looked to be serious. And yet, before we could get the house physician up to him he was dead."
"And with not a word?" queried Kennedy.
"That's the strangest part of it. No; not a word spoken. But as he lay there, even in spite of his paralyzed muscles, he was just able to motion with his hands. I thought he wanted to write, and gave him a pencil and a piece of paper. He clutched at them, but here is all he was able to do."
Grady drew from his pocket a piece of paper and handed it to us. On it were printed in trembling, irregular characters, "G A D," the "D" scarcely finished and trailing off. into nothing.
What did it all mean? How had Shirley met his death, and why?
"Tell me something about him," said Kennedy, studying the paper with a frown. Grady shrugged his shoulders.
"An Englishman--that's about all I know. Looked like one of the younger sons who so frequently go out to seek their fortunes in the colonies. By his appearance, I should say he had been in the Far East--India, no doubt. And I imagine he had made good. He seemed to have plenty of money. That's all I know about him."
"Is anything missing from his room?" I asked. "Could it have been a robbery?"
"I searched the room hastily," replied Grady. "Apparently not a thing had been touched. I don't think it was robbery."
By this time we had made our way through the lobby and were in the elevator.
"I've kept the room just as it was," went on Grady to Kennedy, lowering his voice. "I've even delayed a bit in notifying the police, so that you could get here first."
A moment later we entered the rooms, a fairly expensive suite, consisting of a sitting-room, bedroom, and bath. Everything was in a condition to indicate that Shirley had just come in when the shot, if shot it had been, was fired.
There, on the floor, lay his body, still in the same attitude in which he had died and almost as Grady had found him gasping. Grady's description of the horrible look on his face was, if anything, an understatement.
As I stood with my eyes riveted on the horror-stricken face on the floor, Kennedy had been quietly going over the furniture and carpet about the body.
"Look!" he exclaimed at last, scarcely turning to us. On the chair, the writing-table, and even on the walls were little pitted marks and scratches. He bent down over the carpet. There, reflecting the electric light, scattered all about, were little fine pieces of something that glittered.
"You have a vacuum cleaner, I suppose?" inquired Craig, rising quickly.
"Certainly--a plant in the cellar."
"No; I mean one that is portable."
"Yes; we have that, too," answered Grady, hurrying to the room telephone to have the cleaner sent up.
Kennedy now began to look through Shirley's baggage. There was, however, nothing to indicate that it had been rifled.
I noted, among other things, a photograph of a woman in Oriental dress, dusky, languorous, of more than ordinary beauty and intelligence. On it something was written in native characters.
Just then a boy wheeled the cleaner down the hall, and Kennedy quickly shoved the photograph into his pocket.
First, Kennedy removed the dust that was already in the machine. Then he ran the cleaner carefully over the carpet, the upholstery, everything about that corner of the room where the body lay. When he had finished he emptied out the dust into a paper and placed it in his pocket. He was just finishing when there came a knock at the door, and it was opened.
"Mr. Grady?" said a young man, entering hurriedly.
"Oh, hello, Glenn! One of the night clerks in the office, Kennedy," introduced the house detective.
"I've just heard of the--murder," Glenn began. "I was in the dining-room, being relieved for my little midnight luncheon as usual, when I heard of it, and I thought that perhaps you might want to know something that happened just before I went off duty."
"Yes; anything," broke in Kennedy.
"It was early in the evening," returned the clerk, slowly, "when a messenger left a little package for Captain Shirley--said that Captain Shirley had had it sent himself and asked that it be placed in his room. It was a little affair in a plain, paper- wrapped parcel. I sent one of the boys up with it and a key, and told him to put the package on the writing-desk tip here."
Kennedy looked at me. That, then, was the way something, whatever it might be, was introduced into the room.
"When the captain came in," resumed the night clerk, "I saw there was a letter for him in the mailbox and handed it to him. He stood before the office desk while he opened it. I thought he looked queer. The contents seemed to alarm him."
"What was in it?" asked Kennedy. "Could you see?"
"I got one glimpse. It seemed to be nothing but a little scarlet bead with a black spot on it. In his surprise, he dropped a piece of paper from the envelope in which the bead had been wrapped up. I thought it was strange, and, as he hurried over to the elevator, I picked it up. Here it is."
The clerk handed over a crumpled piece of notepaper. On it was scrawled the word "Gadhr," and underneath, "Beware!" I spelled out the first strange word. It had an ominous sound--"Gadhr." Suddenly there flashed through my mind the letters Shirley had tried to print but had not finished, "G A D."
Kennedy looked at the paper a moment.
"Gadhr!" he exclaimed, in a low, tense tone. "Revolt--the native word for unrest in India, the revolution!"
We stared at each other blankly. All of us had been reading lately in the despatches about the troubles there, hidden under the ban of the censorship. I knew that the Hindu propaganda in America was as yet in its infancy, although several plots and conspiracies had been hatched here.
"Is there any one in the hotel whom you might suspect?" asked Kennedy.
Grady cleared his throat and looked at the night clerk significantly.
"Well," he answered, thoughtfully, "across the hall there is a new guest who came to-day--or, rather, yesterday--a Mrs. Anthony. We don't know anything about her, except that she looks like a foreigner. She did not come directly from abroad, but must have been living in New York for some time. They tell me she asked for a room on this floor, at this end of the hall."
"H'm!" considered Kennedy. "I'd like to see her--without being seen."
"I think I can arrange that," acquiesced Grady. "You and Jameson stay in the bedroom. I'll ask her to come over here, and then you can get a good look at her."
The plan satisfied Kennedy, and together we entered the bedroom, putting out the light and leaving the door just a trifle ajar.
A moment later Mrs. Anthony entered. I heard a suppressed gasp from Kennedy.
"The woman in the photograph!" he whispered to me.
I studied her face minutely from our coign of vantage. There was, indeed, a resemblance, too striking to be mere coincidence.
In the presence of Grady, she seemed to be nervous and on guard, as though she knew, intuitively, that she was suspected.
"Did you know Captain Shirley?" shot out Grady.
Kennedy looked over at me and frowned. I knew that something more subtle than New York police methods would be necessary in order to get anything from a woman like this.
"No," she replied, quietly. "You see, I just came here to-day." Her voice had an English accent.
"Did you hear a shot?"
"No," she replied. "The voices in the hall wakened me, though I did not know what was the matter until just now."
"Then you made no effort to find out?" inquired Grady, suspiciously.
"I am alone here in the city," she answered, simply. "I was afraid to intrude."
Throughout she gave the impression that she was strangely reticent about herself. Evidently Kennedy had not much faith that Grady would elicit anything of importance. He tiptoed to the door that led from the bedroom to the hall and found that it could be opened from the inside.
While Grady continued his questioning, Craig and I slipped out into the hall to the room which Mrs. Anthony occupied.
It was a suite much plainer than that occupied by Shirley. Craig switched on the light and looked about hastily and keenly.
For a moment he stood before a dressing-table on which were several toilet articles. A jewel-case seemed to attract his attention, and he opened it. Inside were some comparatively trifling trinkets. The thing that caused him to exclaim, however, was a necklace, broken and unstrung. I looked, too. It was composed of little crimson beads, each with a black spot on it!
Quickly he drew from his pocket the photograph he had taken from Shirley's baggage. As I looked at it again there could be no doubt now in my mind of the identity of the original. It was the same face. And about the neck, in the picture, was a necklace, plainly the same as that before us.
"What are the beads?" I asked, fingering them. "I've never seen anything like them."
"Not beads at all," he replied. "They are Hindu prayer-beans, sometimes called ruttee, jequirity beans, seeds of the plant known to science as Abrus precatorius. They produce a deadly poison-- abrin." He slipped four or five of them into his pocket. Then he resumed his cursory search of the room. There, on a writing-pad, was a note which Mrs. Anthony had evidently been engaged in writing. Craig pored over it for some time, while I fidgeted. It was nothing but a queer jumble of letters:
SOWC FSSJWA EKNLFFBY WOVHLX IHWAJYKH 101MLEL EPJNVPSL WCLURL GHIHDA ELBA.
"Come," I cautioned; "she may return any moment."
Quickly he copied off the letters.
"It's a cipher," he said, simply, "a new and rather difficult one, too, I imagine. But I may be able to decipher it."
Kennedy withdrew from the room and, instead of going back to Shirley's, rode down in the elevator to find the night clerk.
"Had Captain Shirley any friends in the city?" asked Craig.
Glenn shrugged his shoulders.
"He was out most of the time," he replied. "He seemed to be very occupied about something. No, I don't think I ever saw him speak to a soul here, except a word to the waiters and the boys. Once, though," he recollected, "he was called up by a Mrs. Beekman Rogers."
"Mrs. Beekman Rogers," repeated Kennedy, jotting the name down and looking it up in the telephone-book. She lived on Riverside Drive, and, slender though the information was, Kennedy seemed glad to get it.
Grady joined us a moment later, having been wondering where we had disappeared.
"You saw her?" he asked. "What did you think of her?"
"Worth watching," was all Kennedy would say. "Did you get anything out of her?"
Grady shook his head.
"But I am convinced she knows something," he insisted.
Kennedy was about to reply when he was interrupted by the arrival of a couple of detectives from the city police, tardily summoned by Grady.
"I shall let you know the moment I have discovered anything," he said, as he bade Grady good-by. "And thank you for letting me have a chance at the case before all the clues had been spoiled."
Late though it was, in the laboratory Kennedy set to work examining the dust which he had swept up by the vacuum cleaner, as well as the jequirity beans he had taken from Mrs. Anthony's jewel-case.
I do not know how much sleep he had, but I managed to snatch a few hours' rest, and early in the morning I found him at work again, examining the cipher message which he had copied.
"By the way," he said, scarcely looking up as he saw me again, "there is something quite important which you can do for me." Rather pleased to be of some use, I waited eagerly. "I wish you'd go out and see what you can find out about that Mrs. Beekman Rogers," he continued. "I've some work here that will keep me for several hours; so come back to me here."
It was such a commission as he had often given me before, and, through my connection with the Star, I found no difficulty in executing it.
I found that Mrs. Rogers was well known in a certain circle of society in the city. She was wealthy and had the reputation of having given quite liberally to many causes that had interested her. Just now, her particular fad was Oriental religions, and some of her bizarre beliefs had attracted a great deal of attention. A couple of years before she had made a trip around the world, and had lived in India for several months, apparently fascinated by the life and attracted to the mysteries of Oriental faiths.
With my budget of information I hastened back again to join Kennedy at the laboratory. I could see that the cipher was still unread. From that, I conjectured that it was, as he had guessed, constructed on some new and difficult plan.
"What do you think of Mrs. Rogers?" I asked, as I finished reciting what I had learned. "Is it possible that she can be in this revolutionary propaganda?" He shook his head doubtfully.
"Much of the disaffection that exists in India to-day," he replied, "is due to the encouragement and financial assistance which it has received from people here in this country, although only a fraction of the natives of India have ever heard of us. Much of the money devoted to the cause of revolution and anarchy in India is contributed by worthy people who innocently believe that their subscriptions are destined to promote the cause of native enlightenment. I prefer to believe that there is some such explanation in her case. At any rate, I think that we had better make a call on Mrs. Rogers."
Early that afternoon, accordingly, we found ourselves at the door of the large stone house on Riverside Drive in which Mrs. Rogers lived. Kennedy inquired for her, and we were admitted to a large reception-room, the very decorations of which showed evidence of her leaning toward the Orient. Mrs. Rogers proved to be a widow of baffling age, good-looking, with a certain indefinable attractiveness.
Kennedy's cue was obvious. It was to be an eager neophyte in the mysteries of the East, and he played the part perfectly without overdoing it.
"Perhaps you would like to come to some of the meetings of our Cult of the Occult," she suggested.
"Delighted, I am sure," returned Kennedy. She handed him a card.
"We have a meeting this afternoon at four," she explained. "I should be glad to welcome you among us."
Kennedy thanked her and rose to go, preferring to say nothing more just then about the problems which vexed us in the Shirley case, lest it should make further investigation more difficult.
Nothing more had happened at the hotel, as we heard from Grady a few minutes later, and, as there was some time before the cult met, we returned to the laboratory.
Things had evidently progressed well, even in the few hours that he had been studying his meager evidence. Not only was he making a series of delicate chemical tests, but, in cases, he had several guinea-pigs which he was using also.
He now studied through a microscope some of the particles of dust from the vacuum cleaner.
"Little bits of glass," he said, briefly, taking his eye from the eyepiece. "Captain Shirley was not shot."
"Not shot?" I repeated. "Then how was he killed?"
Kennedy eyed me gravely.
"Shirley was murdered by a poisoned bomb!"
I said nothing, for the revelation was even more startling than I had imagined.
"In that package which was placed in his room," he went on, "must have been a little infernal machine of glass, constructed so as to explode the moment the wrapper was broken. The flying pieces of glass injected the poison as by a myriad of hypodermic needles-- the highly poisonous toxin of abrin, product of the jequirity, which is ordinarily destroyed in the stomach but acts powerfully if injected into the blood. Shirley died of jequirity poisoning, or rather of the alkaloid in the bean. It has been used in India for criminal poisoning for ages. Only, there it is crushed, worked into a paste, and rolled into needle-pointed forms which prick the skin. Abrin is composed of two albuminous bodies, one of which resembles snake-venom in all its effects, attacking the heart, making the temperature fall rapidly, and leaving the blood fluid after death. It is a vegetable toxin, quite comparable with ricin from the castor-oil bean."
In spite of my horror at the diabolical plot that had been aimed at Shirley, my mind ran along, keenly endeavoring to piece together the scattered fragments of the case. Some one, of course, had sent the package while he was out and had it placed in his room. Had it been the same person who had sent the single jequirity bean? My mind instantly reverted to the strange woman across the hall, the photograph in his luggage, and the broken necklace in the jewel-case.
Kennedy continued looking at the remainder of the jequirity beans and a liquid he had developed from some of them. Finally, with a glance at his watch, he placed a tube of the liquid in a leather case in his pocket.
"This may not be the only murder," he remarked, sententiously. "It is best to be prepared. Come; we must get up to that meeting."
We journeyed up-town and arrived at the little private hall which the Cult of the Occult had hired somewhat ahead of the time set for the meeting, as Kennedy had aimed to do. Mrs. Rogers was already there and met us at the door.
"So glad to see you," she welcomed, leading us in.
As we entered we could breathe the characteristic pervading odor of sandalwood. Rich Oriental hangings were on the walls, interspersed with cabalistic signs, while at one end was a raised dais.
Mrs. Rogers introduced us to a rather stout, middle-aged, sallow- faced individual in a turban and flowing robes of rustling purple silk. His eyes were piercing, small, and black. The plump, unhealthy, milk-white fingers of his hands were heavy with ornate rings. He looked like what I should have imagined a swami to be, and such, I found, was indeed his title.
"The Swami Rajmanandra," introduced Mrs. Rogers.
He extended his flabby hand in welcome, while Kennedy eyed him keenly. We were not permitted many words with the swami, however, for Mrs. Rogers next presented us to a younger but no less interesting-looking Oriental who was in Occidental dress.
"This is Mr. Singh Bandematarain," said Mrs. Rogers. "You know, he has been sent here by the nizam of his province to be educated at the university."
Mrs. Rogers then hastened to conduct us to seats as, one by one, the worshipers entered. They were mostly women of the aristocratic type who evidently found in this cult a new fad to occupy their jaded craving for the sensational. In the dim light, there was something almost sepulchral about the gathering, and their complexions seemed as white as wax.
Again the door opened and another woman entered. I felt the pressure of Kennedy's hand on my arm and turned my eyes unobtrusively. It was Mrs. Anthony.
Quietly she seemed to glide over the floor toward the swami and, for a moment, stood talking to him. I saw Singh eye her with a curious look. Was it fear or suspicion?
I had come expecting to see something weird and wild, perhaps the exhibition of an Indian fakir--I know not what. In that, at least, I was disappointed. The Swami Rajmanandra, picturesque though he was, talked most fascinatingly about his religion, but either the theatricals were reserved for an inner circle or else we were subtly suspected, for I soon found myself longing for the meeting to close so that we could observe those whom we had come to watch.
I had almost come to the conclusion that our mission had been a failure when the swami concluded and the visitors swarmed forward to talk with the holy man from the East. Kennedy managed to make his way about the circle to Mrs. Rogers and soon was in an animated conversation.
"Were you acquainted with a Captain Shirley?" he asked, finally, as she opened the way for the question by a remark about her life in Calcutta.
"Y-yes," she replied, hesitating; "I read in the papers this morning that he was found dead, most mysteriously. Terrible, wasn't it? Yes, I met him in Calcutta while I was there. Why, he was on his way to London, and came to New York and called on me."
My eye followed the direction of Mrs. Rogers's. She was talking to us, but really her attention was centered on Mrs. Anthony and the swami together. As I glanced back at her I caught sight of Singh, evidently engaged in watching the same two that I was. Did he have some suspicion of Mrs. Anthony? Why was he watching Mrs. Rogers? I determined to study the two women more closely. I saw that Kennedy had already noticed what I had seen.
"One very peculiar thing," he said, deliberately modulating his voice so that it could be heard by those about us, "was that, just before he was killed, some one sent a prayer-bean from a necklace to him."
At the mention of the necklace I saw that Mrs. Rogers was all attention. Involuntarily she shot a glance at Mrs. Anthony, as if she noted that she was not wearing the necklace now.
"Is that Englishwoman a member of the cult?" queried Kennedy, a moment later, as, quite naturally, he looked over at Mrs. Anthony. "Who is she?"
"Oh," replied Mrs. Rogers, quickly, "she isn't an Englishwoman at all. She is a Hindu--I believe, a former nautch-girl, daughter of a nautch-girl. She passes by the name of Mrs. Anthony, but really her name is Kalia Dass. Every one in Calcutta knew her."
Kennedy quietly drew his card-case from his pocket and handed a card to Mrs. Rogers.
"I should like to talk to you about her some time," he said, in a careful whisper. "If anything happens--don't hesitate to call on me."
Before Mrs. Rogers could recover from her surprise Kennedy had said good-by and we were on our way to the laboratory.
"That's a curious situation," I observed. "Can you make it out? How does Shirley fit into this thing?"
Craig hesitated a moment, as though debating whether to say anything, even to me, about his suspicions.
"Suppose," he said, slowly, "that Shirley was a secret agent of the British government, charged with the mission of finding out whether Mrs. Rogers was contributing--unknowingly, perhaps--to hatching another Indian mutiny? Would that suggest anything to you?"
"And the nautch-girl whom he had known in Calcutta followed him, hoping to worm from him the secrets which he--"
"Not too fast," he cautioned. "Let us merely suppose that Shirley was a spy. If I am not mistaken, we shall see something happen soon, as a result of what I said to Mrs. Rogers."
Excited now by the possibilities opened up by his conjecture regarding Shirley, which I knew must have amounted to a certainty in his mind, I watched him impatiently, as he calmly set to work cleaning up the remainder of the laboratory investigation in the affair.
It was scarcely half an hour later that a car drove up furiously to our door and Mrs. Rogers burst in, terribly agitated.
"You remember," she cried, breathlessly, "you said that a jequirity bean was sent to Captain Shirley?"
"Yes," encouraged Kennedy.
"Well, after you left, I was thinking about it. That Kalia Dass used to wear a necklace of them, but she didn't have it on to-day. I began thinking about it. While she was talking to the swami I went over. I've noticed how careful she always is of her hand-bag. So I managed to catch my hand in the loop about her wrist. It dropped on the floor. We both made a dive for it, but I got it. I managed, also, to open the catch and, when I picked it up to hand to her, with an apology, what should roll out but a score of prayer-beans! Some papers dropped out, too. She almost tore them from my hands; in fact, one of them did tear. After it was over I had this scrap, a corner torn off one of them."
Kennedy took the scrap which she handed to him and studied it carefully, while we looked over his shoulder. On it was a queer alphabetical table. Across the first line were the letters singly, each followed by a dash. Then, in squares underneath, were pairs of letters--AA, BA, CA, DA, and so on, while, vertically, the column on the left read: AA, AB, AC, AD, and so on.
"Thank you, Mrs. Rogers," Craig said, rising. "This is very important."
She seemed reluctant to go, but, as there was no excuse for staying longer, she finally left. Kennedy immediately set to work studying the scrap of paper and the cipher message he had copied, while I stifled my impatience as best I could.
I could do nothing but reflect on the possibility of what a jealous woman might do. Mrs. Rogers had given us one example. Did the same explanation shed any light on the mystery of the nautch- girl and the jequirity bean sent to Shirley? There was no doubt now that Shirley had known her in Calcutta--intimately, also. Perhaps the necklace had some significance. At least, he must have remembered it, as his agitation over the single bean and the word "Gadhr" seemed to indicate. If she had sent it to him, was it as a threat? To all appearance, he had not known that she was in New York, much less that she was at the same hotel and on the same floor. Why had she followed him? Had she misinterpreted his attentions to Mrs. Rogers?
Longing to ask Kennedy the myriad questions that flashed through my mind, I turned to him as he scowled at the scrap of paper and the cipher before him.
Presently he glanced up at me, still scowling.
"It's no use, Walter," he said; "I can't make it out without the key--at least, it will take so long to discover the key that it may be useless."
Just then the telephone-bell rang and he sprang to it eagerly. As I listened I gathered that it was another hurried call from Grady.
"Something has happened to Mrs. Anthony!" cried Craig, as he hooked up the receiver and seized his hat.
A second time we posted to the Prince Edward Charles, spurred by the mystery that surrounded the case. No one met us in the lobby this time, and we rode up directly in the elevator to Mrs. Anthony's room.
As we came down the hall and Grady met us at the door, he did not need to tell us that something was wrong. One experience like that with Shirley had put the hotel people on guard, and the house physician was already there, administering stimulants to Mrs. Anthony, who was lying on the bed.
"It's just like the other case," whispered Grady. "There are the same scratches on her face and hands."
The doctor glanced about at us. By the look on his face, I read that it was a losing fight. Kennedy bent down. The floor about the door was covered with little glittering slivers of glass. On Mrs. Anthony's face was the same drawn look as on Shirley's.
Was it a suicide? Had we been getting too close on her trail, or had Mrs. Anthony been attacked? Had some one been using her, and now was afraid of her and sought to get her out of the way for safety?
What was the secret locked in her silent lips? The woman was plainly dying. Would she carry the secret with her, after all?
Kennedy quickly drew from his pocket the vial which I had seen him place there in the laboratory early in the day. From the doctor's case he selected a hypodermic and coolly injected a generous dose of the stuff into her arm.
"What is it?" asked the doctor, as we all watched her face anxiously.
"The antitoxin to abrin," he replied. "I developed some of it at the same time that I was studying the poison. If an animal that is immune to a toxin is bled and the serum collected, the antitoxin in it may be injected into a healthy animal and render it immune. Ricin and abrin are vegetable protein toxins of enormous potency and exert a narcotic action. Guinea-pigs fed on them in proper doses attain such a degree of immunity that, in a short time, they can tolerate four hundred times the fatal dose. The serum also can be used to neutralize the toxin in another animal, to a certain extent."
We crowded about Kennedy and the doctor, our eyes riveted on the drawn face before us. Would the antitoxin work?
Meanwhile, Kennedy moved over to the writing-table which he had examined on our first visit to the room. Covered up in the writing-pad was still the paper which he had copied. Only, Mrs. Anthony had added much more to it. He looked at it desperately. What good would it do if, after hours, his cleverness might solve the cipher--too late?
Mrs. Anthony seemed to be struggling bravely. Once I thought she was almost conscious. Glazed though her eyes looked, she saw Kennedy vaguely, with the paper in his hand. Her lips moved. Kennedy bent down, though whether he heard or read her lip movements I do not know.
"Her pocket-book!" he exclaimed.
We found it crushed under her coat which she had taken off when she entered. Craig opened it and drew forth a crumpled sheet of paper from which a corner had been torn. It exactly fitted the scrap that Mrs. Rogers had given us. There, contained within twenty-seven horizontal and twenty-seven vertical lines, making in all six hundred and seventy-six squares, was every possible combination of two letters of the alphabet.
Kennedy looked up, still in desperation. It did him no good. He could have completed the table himself.
"In--the--lining." Her lips managed to frame the words.
Kennedy literally tore the bag apart. There was nothing but a plain white blank card. With a superhuman effort she moved her lips again.
"Smelling-salts," she seemed to say.
I looked about. On the dressing-table stood a little dark-green bottle. I pulled the ground-glass stopper from it and a most pungent odor of carbonate of ammonia filled the room. Quickly I held it under her nose, but she shook her head weakly.
Kennedy seemed to understand. He snatched the bottle from me and held the card directly over its mouth. As the fumes of the ammonia poured out, I saw faintly on the card the letters HR.
We turned to Mrs. Anthony. The effort had used up her strength. She had lapsed again into unconsciousness as Craig bent over her.
"Will she live?" lasted.
"I think so," he replied, adding a hasty word to the doctor.
"What's that? Look!" I exclaimed, pointing to the card from which the letters HR had already faded as mysteriously as they had appeared, leaving the card blank again.
"It is the key!" he cried, excitedly. "Written in sympathetic ink. At last we have it all."
On the queer alphabetical table which the two pieces of paper made, he now wrote quickly the alphabet again, horizontally across the top, starting with H, and vertically down the side, starting with R, thus:
H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A B C D E F G R a- b- c- d- e- f- g- h- i- j- k- l- m- n- o- p- q- r- s- t- u- v- w- x- y- z- S aa ba ca da ea fa ga ha ia ja ka la ma na oa pa qa ra sa ta ua va wa xa ya za T ab bb cb db eb fb gb hb ib jb kb lb mb nb ob pb qb rb sb tb ub vb wb xb yb zb U ac bc cc dc ec fc gc hc ic jc kc lc mc nc oc pc qc rc sc tc uc vc wc xc yc zc V ad bd cd dd ed fd gd hd id jd kd ld md nd od pd qd rd sd td ud vd wd xd yd zd W ae be ce de ee fe ge he ie je ke le me ne oe pe qe re se te ue ve we xe ye ze X af bf cf df ef ff gf hf if jf kf lf mf nf of pf qf rf sf tf uf vf wf xf yf zf Y ag bg cg dg eg fg gg hg ig jg kg lg mg ng og pg qg rg sg tg ug vg wg xg yg zg Z ah bh ch dh eh fh gh hh ih jh kh lh mh nh oh ph qh rh sh th uh vy wh xh yh zh & ai bi ci di ei fi gi hi ii ji ki li mi ni oi pi qi ri si ti ui vi wi xi yi zi A aj bj cj dj ej fj gj hj ij jj kj lj mj nj oj pj qj rj sj tj uj vj wj xj yj zj B ak bk ck dk ek fk gk hk ik jk kk lk mk nk ok pk qk rk sk tk uk vk wk xk yk zk C al bl cl dl el fl gl hl il jl kl ll ml nl ol pl ql rl sl tl ul vl wl xl yl zl D am bm cm dm em fm gm hm im jm km lm mm nm om pm qm rm sm tm um vm wm xm ym zm E an bn cn dn en fn gn hn in jn kn ln mn nn on pn qn rn sn tn un vn wn xn yn zn F ao bo co do eo fo go ho io jo ko lo mo no oo po qo ro so to uo vo wo xo yo zo G ap bp cp dp ep fp gp hp ip jp kp lp mp np op pp qp rp sp tp up vp wp xp yp zp H aq bq cq dq eq fq gq hq iq jq kq lq mq nq oq pq qq rq sq tq uq vq wq xq yq zq I ar br cr dr er fr gr hr ir jr kr lr mr nr or pr qr rr sr tr ur vr wr xr yr zr J as bs cs ds es fs gs hs is js ks ls ms ns os ps qs rs ss ts us vs ws xs ys zs K at bt ct dt et ft gt ht it jt kt lt mt nt ot pt qt rt st tt ut vt wt xt yt zt L au bu cu du eu fu gu hu iu ju ku lu mu nu ou pu qu ru su tu uu vu wu xu yu zu M av bv cv dv ev fv gv hv iv jv kv lv mv nv ov pv qv rv sv tv uv vv wv xv yv zv N aw bw cw dw ew fw gw hw iw jw kw lw mw nw ow pw qw rw sw tw uw vw ww xw yw zw O ax bx cx dx ex fx gx hx ix jx kx lx mx nx ox px qx rx sx tx ux vx wx xx yx zx P ay by cy dy ey fy gy hy iy jy ky ly my ny oy py qy ry sy ty uy vy wy xy yy zy Q az bz cz dz ez fz gz hz iz jz kz lz mz nz oz pz qz rz sz tz uz vz wz xz yz zz
"See!" exclaimed Kennedy, triumphantly, working rapidly. "Take the word 'war' for instance. The square which contains WA is in line S, column D. So I put down SD. The odd letter R, with a dash, is in line R, column Y. So I put down RY. WAR thus becomes SDRY. Working it backward from SDRY, I take the two letters SD. In line S, column D, I find WA in the square, and in line R, column Y, I find just R--making the translation of the cipher read 'War.' Now," he went on, excitedly, "take the message we have:
"SOWC FSSJWA EKNLFFBY WOVHLX IHWAJYKH 101MLEL EPJNVPSL WCLURL GHIHDA ELBA.
"I translate each pair of letters as I come to them." He was writing rapidly. There was the message:
Have located New York headquarters at 101 Eveningside Avenue, Apartment K. Kennedy did not pause, but dashed from the room, followed by Grady and myself.
As our taxi pulled up on the avenue, we saw that the address was a new but small apartment-house. We entered and located Apartment K.
Casting about for a way to get in, Craig discovered that the fire- escape could be reached from a balcony by the hall window. He swung himself over the gap, and we followed. It was the work of only a minute to force the window-latch. We entered. No one was there.
As we pressed after him, he stopped short and flashed his electric bull's-eye about with an exclamation of startled surprise. There was a fully equipped chemical and electrical laboratory. There were explosives enough to have blown not only us but a whole block to kingdom come. More than that, it was a veritable den of poisons. On a table stood beakers and test-tubes in which was crushed a paste that still showed parts of the red ruttee beans.
"Some one planned here to kill Shirley, get him out of the way," reconstructed Kennedy, gazing about; "some one working under the cloak of Oriental religion."
"Mrs. Anthony?" queried Grady. Kennedy shook his head.
"On the contrary, like Shirley, she was an agent of the Indian Secret Service. The rest of the cipher shows it. She was sent to watch some one else, as he was sent to watch Mrs. Rogers. Neither could have known that the other was on the case. She found out, first, that the package with the prayer-bean and the word 'Gadhr' was an attempt to warn and save Shirley, whom she had known in Calcutta and still loved, but feared to compromise. She must have tried to see him, but failed. She hesitated to write, but finally did. Then some one must have seen that she was dangerous. Another poisoned bomb was sent to her. No; the nautch-girl is innocent."
"'Sh!" cautioned Grady.
Outside we could hear the footsteps of some one coming along the hall. Kennedy snapped off his light. The door opened.
"Stand still! One motion and I will throw it!"
As Kennedy's voice rang out from the direction of the table on which stood the half-finished glass bombs, Grady and I flung ourselves forward at the intruder, not knowing what we would encounter.
A moment later Kennedy had found the electric switch and flashed up the lights.
It was Singh, who had used both Mrs. Rogers's money and Raimanandra's religion to cover his conspiracy of revolt.