The Treasure-Train by Arthur B. Reeve
IX. The Rubber Dagger
"Hypnotism can't begin to accomplish what Karatoff claims. He's a fake, Kennedy, a fake."
Professor Leslie Gaines of the Department of Experimental Psychology at the university paced excitedly up and down Craig's laboratory.
"There have been complaints to the County Medical Society," he went on, without stopping, "and they have taken the case up and arranged a demonstration for this afternoon. I've been delegated to attend it and report."
I fancied from his tone and manner that there was just a bit more than professional excitement involved. We did not know Gaines intimately, though of course Kennedy knew of him and he of Kennedy. Some years before, I recollected, he had married Miss Edith Ashmore, whose family was quite prominent socially, and the marriage had attracted a great deal of attention at the time, for she had been a student in one of his courses when he was only an assistant professor.
"Who is Karatoff, anyhow?" asked Kennedy. "What is known about him?"
"Dr. Galen Karatoff--a Russian, I believe," returned Gaines. "He claims to be able to treat disease by hypnotism-suggestion, he calls it, though it is really something more than that. As nearly as I can make out it must almost amount to thought transference, telepathy, or some such thing. Oh, he has a large following; in fact, some very well-known people in the smart set are going to him. Why," he added, facing us, "Edith--my wife--has become interested in his hypnotic clinics, as he calls them. I tell her it is more than half sham, but she won't believe it."
Gaines paused and it was evident that he hesitated over asking something.
"When is the demonstration?" inquired Kennedy, with unconcealed interest.
The professor looked at his watch. "I'm going over there now; in fact, I'm just a bit late--only, I happened to think of you and it occurred to me that perhaps if you could add something to my report it might carry weight. Would you like to come with me? Really, I should think that it might interest you."
So far Kennedy had said little besides asking a question or two. I knew the symptoms. Gaines need not have hesitated or urged him. It was just the thing that appealed to him.
"How did Mrs. Gaines become interested in the thing?" queried Craig, a moment later, outside, as we climbed into the car with the professor.
"Through an acquaintance who introduced her to Karatoff and the rest. Carita Belleville, the dancer, you know?"
Kennedy glanced at me and I nodded that I had heard of her. It was only a few nights before that I had seen Carita at one of the midnight revues, doing a dance which was described as the "hypnotic whirl," a wild abandon of grace and motion. Carita Belleville had burst like a meteor on the sky of the "Great White Way," blazing a gorgeous trail among the fixed stars of that gay firmament. She had even been "taken up" by society, or at least a certain coterie of it, had become much sought after to do exhibition dancing at social affairs, and now was well known in the amusement notes of the newspapers and at the fashionable restaurants. She had hosts of admirers and I had no doubt that Mrs. Gaines might well have fallen under the spell of her popularity.
"What is Miss Belleville's interest in Karatoff?" pursued Craig, keenly.
Gaines shrugged his shoulders. "Notoriety, perhaps," he replied. "It is a peculiar group that Karatoff has gathered about him, they tell me."
There was something unsatisfactory about the answer and I imagined that Gaines meant purposely to leave it so as not to prejudice the case. Somehow, I felt that there must be something risque in the doings of Karatoff and his "patients." At any rate, it was only natural with anything that Carita Belleville was likely to be concerned with.
There was little time for further questions, for our destination was not far down the Drive from the university, and the car pulled up before one of the new handsome and ornate "studio apartments" up-town.
We followed Gaines into the building, and the hall-boy directed us to a suite on the first floor.
A moment later we were admitted by Karatoff himself to what had become known as his "hypnotic clinic," really a most artistically furnished studio.
Karatoff himself was a tall, dark-haired fellow, bearded, somewhat sallow. Every feature of his remarkable face, however, was subordinate to a pair of wonderful, deep-set, piercing eyes. Even as he spoke, greeting Gaines on the rather ticklish mission he had come, and accepting us with a quick glance and nod, we could see instantly that he was, indeed, a fascinating fellow, every inch a mystic.
His clinic, or, as I have said, studio, carried out well the impression of mysticism that one derived from the strange personality who presided over it. There were only two or three rooms in the apartment, one being the large room down the end of a very short hall to which he conducted us. It was darkened, necessarily, since it was on the first floor of the tall building, and the air seemed to be heavy with odors that suggested the Orient. Altogether there was a cultivated dreaminess about it that was no less exotic because studied. Doctor Karatoff paused at the door to introduce us, and we could see that we were undergoing a close scrutiny from the party who were assembled there.
On a quaint stand tea was brewing and the whole assemblage had an atmosphere of bohemian camaraderie which, with the professions of Karatoff, promised well that Kennedy was not wasting time.
I watched particularly the exchange of greetings between Professor Gaines and Edith Gaines, who was already there. Neither of them seemed to be perfectly at ease, though they betrayed as little as they could. However, one could not help noticing that each was watching the other, naturally.
Edith Gaines was a pretty little woman, petite, light of hair, dainty, the very type of woman who craved for and thrived on attention. Here at least there seemed to be no lack of it. There was only one other woman in the room who attracted the men equally, Carita Belleville herself. Carita was indeed a stunning woman, tall, slender, dark, with a wonderful pair of magnetic eyes.
As I watched, I could see that both women were quite friendly with Doctor Karatoff--perhaps even rivals for his attentions. I saw Gaines watching Carita attentively, never in the mean time failing for long to lose sight of Mrs. Gaines. Was he trying to estimate the relative popularity of the two in this strange group? If so, I failed to see any approval of either.
Introductions were now coming so fast that neither Kennedy nor I had much opportunity except for the most cursory observation of the people. Among the men, however, I noticed two especially who proved worth observation. One was Armand Marchant, well known as a broker, not so much for his professional doings as for his other activities. Though successful, he was better known as one of those who desert Wall Street promptly at the hour of closing, to be found late in the afternoon at the tea dances up-town.
Another was Cyril Errol, a man of leisure, well known also in the club world. He had inherited an estate, small, perhaps, but ample to allow him to maintain appearances. Errol impressed you as being one to whom the good things of the world appealed mightily, a hedonist, and, withal, very much attracted to and by the ladies.
It was fortunate that the serving of tea enabled us to look about and get our bearings. In spite of the suppressed excitement and obvious restraint of the occasion, we were able to learn much over the tea-cups.
Errol seemed to vibrate between the group about Mrs. Gaines and that about Miss Belleville, welcome wherever he went, for he was what men commonly call a "good mixer." Marchant, on the other hand, was almost always to be found not far from Edith Gaines. Perhaps it was the more brilliant conversation that attracted him, for it ran on many subjects, but it was difficult to explain it so to my satisfaction. All of which I saw Gaines duly noting, not for the report he had to make to the Medical Society, but for his own information. In fact, it was difficult to tell the precise degree of disapproval with which he regarded Karatoff, Errol, and Marchant, in turn, as he noted the intimacy of Edith Gaines with them. I wished that we might observe them all when they did not know it, for I could not determine whether she was taking pleasure in piquing the professor or whether she was holding her admirers in leash in his presence. At any rate, I felt I need lay no claim to clairvoyance to predict the nature of the report that Gaines would prepare.
The conversation was at its height when Karatoff detached himself from one of the groups and took a position in a corner of the room, alone. Not a word was said by him, yet as if by magic the buzz of conversation ceased. Karatoff looked about as though proud of the power of even his silence. Whatever might be said of the man, at least his very presence seemed to command respect from his followers.
I had expected that he would make some reference to Gaines and ourselves and the purpose of the meeting, but he avoided the subject and, instead, chose to leap right into the middle of things.
"So that there can be no question about what I am able to do," he began, "I wish each of you to write on a piece of paper what you would like to have me cause any one to do or say under hypnotism. You will please fold the paper tightly, covering the writing. I will read the paper to myself, still folded up, will hypnotize the subject, and will make the subject do whatever is desired. That will be preliminary to what I have to say later about my powers in hypnotic therapeutics."
Pieces of paper and little lead-pencils were distributed by an attendant and in the rustling silence that followed each cudgeled his brain for something that would put to the test the powers of Karatoff.
Thinking, I looked about the room. Near the speaker stood a table on which lay a curious collection of games and books, musical instruments, and other things that might suggest actions to be performed in the test. My eye wandered to a phonograph standing next the table. Somehow, I could not get Mrs. Gaines and Carita Belleville out of my head.
Slowly I wrote, "Have Mrs. Gaines pick out a record, play it on the phonograph, then let her do as she pleases."
Some moments elapsed while the others wrote. Apparently they were trying to devise methods of testing Doctor Karatoff's mettle. Then the papers were collected and deposited on the table beside him.
Apparently at random Karatoff picked out one of the folded papers, then, seemingly without looking at it and certainly without unfolding it, as far as I could determine, he held it up to his forehead.
It was an old trick, I knew. Perhaps he had palmed a sponge wet with alcohol or some other liquid, had brushed it over the paper, making the writing visible through it, and drying out rapidly so as to leave the paper opaque again long before any of us saw it a second time. Or was he really exercising some occult power? At any rate, he read it, or pretended to read it, at least.
"I am asked to hypnotize Mrs. Gaines," he announced, dropping the paper unconcernedly on the table beside the other pile, as though this were mere child's play for his powers. It was something of a shock to realize that it was my paper he had chanced to pick up first, and I leaned forward eagerly, watching.
Mrs. Gaines rose and every eye was riveted on her as Karatoff placed her in an easy-chair before him. There was an expectant silence, as Karatoff moved the chair so that she could concentrate her attention only on a bright silver globe suspended from the ceiling. The half-light, the heavy atmosphere, the quiet, assured manner of the chief actor in the scene, all combined to make hypnotization as nearly possible as circumstances could. Karatoff moved before her, passing his hands with a peculiar motion before her eyes. It seemed an incredibly short time in which Edith Gaines yielded to the strange force which fascinated the group.
"Quite susceptible," murmured Kennedy, beside me, engrossed in the operation.
"It is my test," I whispered back, and he nodded.
Slowly Edith Gaines rose from the chair, faced us with unseeing eyes, except as Karatoff directed. Karatoff himself was a study. It seemed as if he had focused every ounce of his faculties on the accomplishment of the task in hand. Slowly still the woman moved, as if in a dream walk, over toward the phonograph, reached into the cabinet beneath it and drew forth a book of records. Karatoff faced us, as if to assure us that at that point he had resigned his control and was now letting her act for her subconscious self.
Her fingers passed over page after page until finally she stopped, drew forth the record, placed it on the machine, wound it, then placed the record on the revolving disk.
My first surprise was quickly changed to gratification. She had picked out the music to the "Hypnotic Whirl." I bent forward, more intent. What would she do next?
As she turned I could see, even in the dim light, a heightened color in her cheeks, as though the excitement of the catchy music had infected her. A moment later she was executing, and very creditably, too, an imitation of Carita herself in the Revue. What did it mean? Was it that consciously or unconsciously she was taking the slender dancer as her model? The skill and knowledge that she put into the dance showed plainly.
Next to Kennedy, I saw Gaines leaning far forward, looking now at his wife, now at the little group. I followed his eyes. To my surprise, I saw Marchant, his gaze riveted on Edith Gaines as if she had been the star performer in a play. Evidently my chance request to Karatoff had been builded better than I knew. I ran my gaze over the others. Errol was no less engrossed than Marchant. Quickly I glanced at Carita, wondering whether she might be gratified by the performance of a pupil. Whether it was natural grace or real hypnotism in the "Hypnotic Whirl," I was surprised to see on Carita's face something that looked strangely akin to jealousy. It was as though some other woman had usurped her prerogative. She leaned over to speak to Errol with the easy familiarity of an old admirer. I could not hear what was said and perhaps it was inconsequential. In fact, it must have been the very inconsequentiality of his reply that piqued her. He glanced at Marchant a moment, as if she had said something about him, then back at Edith Gaines. On his part, Professor Gaines was growing more and more furious.
I had just about decided that the little drama in the audience was of far more importance and interest than even the dance, when the music ceased. Karatoff approached, took Mrs. Gaines by the hand, led her back to the chair, and, at a word, she regained her normal consciousness. As she rose, still in a daze it seemed, it was quite evident that she had no waking realization of what had happened, for she walked back and sat down beside her husband, quite as though nothing had happened.
As for me, I could not help wondering what had actually happened. What did it all mean? Had Mrs. Gaines expressed her own self--or was it Karatoff--or Marchant--or Errol? What was the part played by Carita Belleville? Gaines did not betray anything to her, but their mutual attitude was eloquent. There was something of which he disapproved and she knew it, some lack of harmony. What was the cause?
As for Karatoff's exhibition, it was all truly remarkable, whether in his therapeutics the man was a faker or not.
Karatoff seemed to realize that he had made a hit. Without giving any one a chance to question him, he reached down quickly and picked up another of the papers, repeating the process through which he had gone before.
"Mr. Errol," he summoned, placing the second folded paper on the table with the first.
Errol rose and went forward and Karatoff placed him in the chair as he had Mrs. Gaines. There seemed to be no hesitation, at least on the part of Karatoff's followers, to being hypnotized.
Whatever it was written on the paper, the writer had evidently not trusted to chance, as I had, but had told specifically what to do.
At the mute bidding of Karatoff Errol rose. We watched breathlessly. Deliberately he walked across the room to the table, and, to the astonishment of all save one, picked up a rubber dagger, one of those with which children play, which was lying in the miscellaneous pile on the table. I had not noticed it, but some one's keen eye had, and evidently it had suggested a melodramatic request.
Quickly Errol turned. If he had been a motion-picture actor, he could not have portrayed better the similitude of hate that was written on his face. A few strides and he had advanced toward our little audience, now keyed up to the highest pitch of excitement by the extraordinary exhibition.
"Of course," remarked Karatoff, as at a word Errol paused, still poising the dagger, "you know that under hypnotism in the psychological laboratory a patient has often struck at his 'enemy' with a rubber dagger, going through all the motions of real passion. Now!"
No word was said by Karatoff to indicate to Errol what it was that he was to do. But a gasp went up from some one as he took another step and it was evident that it was Marchant whom he had singled out. For just a moment Errol poised the rubber dagger over his "victim," as if gloating. It was dramatic, realistic. As Errol paused, Marchant smiled at the rest of us, a sickly smile, I thought, as though he would have said that the play was being carried too far.
Never for a moment did Errol take from him the menacing look. It was only a moment in the play, yet it was so unexpected that it seemed ages. Then, swiftly, down came the dagger on Marchant's left side just over the breast, the rubber point bending pliantly as it descended.
A sharp cry escaped Marchant. I looked quickly. He had fallen forward, face down, on the floor.
Edith Gaines screamed as we rushed to Marchant and turned him over. For the moment, as Kennedy, Karatoff, and Gaines bent over him and endeavored to loosen his collar and apply a restorative, consternation reigned in the little circle. I bent over, too, and looked first at Marchant's flushed face, then at Kennedy. Marchant was dead!
There was not a mark on him, apparently. Only a moment before he had been one of us. We could look at one another only in amazement, tinged with fear. Killed by a rubber dagger? Was it possible?
"Call an ambulance--quick!" directed Kennedy to me, though I knew that he knew it was of no use except as a matter of form.
We stood about the prostrate form, stunned. In a few moments the police would be there. Instinctively we looked at Karatoff. Plainly he was nervous and overwrought now. His voice shook as he brought Errol out of the trance, and Errol, dazed, uncomprehending, struggled to take in the horribly unreal tragedy which greeted his return to consciousness.
"It--it was an accident," muttered Karatoff, eagerly trying to justify himself, though trembling for once in his life. "Arteriosclerosis, perhaps, hardening of the arteries, some weakness of the heart. I never--"
He cut the words short as Edith Gaines reeled and fell into her husband's arms. She seemed completely prostrated by the shock. Or was it weakness following the high mental tension of her own hypnotization? Together we endeavored to revive her, waiting for the first flutter of her eyelids, which seemed an interminable time.
Errol in the mean time was pacing the floor like one in a, dream. Events had followed one another so fast in the confusion that I had only an unrelated series of impressions. It was not until a moment later that I realized the full import of the affair, when I saw Kennedy standing near the table in the position Karatoff had assumed, a strange look of perplexity on his face. Slowly I realized what was the cause. The papers on which were written the requests for the exhibitions of Karatoff's skill were gone!
Whatever was done must be done quickly, and Kennedy looked about with a glance that missed nothing. Before I could say a word about the papers he had crossed the room to where Marchant had been standing in the little group about Edith Gaines as we entered. On a side-table stood the teacup from which he had been sipping. With his back to the rest, Kennedy drew from his breast pocket a little emergency case he carried containing a few thin miniature glass tubes. Quickly he poured the few drops of the dregs of the tea into one of the tubes, then into others tea from the other cups.
Again he looked at the face of Marchant as though trying to read in the horrified smile that had petrified on it some mysterious secret hidden underneath. Slowly the question was shaping in my mind, was it, as Karatoff would have us believe, an accident?
The clang of a bell outside threw us all into worse confusion, and a moment later, almost together, a white-coated surgeon and a blue-coated policeman burst into the room. It seemed almost no time, in the swirl of events, before the policeman was joined by a detective assigned by the Central Office to that district.
"Well, doctor," demanded the detective as he entered, "what's the verdict?"
"Arteriosclerosis, I think," replied the young surgeon. "They tell me there was some kind of hypnotic seance going on. One of them named Errol struck at him with a rubber dagger, and--"
"Get out!" scoffed the Central Office man. "Killed by a rubber dagger! Say, what do you think we are? What did you find when you entered, sergeant?"
The policeman handed the detective the rubber dagger which he had picked up, forgotten, on the floor where Errol had dropped it when he came out from the hypnotization.
The detective took it gingerly and suspiciously, with a growl. "I'll have the point of this analyzed. It may be--well--we won't say what may be. But I can tell you what is. You, Doctor Karatoff, or whatever your name is, and you, Mr. Errol, are under arrest. It's a good deal easier to take you now than it will be later. Then if you can get a judge to release you, we'll at least know where you are."
"This is outrageous, preposterous!" stormed Karatoff.
"Can't help it," returned the officer, coolly.
"Why," exclaimed Carita Belleville, excitedly projecting herself before the two prisoners, "it's ridiculous! Even the ambulance surgeon says it was arteriosclerosis, an accident. I--"
"Very well, madam," calmed the sergeant. "So much the better. They'll get out of our hands that much quicker. Just at present it is my duty."
Errol was standing silent, his eyes averted from the hideous form on the floor, not by word or action betraying a feeling. The police moved to the door.
Weak and trembling still from the triple shock she had received, Edith Gaines leaned heavily on the arm of her husband, but it was, as nearly as I could make out, only for physical support.
"I told you, Edith, it was a dangerous business," I heard him mutter. "Only I never contemplated that they'd carry it this far. Now you see what such foolishness can lead to."
Weak though she was, she drew away and flashed a glance at him, resenting his man's "I-told-you-so" manner. The last I saw of them in the confusion was as they drove off in the car, still unreconciled.
Kennedy seemed well contented, for the present at least, to allow the police a free hand with Errol and Karatoff. As for me, Mrs. Gaines and Carita Belleville presented a perplexing problem, but I said nothing, for he was hurrying back now to his laboratory.
At once he drew forth the little tube containing the few drops of tea and emptied a drop or two into a beaker of freshly distilled water as carefully as if the tea had been some elixir of life. As he was examining the contents of the beaker his face clouded with thought.
"Do you find anything?" I asked, eagerly.
Kennedy shook his head. "There's something wrong," he hazarded. "Perhaps it's only fancy, but I am sure that there is something with a slight odor in the tea, something tea-like, but with a more bitter taste, something that would be nauseous if not concealed in the tea. There's more than tannin and sugar here."
"Then you think that some one present placed something in the tea?" I inquired, shuddering at the thought that we had run some unknown danger.
"I can't just say, without further investigation of this and the other samples I took."
"Still, you have eliminated that ridiculous dagger theory," I ventured.
"The police can never appreciate the part it played," Craig answered, non-committally, laying out various chemicals preparatory to his exhaustive analysis. "I began to suspect something the moment I noticed that those notes which we all wrote were gone. When we find out about this tea we may find who took them. Perhaps the mystery is not such a mystery after all, then."
There seemed to be nothing that I could do, in the mean time, except to refrain from hindering Kennedy in his investigations, and I decided to leave him at the laboratory while I devoted my time to watching what the police might by chance turn up, even if they should prove to be working on the wrong angle of the case.
I soon found that they were showing energy, if nothing else. Although it was so soon after the death of Marchant, they had determined that there could not have been anything but rubber on the end of the toy dagger which had excited the doubts of the detective.
As for the autopsy that was performed on Marchant, it did, indeed, show that he was suffering from hardening of the arteries, due to his manner of living, as Karatoff had asserted. Indeed, the police succeeded in showing that it was just for that trouble that Marchant was going to Karatoff, which, to my mind, seemed quite sufficient to establish the therapeutic hypnotist as all that Gaines had accused him of being. Even to my lay mind the treatment of arteriosclerosis by mental healing seemed, to say the least, incongruous.
Yet the evidence against Karatoff and Errol was so flimsy that they had little trouble in getting released on bail, though, of course, it was fixed very high.
My own inquiries among the other reporters on the Star who might know something offered a more promising lead. I soon found that Errol had none too savory a reputation. His manner of life had added nothing to his slender means, and there was a general impression among his fellow club-members that unfortunate investments had made serious inroads into the principal of his fortune. Still, I hesitated to form even an opinion on gossip.
Quite unsatisfied with the result of my investigation, I could not restrain my impatience to get back to the laboratory to find out whether Kennedy had made any progress in his tests of the tea.
"If you had been five minutes earlier," he greeted me, "you would have been surprised to find a visitor."
"A visitor?" I repeated. "Who?"
"Carita Belleville," he replied, enjoying my incredulity.
"What could she want?" I asked, at length.
"That's what I've been wondering," he agreed "Her excuse was plausible. She said that she had just heard why I had come with Gaines. I suppose it was half an hour that she spent endeavoring to convince me that Karatoff and Errol could not possibly have had any other connection than accidental with the death of Marchant."
"Could it have been a word for them and half an hour for herself?" I queried, mystified.
Kennedy shrugged. "I can't say. At any rate, I must see both Karatoff and Errol, now that they are out. Perhaps they did send her, thinking I might fall for her. She hinted pretty broadly at using my influence with Gaines on his report. Then, again. she may simply have been wondering how she herself stood."
"Have you found anything?" I asked, noticing that his laboratory table was piled high with its usual paraphernalia.
"Yes," he replied, laconically, taking a bottle of concentrated sulphuric acid and pouring a few drops in a beaker of slightly tinged water.
The water turned slowly to a beautiful green. No sooner was the reaction complete than he took some bromine and added it. Slowly again the water changed, this time from the green to a peculiar violet red. Adding more water restored the green color
"That's the Grandeau test," he nodded, with satisfaction. "I've tried the physiological test, too, with frogs from the biological department, and it shows the effect on the heart that I--"
"What shows the effect?" I interrupted, somewhat impatiently.
"Oh, to be sure," he smiled. "I forgot I hadn't told you what I suspected. Why, digitalis--foxglove, you know. I suppose it never occurred to the police that the rubber dagger might have covered up a peculiar poisoning? Well, if they'll take the contents of the stomach, in alcohol, with a little water acidulated, strain off the filtrate and try it on a dog, they will see that its effect is the effect of digitalis. Digitalis is an accumulative poison and a powerful stimulant of arterial walls, by experimental evidence an ideal drug for the purpose of increasing blood pressure. Don't you see it?" he added, excitedly. "The rubber dagger was only a means to an end. Some one who knew the weakness of Marchant first placed digitalis in his tea. That was possible because of the taste of the tea. Then, in the excitement of the act pantomimed by Errol, Marchant's disease carried him off, exactly as was to be expected under the circumstances. It was clever, diabolically clever. Whoever did it destroyed the note in which the act was suggested and counted that no one would ever stop to search for a poison in the tangle of events."
Slowly but clearly I began to realize how certainly Kennedy was reconstructing the strange case. But who was it? What was the motive back of this sinister murder that had been so carefully planned that no one would ever suspect a crime?
I had hardly framed the queries when our telephone rang. It was the Central Office man. The detective had anticipated my own line of inquiry, only had gone much further with it. He had found a clear record of the business relations existing between Errol and Marchant. One episode consisted of a stock deal between them in which Errol had invested in a stock which Marchant was promoting and was known to be what brokers call "cats and dogs." That, I reasoned, must have been the basis of the gossip that Errol had suffered financial losses that seriously impaired his little fortune. It was an important item and Kennedy accepted it gladly, but said nothing of his own discovery. The time had not arrived yet to come out into the open.
For a few moments after the talk with the detective Kennedy seemed to be revolving the case, as though in doubt whether the new information cleared it up or added to the mystery. Then he rose suddenly.
"We must find Karatoff," he announced.
Whatever might have been the connection of the hypnotist with this strange case, he was far too clever to betray himself by any such misstep as seeming to avoid inquiry. We found him easily at his studio apartment, nor did we have any difficulty in gaining admittance. He knew that he was watched and that frankness was his best weapon of defense.
"Of course," opened Kennedy, "you know that investigation has shown that you were right in your diagnosis of the trouble with Marchant. Was it arteriosclerosis for which you were treating him?"
"It would be unprofessional to discuss it," hastily parried Karatoff, "but, since Mr. Marchant is now dead, I think I may say that it was. In fact, few persons, outside of those whom I have associated about me, realize to what a wonderful extent hypnotism may be carried in the treatment of disease. Why, I have even had wonderful success with such disorders as diabetes mellitus. We are only on the threshold of understanding what a wonderful thing is the human mind in its effect on the material body."
"But another patient might have known what Marchant was being treated for?" interrupted Kennedy, ignoring the defense of Karatoff, which was proceeding along the stereotyped lines of such vagaries which seem never to be without followers.
Karatoff looked at him a moment in surprise. Evidently he was doing some hasty mental calculation to determine what was Craig's ulterior motive. And, in spite of his almost uncanny claims and performances, I could see that he was able to read Kennedy's mind no whit better than myself.
"I suppose so," he admitted. "No doctor was ever able to control his patients' tongues. Sometimes they boast of their diseases."
"Especially if they are women?" hinted Kennedy, watching the effect of the remark keenly. "I have just had the pleasure of a visit from Carita Belleville in my laboratory."
"Indeed?" returned Karatoff, with difficulty restraining his curiosity. "Miss Belleville has been very kind in introducing me to some of her friends and acquaintances, and I flatter myself that I have been able to do them much good."
"Then she was not a patient?" pursued Kennedy, studiously avoiding enlightening Karatoff on the visit.
"Rather a friend," he replied, quickly. "It was she who introduced Mr. Errol."
"They are quite intimate, I believe," put in Kennedy at a chance.
"Really, I knew very little about it," Karatoff avoided.
"Did she introduce Mr. Marchant?"
"She introduced Mrs. Gaines, who introduced Mr. Marchant," the hypnotist replied, with apparent frankness.
"You were treating Mrs. Gaines?" asked Craig, again shifting the attack unexpectedly.
"Yes," admitted Karatoff, stopping.
"I imagine her trouble was more mental than physical," remarked Kennedy, in a casual tone, as though feeling his way.
Karatoff looked up keenly, but was unable to read Kennedy's face. "I think," he said, slowly, "that one trouble was that Mrs. Gaines liked the social life better than the simple life."
"Your clinic, Mr. Marchant, and the rest better than her husband and the social life at the university," amplified Kennedy. "I think you are right. She had drifted away from her husband, and when a woman does that she has hosts of admirers--of a certain sort. I should say that Mr. Errol was the kind who would care more for the social life than the simple life, as you put it, too."
I did not gather in what direction Kennedy was tending, but it was evident that Karatoff felt more at ease. Was it because the quest seemed to be leading away from himself?
"I had noticed something of the sort," he ventured. "I saw that they were alike in that respect, but, of course, Mr. Marchant was her friend."
Suddenly the implication flashed over me, but before I could say anything Kennedy cut in, "Then Mr. Errol might have been enacting under hypnotism what were really his own feelings and desires?"
"I cannot say that," replied Karatoff, seeking to dodge the issue. "But under the influence of suggestion I suppose it is true that an evil-minded person might suggest to another the commission of a crime, and the other, deprived of free will, might do it. The rubber dagger has often been used for sham murders. The possibility of actual murder cannot be denied. In this case, however, there can be no question that it was an unfortunate accident."
"No question?" demanded Kennedy, directly.
If Karatoff was concealing anything, he made good concealment. Either to protect himself or another he showed no evidence of weakening his first theory of the case.
"No question as far as I know," he reiterated.
I wondered whether Kennedy planned to enlighten him on the results of his laboratory tests, but was afraid to look at either for fear of betraying some hint. I was glad I did not. Kennedy's next question carried him far afield from the subject.
"Did you know that the Medical Society were interested in you and your clinic before the demonstration before Professor Gaines was arranged?"
"I suspected some one was interested," answered Karatoff, quickly, "But I had no idea who it might be. As I think it over now, perhaps it was Professor Gaines who instigated the whole inquiry. He would most likely be interested. My work is so far in advance of any that the conservative psychologists do that he would naturally feel hostile, would he not?"
"Especially with the added personal motive of knowing that his wife was one of your patients, along with Carita Belleville, Marchant, Errol, and the rest," added Kennedy.
Karatoff smiled. "I would not have said that myself. But since you have said it, I cannot help admitting its truth. Don't you suppose I could predict the nature of any report he would make?"
Karatoff faced Kennedy squarely. There was an air almost of triumph in his eyes. "I think I had better say no more, except under the advice of my lawyer," he remarked, finally. "When the police want me, they can find me here."
Quite evident to me now, as we went out of the studio, was the fact that Karatoff considered himself a martyr, that he was not only the victim of an accident, but of persecution as well.
"The fishing was good," remarked Kennedy, tersely, as we reached the street. "Now before I see Errol I should like to see Gaines again."
I tried to reason it out as we walked along in silence. Marchant had known Edith Gaines intimately. Carita Belleville had known Errol as well. I recalled Errol hovering about Mrs. Gaines at the tea and the incident during the seance when Carita Belleville had betrayed her annoyance over some remark by Errol. The dancing by Edith Gaines had given a flash of the jealous nature of the woman. Had it been interest in Errol that had led her to visit the laboratory? Kennedy was weaving a web about some one, I knew. But about whom?
As we passed a corner, he paused, entered a drugstore and called up several numbers at a pay-station telephone booth. Then we turned into the campus and proceeded rapidly toward the laboratory of the psychological department. Gaines was there, sitting at his desk, writing, as we entered.
"I'm glad to see you," he greeted, laying down his work. "I am just finishing the draft of my report on that Karatoff affair. I have been trying to reach you by telephone to know whether you would add anything to it. Is there anything new?"
"Yes," returned Kennedy, "there is something new. I've just come from Karatoff's and on the way I decided suddenly that it was time we did something. So I have called up, and the police will bring Errol here, as well as Miss Belleville. Karatoff will come--he won't dare stay away; and I also took the liberty of calling Mrs. Gaines."
"To come here?" repeated Gaines, in mild surprise. "All of them?"
"Yes. I hope you will pardon me for intruding, but I want to borrow some of your psychological laboratory apparatus, and I thought the easiest way would be to use it here rather than take it all over to my place and set it up again."
"I'm sure everything is at your service," offered Gaines. "It's a little unexpected, but if the others can stand the chaotic condition of the room, I guess we can."
Kennedy had been running his eye over the various instruments which Gaines and his students used in their studies, and was now examining something in a corner on a little table. It was a peculiar affair, quite simple, but conveying to me no idea of its use. There seemed to be a cuff, a glass chamber full of water into which it fitted, tubes and wires that attached various dials and recording instruments to the chamber, and what looked like a chronograph.
"That is my new plethysmograph," remarked Gaines, noting with some satisfaction how Kennedy had singled it out.
"I've heard the students talk of it," returned Kennedy. "It's an improved apparatus, Walter, that records one's blood flow." I nodded politely and concealed my ignorance in a discreet silence, hoping that Gaines would voluntarily enlighten us.
"One of my students is preparing an exhaustive table," went on Gaines, as I had hoped, "showing the effects on blood distribution of different stimuli--for instance, cold, heat, chloroform, arenalin, desire, disgust, fear; physical conditions, drugs, emotions--all sorts of things can be studied by this plethysmograph which can be set to record blood flow through the brain, the extremities, any part of the body. When the thing is charted I think we shall have opened up a new field."
"Certainly a very promising one for me," put in Kennedy. "How has this machine been improved? I've seen the old ones, but this is the first time I've seen this. How does it work?"
"Well," explained Gaines, with just a touch of pride, "you see, for studying blood flow in the extremities, I slip this cuff over my arm, we'll say. Suppose it is the effect of pain I want to study. Just jab that needle in my other arm. Don't mind. It's in the interest of science. See, when I winced then, the plethysmograph recorded it. It smarts a bit and I'm trying to imagine it smarts worse. You'll see how pain affects blood flow."
As he watched the indicator, Kennedy asked one question after another about the working of the machine, and the manner in which the modern psychologist was studying every emotion.
"By the way, Walter," he interrupted, glancing at his watch, "call up and see if they've started with Errol and the rest yet. Don't stop, Gaines. I must understand this thing before they get here. It's just the thing I want."
"I should be glad to let you have it, then," replied Gaines.
"I think I'll need something new with these people," went on Kennedy. "Why, do you know what I've discovered?"
"No, but I hope it's something I can add to my report?"
"Perhaps. We'll see. In the first place, I found that digitalis had been put in Marchant's tea."
"They'll be here directly," I reported from the telephone, hanging it up and joining them again.
"It couldn't have been an accident, as Karatoff said," went on Kennedy, rapidly. "The drug increased the blood pressure of Marchant, who was already suffering from hardening of the arteries. In short, it is my belief that the episode of the rubber dagger was deliberately planned, an elaborate scheme to get Marchant out of the way. No one else seems to have noticed it, but those slips of paper on which we all wrote have disappeared. At the worst, it would look like an accident, Karatoff would be blamed, and--" There was a noise outside as the car pulled up.
"Here, let me take this off before any of them see it," whispered Gaines, removing the cuff, just as the door opened and Errol and Karatoff, Carita Belleville and Edith Gaines entered.
Before even a word of greeting passed, Kennedy stepped forward. "It was not an accident," he repeated. "It was a deliberately planned, apparently safe means of revenge on Marchant, the lover of Mrs. Gaines. Without your new plethysmograph, Gaines, you might have thrown it on an innocent person!"